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:
- I 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?