January 23, 2010
Last week I wrote a post featuring 10 tips to reduce food waste this year. The post featured some ideas that I've been incorporating in my own kitchen in order to save money, eat healthier, and stop wasting so much food. With the recent devastation in Haiti, it's become impossible in the past week to ignore the amount of poverty and lack of food that people in this world are living with. It's also made a lot of us even more aware of just how much STUFF we all have and buy and consume and (unfortunately) waste.
While it's true that making the effort to not waste a bag of arugula is not actually going to make a difference in the life a hungry family elsewhere in the world; I still strongly believe that it's our duty to be good stewards of all that we've been blessed with. That stewardship starts at home, and there is no better place to begin than in our own kitchens.
In the post, I asked you to share some of your own tips and ideas for how to reduce waste. The response was incredible and I've actually started using some of the tips! (My favorite is #12, which I spent a few minutes doing yesterday!). These tips were too good to leave buried in the comments section, so I decided to compile all your great ideas here for others to see.
If you have any more, tell me and I'll add them to the list!!
13 Really Good Reader Tips:
1. To force yourself to finish up items that have been languishing in the pantry, Arundati suggests making a menu plan for the week using dry goods like legumes, lentils, pasta. It makes busy weeknights easier (no more wondering "what do I make for dinner") and, as she points out, is a great chance to try out bookmarked recipes.
2. Andrew's Mom reminds us that little bugs can get into bags of flour, pasta, and sugar in even the cleanest of homes, so transferring them to sealed glass or plastic storage jars is always a must.
3. Carolyn suggests washing and drying lettuce (and herbs) then storing wrapped in paper towels to absorb extra moisture.
4. Lindsey regularly takes sandwiches to work for lunch, but finds that she can never get through a whole loaf before it starts to go bad. To avoid this, she likes to "pop the whole bag in the freezer and lightly toast before making [a] sandwich." She assures us that once lunchtime comes around, we won't even notice the bread was ever frozen! [I'll add that this is a particularly good idea for the kinds of bread that don't get eaten on a daily basis, like hot dog and hamburger buns, or bagels.]
5. Martin recommends labeling your Ziplocs or freezer bags BEFORE you fill them, since afterward they might be greasy or bulky, which makes it trickier to stick on a label or write on them.
6. Beryl makes a weekly pot of "random leftovers farmers market vegetable soup" and freezes extra batches of cookie and pie dough so you can have them at the ready. She also buries used vanilla bean pods in containers of sugar to make vanilla scented sugar. [I use my old vanilla pods to make homemade vanilla extract by tossing them into a bottle of vodka or rum.]
7. Jenny points out that the idea of keeping an inventory list also works really well for chest freezers and is a good way to avoid what recently happened to her mom; she found an (un-inventoried) 20-year-old fish at the bottom of her chest freezer!
To avoid this, she inventories her freezer quarterly and keeps a check list with little boxes next to it so she can easily mark off anything she takes out. She also recommends storing your reusable grocery shopping bags next to the inventory list so that you are always forced to take a look at it before heading out to the store. (A great way to avoid buying things already have!)
8. Allison is also a believer in making a pot of soup to use up odds and ends. She learned the habit from her Colombian in-laws who turn "everything into soup to cut back on waste." She says that once she got started doing that it became addicting.
10. Sarah has a great idea that helps save food while helping others. She says: "If you realize you have something you are not going to use, see if you can find someone else who will. Food pantries always need food and will happily take any canned or boxed foods that don't have to be refrigerated. If you have fresh produce that you cannot use up, see if a friend or neighbor could use it. The bags of cilantro/parsley/etc. have too much in them for my family to use up, so giving half to a neighbor would save us some waste."
11. Jackie likes to juice and freeze limes and lemons. I do this too, pouring the juice into ice cube trays and then emptying into a large freezer bag. I drop these "juice cubes" into pitchers of water for lemonade or flavored water and melt them into recipes. They're also great for cocktails! It's an easy way to use up citrus that you know you won't get to (no more little hard rocks of petrified lime in the fruit bowl!).
I would also add that you should zest the fruit before juicing and save the zest in freezer bags too. Or you can mix it with sugar and dry it out in the oven for fragrant orange or lemon sugar (Try it! It's AMAZING on pancakes, sugar cookies, or dusted on pound cake.)
12. Natty gave us two fantastic ideas. First she recommended pureeing bunches of herbs that you know you won't use in the food processor or blender with a few teaspoons of water, then freezing in ice-cube trays. She says you can easily drop these herb cubes in a stew or sauce for a kick when you don't have fresh on hand. [I just made a batch of parsley and mint ice cubes yesterday and the whole process took me about 15 minutes! I also think that if you (like I!) are into herb-y cocktails, a cilantro, basil, or mint ice cube would be a great way to spice up a gin & tonic or a vodka collins!]
13. Natty also recommends composting or giving your peelings and such to someone who does. Many cities will even give you a composter or offer them at reduced cost. She notes: "I've found composting actually makes me more mindful of my waste-- it doesn't just disappear with the weekday garbage, I can always see what doesn't get used."
[For those of you who live in New York City like I do, you can find out some great composting info, including a step-by-step guide to building your own "worm bin" at the NYC Compost Project website.]
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