Yesterday, I presented my New Year’s foodie resolution – to stop wasting food. We do pretty good, since we already buy things with a plan and create strategies to use food before it goes off. We’re not always successful, as you can see in this photo, but we try our best! And in the new year, we hope to do better.
Here are four more things that you (and we!) can do to stop wasting food.
Inventory your pantry before running to the store.
This is one that I am bad for not doing, and explains how we once ended up with four unopened bottles of Worcestershire sauce. After you’ve made your menu, check your pantry to make sure you’re not buying things that you already have.
Also, look for opportunities to substitute things! For example, if your recipe calls for sweet potatoes but you have a butternut squash sitting around, try substituting the squash for the sweet potatoes. This way you use the squash and save money by not buying sweet potatoes this week.
I am my mother’s daughter, no matter how hard I try to deny it. So when I see a fantastic deal on something at the grocery store or the market, I want to grab it. Instead, I make myself pause and consider what else we already have.
A 10 pound bag of potatoes might be on sale for a great price, but if we already have 4 pounds of potatoes that we haven’t used yet, will the ten pound bag get used before the potatoes go off? This is why I’m so leery of shopping at a warehouse store like Costco. It’s easy to get sucked into a great deal (“Wow! Five gallons of mayonnaise!”) but if you’re not going to use it all before it goes bad, it might not be a good deal! One thing you can do, though, is break down large quantities of stuff like meats and freeze them in sensible, individually-wrapped packages. Which brings me to…
The world certainly changed when we got our chest freezer. No longer were we limited by the tiny over-fridge freezer. By the time the farmers’ market closed and my garden was put away for the winter, our freezer was filled to bursting with frozen beans, corn, shredded zucchini, peas, grass-fed ground beef, broccoli, pierogies, strawberries, raspberries, sausage, bacon, and an assortment of baked goods. Basically, if there wasn’t an immediate use for it, I froze it. This let me save a lot more of our garden produce this year than I was able to last year, which was a very good thing. This year my bean plants produced about 100 pounds of beans over the course of the summer, far more than we could eat on our own. (I’ll be doing a post later on in 2011 on how to save fresh vegetables by freezing them.)
My goal is to have the freezer mostly emptied by the time spring rolls around, so lots of our dinners right now have a “freezer dive” component to them. (Speaking of which, we have a giant bag of pierogies that we should start using…)
Recipes that encourage waste really irritate me. For example, I’ve run across lots of recipes that call for egg whites, and very often the recipe will encourage the cook to “discard the yolks.” Or a recipe for wilted swiss chard will direct the cook to cut out the swiss chard’s ribs and toss them, when they’re perfectly edible. The yolks can be kept in the fridge and added to an omelet tomorrow for breakfast. The chard ribs can be chopped and used like celery in a stir fry. There’s no excuse for using a tablespoon of tomato paste and leaving the rest in the fridge to slowly mold over.
So when I find a recipe that calls for one of these wasteful actions, I will add a meal later on in the same week that will use whatever the first recipe called to have discarded. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction knowing that you’ve just used your brain and saved yourself some money in the process.
Reducing our food waste is one of my resolutions for this year. What are your foodie resolutions?