Nearly one third of the food we purchase ends up in the trash.
Wasted food is wasted money, and that stems from a variety of reasons: leftover food purchased for a specific recipe, unused food because you ate out rather than stayed in and cooked and food that is on its last leg and you can’t think of way to use it. Regardless of the reason, the loss in dollars and the impact on the environment from wasted food is substantial.
There are some things everyone can do that can help you avoid wasting food. The list isn’t complete, and some ideas may not work for you, but the list is meant to stimulate your thinking about the problem. And the ideas are good whether you are cooking for yourself or several people.
FreezingKeep a “broth bag” in the house freezer for those carrot ends, mushroom stalks, herb stems, garlic scrapes and small amounts of leftover vegetables. Then, when the bag’s full, make a nice soup or stock, adding whatever’s still necessary.
Freeze in usable portions (not as in one bag, label, date and freeze flat.
If you find a good sale on milk, go ahead and buy extra and freeze it.
You can do the same with extra free range eggs. I find two raw eggs per container to be a good standard for cooking or breakfast. Just remove the shell and pierce the yolk before putting it in the freezer container.
You can also extend the life of fresh herbs by finely chopping them, mixing them with softened butter and then freezing the mixture in ice cube trays. The mixture can be used to add flavor to baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, grilled meats, even popcorn.
Ice cube trays can also be used to freeze small portions of pesto or leftover wine to be used in cooking. Pour into ice cube trays, and then transfer to a labeled freezer bag.
Once a week, take everything out of your refrigerator and freezer to check for quality and packaging. Date and move things that were in the back to front. Wipe down shelves. Rearrange your fridge so the most perishable items are “in your face” when you open the door. Condiments go to the bottom shelf or door while produce is front and center.
Plan ahead ... but not too farThe No. 1 way to reduce food waste is to buy less. Have a meal plan before going to the grocery store and stick to the grocery list. Planning saves time, space and stretches your food budget. Buy less more often. Plan and buy for two or three days; it’s easier to stick to the plan that way, and if something unexpected comes up, food won’t go bad.
Statistics say we eat 49 percent of our meals away from home so a short plan is best.
Repurpose leftoversLeftover vegetables or taco fixings can become omelets or breakfast burritos. Leftover roast makes a good stew. Pasta can become a baked ziti or spaghetti pie.
Loaf ends or stale bread can be turned into croutons by cutting the bread into small squares and tossing them with a little olive oil, dried herbs and kosher salt. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (for ease of clean up) and spread the squares on the tray. Bake at 350 degrees until crispy and golden. When cool, store in an air-tight container to toss on salads, soup or crush for bread crumbs.
email@example.com or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.