I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to food waste, I make a lot of mistakes. I’m often cutting my losses and tossing the excess bits and pieces that get shoved to the back of the fridge.
I can’t help but be a natural purger at heart. I long for clean and orderly environments without extra junk hanging around which means that my first instinct is almost always to throw things away.
I’m ashamed to admit my food waste flaws, but there they are. I’ve definitely been making progress the past few months since committing myself to making a shopping list of ingredients that I know I need. That being said it’s something that I know I can continue to improve on with time and effort.
- Plan Ahead/Make a Shopping List: Set aside time before your next shopping trip to think about what meals you want to prepare. By going to the store with clear intentions you’re not only going to cut down waste later in the week, but you’ll also spend less time wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles racking your brain for what else you might want that week. Less wandering = less impulse buying = more money saved.
- Learn How to Store Produce: Once you get your food home make sure you store it properly. There’s a bit of an art and science to storing foods, but taking the time to learn the what and the how’s to food storing really cuts down on food waste. For example, fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be stored in the same space. Fruits produce a ripening agent, ethylene, that can ripen surrounding vegetables prematurely. Additionally, vegetables need a bit of room for breathing. If they’re packed too tight they will also spoil faster. Vegetarian Times has a really extensive breakdown how how to store specific foods and where to keep them.
- Make Stock: Save the carcass and bones from roast dinners and meat dishes to make bone broth/meat stock. Karissa from OCD Kitchen (which by the way is a really great blog about food intolerances and gluten free eating for anyone who wants to take a look) has a great, easy to make chicken stock. You can also save up spare vegetable pieces to make vegetable stock which works to not only make a delicious soup base, but you also get to clean out your fridge in the process. Score.
- Make Compost: According to EarthEasy.com, “Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste away from the garbage can”. Not only are you cutting down on kitchen waste, but you’re adding nutrients back to your garden’s soil which helps to create even more delicious produce later. My Mom has grown rather fond of her vegetable patch and as a result she’s had to become a composting whizz. She keeps a giant bowl on the countertop next to the trash can where they are able to dump egg shells, fruit peels, and whatever spare bits of produce that go unused to later feed the compost heap.
- Use Your Freezer: Even though I shop with a list I tend to buy whatever is on sale. Sometimes I come home with a few too many packs of chicken that Mike and I couldn’t possibly go through in a week. In times like those my freezer is a life saver. It takes a bit of forethought to remember to defrost the right food in time, but it’s really been a huge money saver in the long run. Real Simple has a handy food storing graphic showing what foods can be safely frozen and for how long.
5 Recipes That Make Using Up Old Food Easy
1. Make a stir fry. Throw any left over bits of pepper, broccoli, spring onion and carrot into a pan and make this Whole 30 approved cashew chicken.
2. Make cake. This isn’t using old food, but with this cake you’re literally using whole food. This cake uses two entire oranges peel and all. Boil your oranges in water for about 20 minutes and then throw them in the blender and you’re got orange puree perfect for making Grain Free Orange Cake.
3. Make fritters. Leftovers are always perfect fritter material. Just mash everything up into pancake form and then fry it up and you’ve got a new side dish with a bit of crunch. These Ricotta Zucchini Fritters came about as a result of trying to clean my fridge, but you can also make mashed potato fritters, left over pasta fritters…the possibilities are endless.
4. Make banana bread. An oldie, but a goodie. It’s everyone’s favorite way to use up ripe bananas, and with good reason. You might even be forgiven for allowing those bananas to go black on purpose if you’re planning on making banana bread
5. Make soup. My favorite way to use up old vegetables is easily to throw them into soup which is how this Sausage and Kale Soup came about. Now that the weather has cooled down I’ve actually started making ‘leftover’ soup once a week which is exactly what it sounds like except 10 times more delicious. I’ve also heard it called garbage soup and even trash can soup, which although is an apt name, doesn’t do it justice.