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Avoiding food waste in the kitchen

Posted in Food & Entertaining

There is something sofa girl and I have in common: we abhor food waste, always using everything, down to the last bit of sad-looking celery in the refrigerator drawer. I am not sure where we get it from. My mother has never wasted food, and always repurposed leftovers, but even she doesn’t come close to my compulsion. If I bought it, I will find a way to cook it and eat it.

Recently, I read a blog post by Liberty London Girl that advocated giving up food waste for Lent. I will not be giving anything up for Lent but, should you be so inclined, I think this is a much better exercise than depriving oneself of sweets or alcohol. In many cities, there are food pantries that will accept donations of canned or packaged food that is approaching its sell-by date, or fresh food past its prime. It only takes a quick search on-line.

In the spirit of not wasting food – especially in the US, a country where tons and tons of perfectly good food ends up in landfills every year – I thought I would share my basic habits:

  • fridge organizationI clean the fridge twice a month. Every two weeks, I take everything out and take stock of what is there. Last Friday I discovered some asparagus and green beans I had completely forgotten about, which I cooked on that same night. You will be surprised what lurks in the corners that can still be used.
  • Past their prime vegetables: roast them. Cut them up, throw them in a pan with some olive oil, some herbs and some salt and roast them. I cook all kinds of fruit too: if they have brown, soft spots, they go in a pot in with some honey and vanilla for a cereal ready compote.
  • Bananas: mushy bananas are perfect for banana bread. But I also cut them in two or three pieces and freeze them. They will go brown but they will still be perfectly usable in smoothies.
  • Herbs: the freezer is your friend. Wash them, remove them from their stems, chop them up and freeze them. In Europe, it’s commonplace to buy them frozen, ready to use. Same goes for mirepoix, the base for many dishes: celery in particular, that is sold in giant bunches one can never get through, can be chopped up, mixed with some carrots and onions and frozen in small batches and ready to use when you are making pasta sauce, for example.
  • Soft tomatoes that cannot be used in salads anymore will benefit from some slow-roasting.
  • Vegetable peels can be turned into a light broth for future use in soup or sauces.
  • Risotto or pasta dishes leftovers. Risotto can be formed into patties, dipped in a bit of egg and flour or bread crumbs and pan fried. Pasta is also delicious crisped up the next day in a saute pan and used as a side dish.
  • If you have too much of an ingredient you don’t know what to do with, hop on-line. I love the site of this lovely woman from Genoa, called First, don’t waste, which is filled with simple and very original recipes, mainly vegetable based (site is both in Italian and English).
  • Even Parmesan rinds can be kept and dropped into soups or broths for added flavors.
  • Don’t forget most food, fresh or prepared, can be safely frozen up to six months, making dinner prep at the last minute, or the feeding of unexpected guests, so much easier.

Do you have any food saving tips you particularly like?

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15 Comments

  1. What a surprise! Grazie mille, sono senza parole … e tu hai aggiunto ancora nuove idee.

    March 8, 2017
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  2. Soups, soups, and soups. Also I’ve discovered some semi-wilted veggies work great in healthful smoothies and offer a change of pace. Sadly I’m not great at keep the science projects to a minimum but have made a conscious effort to be better lately. Like you I loathe food waste!

    March 5, 2017
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    • Yes, put anything in a pot, add water, and, magically, you have soup!

      March 6, 2017
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  3. We obviously have much in common, I too hate the idea of wasting food. The first time I came to the USA , I was in a very ordinary restaurant in the mid-West. The portion sizes were gargantuan! I had nowhere to take/keep a doggy bag of the un-eaten food, annbut nd I was so distressed when I thought of the thousands of families in Africa who would have given their eye-teeth for a fraction of each plateful.

    My kids always mocked me (but now my daughter does it) when, once every 10 days I would say we are going to ‘eat the fridge’ tonight – I would take all the veggies that were in there, use them for a frittata, or roast them (as you advocate) or turn them into a soup or pasta sauce. My other habit is to use stale crusts or fag-ends of a crusty loaf to make croutons – a particular favourite of mine – or to be used to thicken soups/sauces.

    Over the years I have become much more disciplined about what I buy, so that I don’t have lots of items which are unused. As for the ‘Use By’ dates on produce, on the whole I ignore them, use my eyes, nose and judgement as to whether something is ‘off’ and inedible or not.
    I have often cut the mould off a hunk of cheese and then served it as usual. So far no-one has become ill and no-one has died as a result!

    March 2, 2017
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    • I just made a quiche with a piece of cheese that had a spot of mould I conveniently shaved off. I just didn’t tell my (very American) husband who would not approve. They sell moudly cheeses for very high prices, don’t they?? Whenever I leave a restaurant with a doggy bag (more often than not), I usually try and find a homeless person to donate it to. Not hard in LA. Although a few nights ago, coming out of a Persian restaurant, I offered my rice and hummus to a gentleman sitting by a shop window – he asked me what it was, then pondered for a bit and refused. I guess the homeless have a right to be picky too.

      March 2, 2017
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  4. Love your work! So many things I would never think of doing. I freeze almost everything, including cheese. Can’t open the First, don’t waste link.and come to think of it I had trouble with 3 of the links on your last Things we Love post too.

    March 2, 2017
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    • Maybe I should start freezing cheese too. My husband has a habit of buying a lot and I don’t really eat it much. I fixed the link by the way. You should check her out.

      March 2, 2017
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  5. Ellie
    Ellie

    Very useful post !!! Some of the best recipes have often come from using up food so as not to waste it, or doing the same with left-overs. By the way, for some reason I’m unable to use the link to First, don’t waste……

    March 2, 2017
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    • I agree. One has to become inventive when using leftovers. (I fixed the link to Primo non sprecare).

      March 2, 2017
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  6. I love to throw old veggies into soups or make stock out of them. I just roasted a chicken in my crockpot for dinner, removed the meat and left the bones in the crockpot. I added some old veggies and overnight my crockpot will create a lovely stock. 🙂

    March 2, 2017
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    • I do make a large batch of stock after Thanksgiving with the giant turkey carcass, which I then freeze. I should do it with chicken too. Thanks for the reminder.

      March 2, 2017
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  7. Caroline
    Caroline

    I love the notion of freezing chicken bones – so after a roast dinner or the bones once the joint is cooked and eaten – keeping a ziplock bag just for bones and then when you have enough using them to make amazing chicken stock…… I also like to fry washed potato peel – makes amazing crisps and who doesn’t like skin on fries – same thing…..

    March 1, 2017
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    • That is such a brilliant idea! I never thought of amassing bones until you have enough for a flavorful stock. Thank you. Also love the idea of frying potato peels. Incidentally, the peel is where the real nutritional value is.

      March 2, 2017
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