We have all been there: we did our weekly shopping, some did a bit of meal planning for the week, bought plenty of veggies because we need to eat more of those (of course), everything was organised in the fridge, but then life happens and all the plans to eat healthier and cook more get suddenly “postponed” for another week.
Food waste is a massive environmental issue and it is just wrong at so many levels. Today I am listing some practical tips I have used to fight food waste. I don’t use the whole list all the time, but I use many of these often.
1. Revive limp veggies in water
I learned this one by chance one day trying to save a limp carrot. It is as simple as leaving the veggies in water for several hours. The difference is amazing, from soft and wrinkled, my carrot looked almost normal, crisp and healthy. I have also tried this method with leafy greens.
2. Use the top shelf for leftovers
For leftovers or any food that need to be eaten soon, we use the top shelf and we try to keep these items at the front, so every time we open the door there is a clear reminder.
Otherwise, you know the saying “out of sight out of mind”.
3. Blanch and freeze vegetables
I usually blanch vegetables before I go on holidays, so whatever we couldn’t eat, we blanch them and freeze them. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, it is basically a technique where you submerge food in boiling water for a a bit and then immediately submerge it again in ice water. Watch the video below for details.
According to this article from theKitchn.com:
“Blanching helps vegetables keep their vibrant colors and retain nutrients, and stops the enzymes that would otherwise lead to spoilage. Freezing vegetables without blanching them first results in faded or dulled coloring, as well as off flavors and textures.”
If you have never tried it give it a go, blanching really preserves the veggies well. It is great for broccoli, beans, carrots. Actually, the frozen veggies we find in supermarkets are all blanched.
4. Use glass jars to store leftovers
I don’t know you, but I find it easier to track the food and leftovers when I can actually see them and glass jars are ideal for that. I like to use big jars from coconut oil to store food, they work really well because the mouth jar is wide (they are also easier to clean).
On weekly basis, I usually have 3 or 4 of these jars in my fridge.
5. Store leafy greens in glass jars
Related to the previous tip, I also store leafy greens in jars: spinach, salad mix, rocket, even kale.
About kale, when I buy it I usually invest 10 minutes of pre-work to remove the leaves and store them in the jar. In my experience, this has been the best method to keep them fresh for longer. The added benefit is that is quicker to use it during the week too. By the way, kale stems are edible but they need a bit of love to softening them. Check this article for ideas.
Keep in mind, that I store these leafy greens as they come, I don’t wash them. In my earlier days of experimentation, I tried that and they didn’t last long even when I tried to dry them well.
6. Make veggie-scraps stock
I have done this one and it is a great way to get the most out of your veggies. Simply store in the freezer all the bits and pieces that you don’t usually use for your cooking, and then when you have enough, prepare your stock with salt, garlic and some herbs.
I have used for example: carrots/zucchini tops, onion pieces, mushroom stems, celery leaves, spring onion pieces and so forth. The only thing that doesn’t go that well in the stock is too much broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. It changes the flavour and it can become a bit bitter, I tried it once and I didn’t like it that much, but feel free to experiment.
7. Put it upside down
This one is a desperate measure we use sometimes. We don’t have a big fridge, and sometimes we can’t put all the leftovers on the first shelf, so when we have to use the lower shelves, we use glass containers at the front of the shelf and I turn them upside down, that way when we look down, we can easily see the content and remember to use it.
8. Try to store the food in the same places
This might sound silly, but at least in my experience it makes a difference. For instance, I store my glass jars on the right-hand side of the top shelf and I keep an eye on them regularly. There have been times when I have run out of space on the shelves and I’d ended up using the door to store the jars. Guess what? we have forgotten them!!!
9. Create a “Just eat me” box
Set up a box/basket/container on the top shelf of your fridge and put in there anything that’s a bit old and you haven’t had the chance to cook, anything with a close “Use by” date, a lonely veggie/fruit that can be lost in the fridge drawer or anything that you tend to forget is in the fridge.
Create the habit to move the food to the container, and check it often. It can really make a difference.
10. End of the week dish
It is a great idea to have one or a couple of recipes to use the remaining/good part of the veggies you still have by the end of the week – before you shop. Some people like one-pot stews and curries. For me is usually a powerful vegetable soup.
11. Use by vs Best before
I touched on this on my post about food waste, but I am including it here again because it is important; these dates don’t mean the same. In Australia, from the FoodStandards website, these are the guidelines:
Used By: “Foods that must be eaten before a certain time for health or safety reasons should be marked with a use by date”
Best Before: “You can still eat foods for a while after the best before date as they should be safe but they may have lost some quality”
If you are in USA, check this article.
So best before date is just a reference and it is about quality, not about safety. Most people check the date but not the type of date.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
That’s it for today. I hope you have found a trick or two to avoid food waste. Let me know in the comments below, what other tips do you regularly use to fight waste in your kitchen?
Thanks for reading,