Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reducing Food Waste

I had a whole different post today, about homeschooling and all, but I decided that I felt like putting that on hold and posting this instead, probably to assuage a guilty conscience. For someone so anti waste as I am, someone who tries to cut corners in so many ways and even eats scraps of food that others would throw out, the amount of food that has gotten tossed in the rubbish been here lately, frankly, is quite embarrassing.
I'm writing this list to help myself as well, as a reminder of different techniques I know, so that I'm not throwing food (and money) into the garbage.

Reducing Food Waste

Menu Plan and Shop For It
I've fallen off the bandwagon of menu planning for a multitude of reasons, none of which are really excusable.. I'm against traditional menu planning and shopping from a list because it doesn't leave room for flexibility based on sales, but I do suggest menu planning while in the grocery store and only buying food for in quantities you need for the dishes planned.
Buy too much and you're not only spending extra money in that grocery shop, you're also likely to have food leftover and wasting, filling the insatiable belly of the garbage dump. Today my grocery shop was carefully planned, menu written while in the store, and hopefully this way I won't have bought too much food and nothing will spoil before being used.

Be Flexible
Yes, you have a menu, but be flexible. If you have too much leftover of a certain food, instead of simply cooking what is next on the menu, think creatively and try to incorporate another meal of those leftovers into the menu. Simply push all the other meals in the menu a day later. (I try to have a few meals based on non-perishables towards the end of my 2 week menu plans so that I can cut them out, should I end up making a few leftover based meals.)

Freeze Excess
I don't like the same food over and over for a few days in a row. But once that food is sitting in my fridge for too long, it also becomes unappetizing. If you cook too much food and there is likely to be too many leftovers, freeze the excess for an easy meal for a lazy night when you simply don't feel like cooking. You'll discourage getting takeout and saving food from the trash at the same time.

Think Creative
If you're sick of looking at that same pot of leftovers in the fridge but don't feel like eating them, consider re-purposing. Plain foods can usually be slathered with a yummy sauce for a completely different feel to the same dish. Many leftovers can successfully be made into soups with a bit of new ingredients. Or just take a look at my "don't throw that out yet" series for lots of ideas of foods you can make with foods you'd otherwise throw out.

And my failsafe- patties. I've put in many strange ingredients in my patties, from leftover humus to cabbage salad and wilted lettuce, rice and noodles and chicken and beans. The choice is limitless- nearly everything will taste good in patties. But to be sure, add one or two items at a time and taste them first before adding anything else, so you don't mix in things that completely don't belong together. Bind these patties together with an egg or two and possibly some flour or breadcrumbs.
If you have foods that have been sitting in the fridge a bit too long to allow you to feel comfortable eating them as is, put them in the patties if they don't look off, because cooking the leftovers will kill any bacterias inside, making the food safe for consumption. (This is according to my Dad the doc.)

But Not Too Creative
If you're not sure you'll like an exotic recipe, or if you wanted to experiment with making a different style of food, make a small batch. You don't want to toss a huge batch of inedible blended kohlrabi turnip white bean and tvp soup as I once did. If your family doesn't like food that is strange, it may pay to just stick with foods you know they will like.

Plan Your Produce
Different foods have different rates of spoilage. Make sure to use the more perishable veggies first so you don't end up with fuzzy tomatoes by the time you try to make that tomato dish you'd planned. Read more about keeping your vegetables fresh and keeping your fruit fresh.

Lengthen Life of Soft Veggies
If you see a vegetable that is on its last leg, there are many things you can do with it to give it an extra lease on life, such as cooking, pickling or dehydrating so it doesn't spoil and get tossed. Read more about that here.

Take Inventory
Once or twice (preferably twice) each week, look at everything in your fridge, especially the things hidden in the back. Note what is there and what can wait a little and what needs to be eaten up soon. Write a list so you don't forget and make sure to use up everything on it, taking note when you do.

Hopefully by writing down this list, I'll be more inspired to actually use it and ensure that none of my food ends up in the trash.

What are your tips and tricks to reduce food waste? Do you do any of these? Any other ideas to share?

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