May 25, 2011

Back To Basics: Avoiding Food Waste

I really must make this pie again.

I hate throwing away food. Any food. Hate, hate, hate. Ask Ben, I'm sure he'll tell you how many times I say I hate to waste food (he hates it too). I think of it as poor management on my part, so I sort of feel like a failure if I have to toss something. It wastes what we've been given and the time spent on it, making me feel like I've squandered my husband's hard work. And it's darn good food, so why aren't we eating it?

So, I try very hard to make sure I avoid throwing things out. Now, this doesn't mean eating things that are... coming alive. It just means planning ahead a bit, or changing the plan to accommodate things in the fridge that need to be used.

I think it also goes along with the Back to Basics approach. If you are wasting less, you are buying less, and your life is simpler and easier both in saving money and time.

On one hand it's easy if I have a simple, bare ingredient. Oh, we need to eat the lettuce before it goes bad so we'll have a salad with dinner. Or, just changing the plan at the end of the week and instead of fixing a whole new meal we just have a leftover night. But generally, the big parts of a meal - even if leftover - get eaten up, leaving me with little bits of whatever. Meat, breads, potatoes, etc.



How do I avoid throwing away good food? Recycle!

Leftover Mashed Potatoes: They never get eaten around here for some reason and even though I try to make just enough for one night, we usually have at least a cup left. What to do? Make potato bread! Or use in potato soup. Or, if you have enough (or feel like mashing another potato to round it out) Shephard's pie is always a goodie. In fact, Shepard's pie works double time if you have leftover potatoes AND ground meat!

Along the same lines, leftover baked or greasy potatoes can be used as breakfast hash browns or in a scramble or burrito. In a casserole (Country Casserole, anyone?), or just mash them and use the above ideas!

Leftover Bread: I usually have extra biscuits, french bread, or corn bread from any given meal. Instead of making a new batch of bread product for the next dinner, a lot of times I'll just re-serve the ones from the night (or two) before so they get eaten. Easy! If a lot of bread is going stale, I'll either save it for bread crumbs or make a bread pudding.

Also along the same lines, leftover grains like oatmeal and such can be thrown into the bread dough for extra goodness.

Leftover Rice or Pasta: When I make rice I make a big batch. Either plain or with chicken bouillon for extra flavor.  Any leftovers usually just get served with the next meal (even if it doesn't really go) so it gets eaten. It's a really good filler. Same for pasta. And both can be thrown into a batch of soup.

Leftover Meat: Most of the time, I try to have leftover meat. For example, when we have a whole chicken for Sunday dinner I have already planned on the leftovers for a chicken casserole or some such for later in the week. But if you've not planned on extra bits of meat and now have them, you can put them in a casserole, on a pizza, in a soup, a salad, a pie, a sandwich, mix with beans to stretch it and use for tacos... Gosh the list goes on for using up extra meat. If it's a tiny bit, stick in the freezer and stockpile it until you have enough for whatever dish you'd like to make.

Leftover Whole Dishes: If it's something like a casserole, a pot of beans or soup, or a Chicken Pot Pie (things that are more complete, than just ingredients), those are easy to dish out into single serve sizes and pop in the freezer. Next time you need a quick lunch or fast dinner just pull them out a reheat! Putting things in the freezer for later use is my ultimate "Don't waste it" move.


How do you use up leftovers to avoid wasting food?

Happy Cooking,
Meg

P.S. - Our kitten total ended at 5! We have 2 grey kitties, 2 black & brown stripey kitties, and one black kitty. So... Who wants a kitten (or 4)? :)

8 comments:

Kessie said...

Those are pretty much all my strategies, too, except when I feel something is going to waste, I'll just eat it. I stick stuff in the freezer a lot of the time, too. I luffs my freezer. :-)

Meg said...

LOL! I luffs mine too! :D

Jennifer said...

Well, that was my only contribution. I have a freezer full of strange, dark, unlabelled things. I cannot throw them out. I also save leftover veggies for stock. Oh, and bacon grease. Mmmm. Fry onions, make refried beans. That stuff is like liquid gold.

Meg said...

Ooooh yes! Me too! I have a coffee mug in my fridge that houses my stash of bacon grease. :)

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Mashed potatoes are great when fried like pancakes for breakfast.
We have four dogs and never have to worry about leftovers -smile-.

Allison said...

I would definitely take the cat if my hubby weren't so deathly allergic to them. His throat just swells up until he can't breathe. We had to pick between him and our cat Sticky, who we had for a full two days, and ultimately leaned toward keeping the Russian. ;) (Wasn't really a hard choice, but you know...) :D

ALSO...the Swiss use leftover rice to make rice salad. Just toss the rice cold in a salad bowl, make a mayonnaise dressing, add cold cooked macaroni, cut up pickles, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese chunks, anything that would be yummy in there or that you have left over, and serve as a main meal with toast or crunchy baguettes! We love it.

no spring chicken said...

My very favorite food saving tip is one that you listed. Try to have left over meat! I have a friend who thinks its barbaric for me to reserve meat and not put it out on the platter for the BIG BOYS. I make large well rounded meals. If I put out ALL the meat, they would EAT all the meat, and they don't NEED all the meat. The token that I save out becomes the basis for tomorrows casserole, or soup. Or is maybe sliced to top large lunch salads!

Blessings, Debbie

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

What a great post! Leftover bread I break into bread crumbs and freeze until needed. Leftover veggies or ends I'll throw into a zippie bag in the freezer and make soup (also the parmesan rind). I often save the potato water for my bread - also makes it nice and moist. Our chickens get some scraps as does our compost pile. Everyone/thing is well fed. :=)
Staci

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