Thursday, September 17, 2015

How To Cut Down On Food Waste: AKA How To Be A Food Hero

Without a doubt guilt is one of the worst, if not the worst, emotions on the planet. Unlike other emotions, which can often be fickle and easy to shake off, guilt has a way of sticking to you like that bit of glue from a band-aid that just won't seem to wash off. It eats you up inside, forcing you to obsess about it and think of nothing else. Of course we all make mistakes that can lead to us feeling that dreaded guilt, but the number one thing that makes me feel guilty more often than anything is the guilt from watching food in my home go to waste. 

I know, I've written about it so many times before, because, quite frankly, I haven't been able to fully break my habit of stopping food waste all together. It's not an easy thing! After a year of slacking on my food rescuing ways (I used to be so good!), I've decided to get my act together and take a stand to stop (or at least significantly reduce) the food waste in my home or, as I like to say, become a food hero! My first step to becoming a food hero was to declare September as No Waste September, using this month to aggressively tackle my food waste and see if I can carry this promise through to October. I'm hoping that by sharing my own personal tips and tricks for cutting down on food waste I'll be able to inspire my readers to do the same! Now who's ready to become a food hero with me?
Alert family members, live-in partners, and roommates of what foods need to get eaten
One of the biggest issues that leads to food waste has got to be a lack of communication. It's hard to know what needs to be eaten and what's about to go bad without clear communication amongst family, live-in partners, and roommates. I have a big chalkboard wall in my kitchen which allows me to very clearly communicate to my boyfriend Chris what we need to be eating. When we have an overflow of certain foods, leftovers that need to be eaten, or produce that's about to go bad, I immediately write it on the wall to give Chris guidance on what he should be eating. I love this idea because it forces those foods that can often get lost in the back of the fridge to be brought to the forefront and given the attention they need before expiring. 

Writing what needs to be used up on the chalkboard wall is also a fantastic way to inspire new meal ideas, allowing you to visually group certain foods and flavours together. For instance, I recently had zucchini, chopped onion, strained tomatoes, and ground beef written on the food hero wall, immediately that inspired me to make a bolognese sauce with diced zucchini thrown into the mirepoix. Just like that I had tackled four things on my food hero list!
Label everything in your fridge, including a date
Before packing leftovers or bits of remaining goods like broth, tomato sauce, or beans in the fridge, I always write a label for the container so I know 1) exactly what's in the container and 2) when it was made or first placed in the fridge. How many times have you found a random tupperware container in your fridge and not known what the hell was in there? Rather than playing the guesswork of the this-may-lead-to-food-poisoning game, 9 times out of 10 you will toss the anonymous tupperware container. 
A messy fridge can encourage people to only look at the front row, leaving plenty of good food to rot in the back of the fridge. I like to organize my fridge in sections grouping dairy, condiments, drinks, meats, leftovers, sauces, and so forth together so it's easy to get a quick inventory of what you have on hand. I like to place foods that need to be eaten the quickest right at the front of the fridge so it's the first thing you see when you open the door, often with a label that reads "EAT ME!" Keeping your fridge organized is also helpful in cutting down energy costs, reducing the amount of time you keep your fridge door open. It all adds up after all! 
Smoothies are a fantastic way to use up fruit about to go bad or frozen fruit previously rescued
When life gets hectic it can be difficult to cook every day of the week, making it hard to rescue food before it goes bad.  When I have a busy few days and food that's about to go bad, I try to take a few extra minutes to toss those foods in the freezer so that they don't end up in the trash. Frozen fruit is perfect for freezing for smoothies or that bit of summer freshness in a winter dessert. An ice cube tray is also your friend when it comes to freezing, acting as the perfect vehicle for freezing leftover broth, wine, herbs, and even juices for future use. When you come across a recipe that calls for a splash of wine, you'll be thankful for those frozen cubes of wine that you saved in the freezer!
Refrigerated biscuit dough or puff pastry are great things to have on hand for making quick pot pies
When I have to get creative with using up food, I'm always grateful that I think ahead. I always like to keep a package of puff pastry in the freezer, biscuit dough in the fridge, fresh herbs growing on my balcony, canned or jarred tomatoes and broth in the cupboard, as well as a wide selection of various condiments and sauces. These are the things that you don't have to worry about going bad that will save you when you need to use food up and don't want to make a trip to the store. Think of what ingredients you find yourself using most often that help to perk up meals and make sure you keep them stocked!
Here are some of my favourite ideas for how to use up leftovers!
  • Croutons & Crostini - Before bread becomes mouldy, cut it into cubes or thin slices and brush with olive oil to toast into homemade croutons or crostini. I like to brush on some minced garlic or use infused oils like rosemary olive oil to add an extra hit of flavour.
  • Shepherds Pie - The classic dish can be made with more than just ground meat and potatoes! Try making shepherds pie with leftover pulled pork and sweet potatoes. Get creative and play around with all sorts of different meats and vegetables. Why not short rib and turnips?
  • Stir Fry's - Stir fry's are one of the best ways for getting rid of a lot of vegetables in a hurry. Pretty much anything goes with a stir fry, so toss in whatever veg you can get your hands on!
  • Smoothies - Before your fruit (or even some vegetables) goes bad pack them up in freezer bags for quick and easy smoothies. I like to freeze spinach before it wilts to add some green to my homemade smoothies. 
  • Pot Pies - Whether it's chicken, beef, lamb, or even just a bunch of veg, pot pies are a great way to use up leftovers. I love adding leftover takeout curries to my chicken pot pies to instantly revamp leftover chicken into a curry pot pie!
Who want's to become a food hero with me? Tell me about how you cut down on food waste on Twitter: @thisgingerrose.

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