STOP throwing away food! It takes effort to plan, purchase, and use food before it expires. Here are some tips to help you waste less food.
Meal Planning: THE Key to Reducing Food Waste
Planning your meals, making a list, and buying only items on the list is the best way to stop wasting food. Meal planning seems difficult to learn and implement, but it provides so many benefits; You can eat out less frequently, enjoy satisfying meals of your favorite foods, control fat/calories/carbs, and reduce food waste. Sometimes, things interrupt your meal plans, but you can always swap things up. Start small – check out this cheat sheet for meal planning.
Using Fresh Vegetables Wisely
When you buy fresh vegetables and fruits without a plan for using them, they can become over-ripe quickly. How can you waste less fresh produce?
The picture above shows “salad in a jar.” This is a great way to have beautiful, crisp salads all week long from one prep session. Lettuce is one of the quickest vegetables to go bad, but this is an excellent way to prevent that. You simply put your tomatoes, chunks of peppers, or other larger items in the bottom of the jar, then fill it with lettuce to the top. Seal the jar, and it will last!
Celery and carrots last a long time in the refrigerator, but sometimes they lose their crispness. If a veggies are less than crisp (but not bad), you can chop them and saute them in olive oil. You can use them immediately, or cool and freeze them for a recipe later!
Regrow some vegetables! If you carefully preserve the bottoms of green onions, celery, fresh herbs, and even lettuce, you can soak them for a few days and plant them in your garden or in a container. After three weekends of doing this with green onions, I’m now growing enough for most meals.
Plant seeds from peppers. Many are hybrids and won’t reproduce fruit, but you can use them as “micro-greens.” They’ll have that nice pepper flavor, too.
Save all vegetable tops and bottoms (that you aren’t planting) for broth. When you chop veggies, keep a gallon zipper bag handy. Washed leafy celery tops, carrot tops and bottoms, onion tops and bottoms, mushroom stems (sometimes too tough for recipes), and bell pepper tops can be frozen. When I’m ready to make broth, I take out that frozen bag of veggie parts, and I’m ready to cook. All these veggies add rich flavor to broth.
Food-Saving Habits to Develop
After serving a rotisserie chicken, remove any meat that can be used for casseroles or chicken salad and put that aside. Put the carcass in a crock pot, add that freezer bag of veggie tops and bottoms, cover with water, and cook on low for 2-4 hours. When finished, allow broth to cool completely, then pour it through a colander into a large container. Freeze broth in quart zipper bags or other freezer containers. Use it for recipes or for medicinal purposes when you’re sick. You can use steak bones and trimmings in the same way. If you don’t have time to boil the bones now, just put them in a zipper bag in the freezer until you have time.
When I have fresh broccoli that has lost its crispness, I saute it with onions and garlic, add some thawed broth, salt, pepper, and shredded cheese. After the broccoli softens, I use an immersion blender to remove the chunks. Add cream, and you have an incredibly delicious soup that only cost you time and dairy products to make. This works with celery and carrots, too.
Put some thought into how you can reduce food waste. Make small changes at first, and add new habits, one-at-a-time. Just think of all the food you can save!