Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Waste Not Want Not

A big pet peeve of mine is food waste. We are a nation, a culture of waste in many ways, but there is no need for us to waste food as we do. We waste a lot of things, but this is one area where you, as the consumer, can get you and your household down to zero food waste. The first step is good planning. When are you cooking and what do you plan to make? Then, make the list and while at the store follow the list. Make a list of what you plan to make and place it on the fridge. Or, do like a I do and hang the recipes with a magnetic chip clip on the fridge. Then, when I do get to cooking, they are handy and easy for me to read and follow. Now, I know why that package of feta and bunch of parsley are in the fridge, the recipe is hanging right there! We also waste a lot by not eating parts of the food. We don't eat the ends of the loaf, the stems of the broccoli, the leaf of the lettuce. For some of this, I keep a bag in the freezer that can then be thrown into a pot to make a soup stock some day. The stems and the scraps have lots of flavor and nutrients, just not a lot of texture. I cook them up in a strainer in the pot and pull it out, composting the non-liquids. Also, make a smoothie with it! If I have a bunch of spinach stems or stems from an herb, these will add vitamins and nutrients, but no flavor to my smoothie. Try getting inventive. The stems of broccoli can be peeled easily and are delicious raw with some dip or hummus. Check the internet, there are blogs out there on how not to waste any part of the food. Next, is the leftovers. I love leftovers. I eat the same food all week with no problems. Lots of folks aren't so inclined. There are a couple of ways to deal with this. You can get inventive and re-use things in another way. For example, make chili. Then, eat the chili the next day with a bag of healthy blue tortilla chips. Also, plan to put the chili on a baked potato with some shredded cheese one night. Change the spices a little with some oregano and top off a salad and some salsa, making a taco salad. Or, take the leftovers and put them in the freezer. Keep a list of what's in there and in a month, you might find you are ready to thaw that chili and have for dinner! Remember to give it a full 24 hours to thaw in the fridge or you'll be frustrated with the long, slow cooking time. Freezing is a good way to keep waste to a minimum. Sometimes even with good planning, things get left in the fridge for too long. If this is the case, after 3-4 days, depending on the ingredient, give up and set a new date to cook. Take the 5-10 minutes needed to freeze the food for future use. A lot of foods will hold nutrient values best if you boil or steam them for just 1-2 minutes before freezing. Many, such as peppers do not. I usually do not even bother with thawing. Many vegetables are easy to slice while still frozen. Others, will need that time to thaw. However, if I am going to sauté or cook in a soup, I just throw it in and plan on some extra cooking time. Of course, you can always share! Give the food away or make a container for a neighbor's dinner! There are also groups out there that get organized, so each member makes one dish and then there's an exchange and depending on the number of members, you have some variety for the week. The last resort of no food waste, is compost. If you just can't keep it edible, it is always able to rot. Of course, I am only talking about vegetable and fruit waste and egg shells. No meat products in the compost or you'll have all manner of critters unwanted, hanging out for dinner on your compost heap. Whether or not you garden, composting is a good way to keep the food out of the already too large mountains of garbage in our communities. Any other ideas on how to minimize food waste?

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