(Sorry that these are out of order, I had this one scheduled to be published months ago and for some reason it never published, and today when I tried publishing it, it wouldn’t work, so I’m starting all over with this post).
Today we are talking food and food shopping and properly handling those foods. I have heard it told that in America we throw away an average of 50% of our food….whether we are cooking too much/serving too much/restaurant portion sizes are too large, OR we buy the food and don’t use it and it ends up being tossed in the trash. That is a LOT OF MONEY that is being wasted by the average American. I am also guilty of this, but not to this level. I am definitely one that will make something or buy something and put it in the fridge and forget about it. Since the last time that I heard this statistic, I have been more mindful of inspecting the deep dark crevices of both fridges every day…yes EVERY DAY to make sure I haven’t missed anything!
If I have something that is about to turn, I will incorporate it into a meal that day….even if it is something that won’t be eaten right away, I can freeze that dish or eat it within a day or two. OR if it is a vegetable or herb or something along those lines, I will prep it and get it into the freezer (ie if I find an onion that has an outer layer of skin that is beginning to get soft, I will peel that layer off and shop the onion and get it into the freezer)…..if it is an herb I will either dry it in the sun or in the oven on VERY VERY low heat with the door propped open periodically to keep it from baking, or I’ll make a sauce or pesto with it. Fruit gets cut up and frozen for desserts, muffins/breads or smoothies. Leftovers get eaten right away or remade into something else.
Another manner of waste is something that I really deal with in my home….since moving almost 18 months ago, I have noticed that we generally only fill 1 1/2-2 kitchen trash bags per week, and half of that (if not more) is fruit and veggie waste. If I had a compost pile, we would have virtually no trash, but to be VERY VERY VERY honest, the whole composting thing scares me. I don’t want (and i know all of the arguments) pests (flies, ants, roaches, etc) and rodents (mice, rats, etc) and smell (I know, I know….if done properly no pests, no rodents, no smell…..BUT it would be MY house that that wouldn’t be the case). If we had chickens, we would have virtually no trash (our yard is not conducive to chicken, but I also have a dog that I’m afraid would want to play with the chickens and in her overzealousness would kill them….she’s accidentally killed a couple of doves in trying to play with them). BUT we don’t have compost or chickens and our city doesn’t allow food waste to go into the green waste can with yard clippings, SO we have probably 1 full bag each week of peels, egg shells, tops, bottoms, etc of our produce. Well, this summer I have tried to remember to save some of those things for making stocks and jellies. Peach pits and skins, and plum pits, and apple peels and cores (and I’m sure pears too) all can be cooked down with water and strained and made into jelly. Carrot peels, onion peels, tops and bottoms of onions, carrots, celery, mushroom stems, broccoli stems, herb stems, etc, can all be used for stocks and broths. SO I have a bag in my freezer for all of my veggie scraps to use in my broth and stock making, as well as a bag of peach and plum peels and pits to make another batch of “mixed fruit” jelly. Watermelon rinds can be made into watermelon rind pickles, and even if you don’t can, they will be good in the refrigerator for a couple of months.
Meat bones….so many people just toss their bones from all of their meats out without giving it another thought, and if you were to look in their pantry they have boxes and boxes or cans and cans of processed chicken, beef, ham, etc broth. They could have had FREE broth instead of spending all of that money! If you don’t have time to put the bones (and the veggie scraps from your freezer….or a carrot, an onion and 2 stalks of celery) with some salt and pepper and cover with water into the crockpot and cook for 12-24 hours, then put the bones into the freezer until you do have time. if you want an even richer broth and you have bones that were not already roasted with the meat on them, roast them. Also add a splash of vinegar into the water to help draw the calcium and other nutrients out of the bones. You can freeze (or if you have a pressure CANNER you can bottle) the broth.
Another sense of food waste is bread items, what do you do with the ends of your loaves of bread? In our house, they get used in sandwiches by the adults. But if the kids use the last 2 regular slices and leave an end….what to do with those? PLEASE do not throw them out! Let them dry on your counter top or in the oven for a few hours, (or toast them in the toaster or oven until dry) and crush them into bread crumbs. Or put them into the freezer for later use for fresh bread crumbs or even feeding the ducks the next time you go to the park. If you have single slices that are too dry for a sandwich, why not cut them into cubes and dress lightly with olive oil, garlic, dried basil and toast to make croutons for salad.
If you have bits and pieces of meals leftover, not enough for a full serving of anything for a single person, SAVE IT. Some of the VERY VERY best soups that I have ever made were made from a bucket of scraps of leftovers that I had in the freezer. For a season in my life, I had an ice cream bucket in the freezer that every bit of leftovers (yes, EVERY BIT….pasta with sauce, rice, lasagna, meats, veggies, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, etc, etc, etc….that wasn’t enough for a meal for our family, it went into the freezer). When the bucket was full, I’d put it into my soup pot, add chicken broth, and let it cook. I know that it does not sound appetizing, but it IS! Those soups were DELICIOUS and not anything that could ever be replicated. One of the soups that I made from my bucket had macaroni & cheese, spaghetti wtih meat sauce, tri-tip, ham, fried chicken, peas, corn, green beans, cheesy mashed potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, spinach (leftover from a spinach salad with dressing on it), turkey breast, rice pilaf, and few other things that I don’t remember. I know that it sounds gross, but HONESTLY it was DELICIOUS!
Those are some of my ideas on how to save money by eliminating food waste…..what do you do in your home?