So I guess it has been another year since I last posted. My oh my, the days just do not stop or slow down or anything! So much has happened since I last posted…I have though many, many times about something I’m doing that would make a great post, but then I get busy and I don’t sit down to write. sigh. I just keep telling myself it’s a season. And I know that it is. But still. Anyone with me?
So instead of lamenting my absence, I want to jump back in today to talk about food waste.
I could not be more mad at myself for the $$ I am literally throwing in to the trash. Some of it I didn’t even remember I had…could have made some good meals too!
- Enough prepared salad for at least 2 people
- 3 Heads of Romaine (enough for a side salad for the entire family)
- Several pounds of cut up carrot sticks (they had gone bitter. boo.)
- Healthy portion of fruit salad
- Homemade tartar sauce from weeks ago
- About 1/4 jar of organic spaghetti sauce
- 1 pint homemade stir fry sauce
All of it bad.
All of it in the trash.
On the up side, I have plenty of space in my refrigerator 🙂
But being forced to throw all of this food out got me thinking. I am always looking for ways to save money on groceries, I try to meal plan carefully so I don’t waste what I have…and then this happens and I literally throw out about $10 of (once-upon-a-time) perfectly good food??!
So without further ado, I have come up with 5 simple ways to STOP wasting food and use up what I have before it goes bad.
1. Think before I buy (esp. produce).
This sounds super simple — and it is, which is why it’s first. I am guilty of getting caught up in buying more than we can actually eat (carrots and lettuce, ahem.) within a reasonable time frame. (For goodness sakes I go to the store a minimum of once a week – do I really need 6 lbs of carrots right.now?) . But sometimes the deal is just SO good it’s hard for me to bypass it. BUT if we can’t eat it — even if carrots are $0.30/lb — then I have wasted $1.20 if I end up having to throw out 4 lbs.
2. Have a plan to use up the leftovers at the next meal.
Made a big pot of mac n cheese for dinner? Made too much salad? Then have the leftovers for lunch the next day. Already have lunch plans for tomorrow? Then change your meal plan for lunch the following day to make sure you are using it up. Physically write it on your calendar or set a reminder on your phone. Don’t waste it!
3. Re-purpose if possible.
Above we had several cups of leftover fruit salad. It could have been “soggy” as early as the following day and not a very interesting dish by itself. But if I had remembered, I could have thrown it in the blender with some yogurt and peanut butter the following day and gotten a nutrition packed treat for me and the kids. The extra pasta sauce? Use it for dipping sauce with grilled cheese or on top of an omelet (super yum). The extra tarter sauce? Use it up in my tuna salad sandwich within the next few days.
4. Freeze it.
Don’t have time to think? The freezer can help you. It has been helping people delay making the decision to throw food out for decades. (Think about it. There is a machine in your kitchen that literally stops time. I mean, whoa.). I’m usually better about using this option to save food from the trashcan. Depending on how much I feel up for, I have been known to separate the “stuff” (beans, carrots, corn, etc) in salad from the plain lettuce and put it in my “leftovers for soup” container in the freezer (a great way to re purpose small leftover servings, btw.). Then, if the lettuce is till OK, I will flash freeze it and bag it for lettuce soup later. I could have also chosen to freeze and label the extra stir fry sauce, pasta sauce, fruit, carrots (diced, for side dishes, soups, or pot pies), and lettuce. When it comes to freezing things, the cucumber is really the limit (the only food I have not been able to freeze and reuse. seriously.). Just don’t forget to get back to a plan for the frozen sauces and food. Otherwise you may eventually have to throw it out anyway and then you have also wasted a Ziploc.
5. Second Chance Buffet
About once a week, I try to have “Second Chance Buffet”. Usually on the weekends, we pull out all the leftovers to eat up. Sometimes it’s just a serving or two of one dish, leftover vegetables, two tortillas, a scoop of beans. Whatever you have, put it out and eat up! Everyone makes a plate of what they want (and/or supplements with a grilled cheese, tuna sandwich, etc) and that’s dinner. Easy-peasy. Because really, what’s easier than letting the microwave be the cook for a night?
Side note: I’ve learned through trial and error that if some of the more “unpopular” dishes are passed over for the second time, it’s time to institute numbers 2-4 on it, or go right to freezing it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. If you don’t, that dish will be in the trash four days later and you will be kicking yourself. Ask me how I know 😉 .
So there you have it. Some practical tips for not wasting food. You may have already known most or all of them, but are you actually implementing them regularly??? I know I could use a reminder now and again (obviously!).
So for the month of August, I am going to commit to following my own advice and waste as little food as possible. To help me be accountable, I will post a photo and list all the food I am throwing out each week (probably on Tuesday, since I typically clean out on Monday – trash day!). I’m hoping this will keep me motivated (read: embarrass me enough) to STOP wasting food!
How about you? Are you up for a no food waste challenge? What are some changes you can make to your normal food routine to waste less?