Recently, I've been trying to be more aware of our consumption level (and consequent waste) of food. Though over-buying has never been a problem for us (thanks to never having a pantry or large fridge/freezer), there are still things I find myself regularly throwing away that, with a little extra thought, could be used/consumed/enjoyed and we would consequently be getting the most thorough bang for our food budget buck each week.
It seems that this sort of thinking really comes back to mindfulness...a large pillar in the slow living lifestyle. When we finish with what a recipe requires, we seem to mentally conclude that we're "done" with an ingredient, don't we? Any leftovers are just waste or excess. But they don't have to be!
This week, when I was doing some prep cooking for the coming days, I was really mindful of what was in our refrigerator, and a) what I could do to make it most easily consumed, and b) what I could do to make the best use of the ingredients I bought. Here are a few of my findings:
One of the most-wasted fruits I buy are strawberries. We like strawberries, they just come in a larger package than most fruit, require some prep work, and often by the time we get to the last 4 or 5, they are bruised, mushy, and not consumable. So this week, as soon as I got home from the market I soaked my berries in the vinegar-water solution we use, rinsed them thoroughly, topped and sliced them, and placed them in a glass container to store in the fridge. This makes them easy to see, instantly grabbable and ready-to-use for a snack, to top some yogurt and granola for breakfast, to eat with a little fresh whipped cream for dessert, whatever! The result: we went through the entire box of strawberries with zero waste this week. Win!
Another thing I wanted to tackle was the little bits and bobs left over from recipes...mainly citrus (lemons and limes) and fresh herbs. I use these, forget about them, and then find what's left in the back of a drawer weeks later having died a slow and lonely death. - So this week, as I was making a spring pea soup requiring fresh mint, I used the several sprigs I needed from the package (can't wait to have my own herb garden again!!) and dropped the remaining sprig to two into a pitcher of water in the fridge. Incidentally, I was also cutting up a cucumber for a kale salad, and snuck a few slices of that into the pitcher too. A recipe that called for half of a lemon obligingly donated the other half to our infusion, and the result: we've been enjoying some deliciously refreshing cucumber/mint/lemon water for the last few days with no bits and bobs going to waste!
Bananas: these guys can be rather unpredictable in their ripening habits. Sometimes I find myself with a whole bunch of very ripe, quickly darkening fruit. When that happens, I often peel and freeze them to use later for smoothies - the riper, the better!
Kale is another sometimes-forgotten bottom-drawer-dweller. I'll use what I need for a salad, and then the last bit I didn't use will languish away into eternity. So now what I'm trying to do is to just wash it ALL at the same time. Use what I need for my salad, and then tear the rest into moderate stem-less pieces, dry thoroughly, and store in a paper towel ready to grab for smoothie use. Somehow, having it already washed, and de-stemmed makes all the difference. Plus knowing it's there ready for me keeps it on my radar throughout the week.
Have you found little tips and tricks that helps you use up all your food and leaves you with a cleared out fridge at the end of the week all ready for a fresh filling from the farmer's market? Please share them in the comments!