Food waste is frustrating. When you open up the refrigerator and have to throw out leftovers that never got eaten, or produce that was never used, it often feels like you are just throwing money away. In a sense, you are throwing money away because you had to purchase the items that ultimately found their final resting place in the garbage.
Instead of allowing food to go to waste, get creative and turn something old into something new! Food can be repurposed in many different ways, from casseroles, to sandwiches, to jams and everything in between; you just have to do a little planning before the food goes to waster. Here are some tips on how to reduce food waste.
The Meat Transformation:
Leftover meat from grilling or baking can be easily transformed into a casserole for a busy weeknight dinner. Simply cut the meat up into bite-sized pieces and add it to your favorite dish. Day old chicken and seafood will make a hearty addition to your favorite salad, and will actually make you feel full after you eat it! Meats, such as ham and turkey, can go quickly from the dinner table, right to your lunch box the following day! Cut up a few thick slices of these meats and make a deli fresh sandwich in no time.
Fruits and Berries:
Some say that spoiled fruit makes the best jams and pies. Over-ripe fruit gets mushy and very sweet; this is the perfect time to cut it up and make a dessert out of it. Many fruits and berries can be quickly added to breads, muffins, and pies.
If you have some free time, you can also turn your over-ripe fruit and berries into a prize-winning jam; all you need are some canning supplies. Fresh jams and jellies will last you for many months to come and will provide the perfect touch to your breakfast toast!
Have you ever purchased a package of fresh herbs at the store because a recipe called for a sprig? Chances are that the rest of the package eventually went to waste while sitting in the refrigerator waiting for you to use it! Herbs are expensive and you do not need to ever let them go bad again. One time saving way to preserve your herbs is to make frozen herb cubes from them. Simply line the slots of an ice cube tray with a mixture of your favorite herbs and spices, and then fill them up with broth or olive oil. Then all you have to do is place the tray in the freezer and you will have the frozen cubes to add to a meal later; no measuring required!
Fresh herbs can also be hung upside-down and dried out. Just tie a piece of string around the stems and hang them in a dry place for a few days. These herbs will last for months and are often cheaper than buying a jar of dry herbs at the store.
Many people buy an overabundance of vegetables with the intention of consuming the entire bounty, which is good in theory if they all get eaten. The good news is that most vegetables freeze well! You can chop them up and store them for use in a meal on a busy weeknight. A lot of recipes call for the “Holy Grail” which is essentially a mixture of carrots, onions, and celery, so why not freeze pre-cut packages and save yourself some chopping time?
To eliminate even more food waste, keep a bag of stems and stalks of vegetables in the freezer so you can make your own fresh broth on a rainy day.
Bread and Other Baked Goods:
Breads and baked goods go stale quickly. It seems as though the clock starts to run against you the moment you open the package of your fresh bakery find. Day old bread is the best to use for an early morning feast of French toast as it holds together well when drenched in the egg mixture. Homemade croutons and bread crumbs beg for stale bread as all you have to do is cut the bread, season it, and lay it out to dry. You can even celebrate the holidays with bread pudding, which tastes delicious when made from day old bread, cinnamon rolls, or even donuts!
With some pre-planning and creativity, most foods can be saved from a dreaded end in the garbage can, to a more satisfying one in your stomach. Not only will you reduce food waste, but you will save some money in the long run. Learning how to reduce food waste can also help reduce the amount of waste being dumped into landfill each year.