It’s been estimated that the average home throws out about 25% of all the food we buy because it goes bad before we use it. That’s a lot of food going in the trash which translates into a lot of money being spent on TRASH! Here’s a few of my favorite ways to toss less and save more…
REFRIGERATED FRESH VEGETABLES
When I get home from the grocery store I clean and prep any vegetables that get stored in the refrigerator. We’re more likely to eat raw veggies like celery and carrots for a snack if we can just pull them out of the bag and I’m more inclined to make a home cooked meal (on those nights I’d rather grab a burger) if I don’t have to peel and chop, in addition to doing the actual cooking. *Even though most storage tips say to wash and chop vegetables right before you use them, I find that I actually throw out less when I clean and prep ahead (again, I’m more likely to actually use the vegetables I buy when they’re ready to go and as long as you make sure they are dry before you put them in a bag or plastic storage container they’ll last for the week.)
Vegetables like celery, carrots, broccoli, squash and bell peppers-I wash, pat dry and then peel, trim and chop before putting in storage bags. BUT WAIT-don’t throw out the peel and ends (and leaves from the celery)…toss all the veggie “scraps” in a freezer bag which once full, will make an easy and cheap soup stock. I keep this bag in an easy to reach section of the freezer so that I can add to it whenever I’m prepping vegetables.
PANTRY “STORED” VEGETABLES
If a recipe calls for my potatoes to be peeled, I rinse the potato and then peel them over a bowl and instead of throwing the peel away, toss it in my “freezer bag of vegetable scraps”….will add flavor to the stock I’ll make when the bag’s full. You can do this with onions too. Pull off the “papery” outer skin first and then add the ends anything else you’re cutting or peeling off and not using to your freezer bag.
FRESH HERBS AND SPICES
Add the stems and any other part of fresh herbs and spices to your freezer bag for flavoring your stock (think parsley, fresh rosemary, etc.).
When fresh fruits like berries are on sale, especially when they are “buy one, get one free”, I (in the past) stocked up and then ended up throwing out the “free” one because it went bad before we ate them all…so I didn’t really get a great deal. If you know you won’t be able to eat all the fruit, freeze half. Wash the berries, drain and pat dry and then lay on a lined cookie sheet and put in the freezer overnight. Once the fruit is frozen, toss in a freezer bag and simply pull out the fruit as needed for things like smoothies and desserts.
A lot of times I’ll double a recipe on purpose so I can freeze half for another time. It doesn’t take any extra time to cook it and I have a great meal that I’ll simply have to defrost and reheat. I do the same thing when we have leftovers and I know we won’t eat them before it’s time to toss.
MEAT AND FISH BONES
DON’T TOSS the chicken, beef, ham or fish bones (or any of the skin, or other parts of these foods). Put them in a freezer bag (separate for each type of protein) and freeze. Then when you have a full bag of your frozen veggies, throw the bones and vegetables in a stock pot, cook, and you’ll have a better tasting stock than if you had bought it….and it’s like getting it for free because you would have thrown all those parts away!
If you have leftover wines that you know you won’t drink before it turns (becomes vinegary) freeze it and you’ll have wine to toss in soups, stews, gravies and casseroles for flavor. I like to freeze them in ice-cube trays and then once the cubes are frozen, toss in a freezer bag.
My husband doesn’t particularly care for pesto but I do. I know I won’t be able to eat an entire container of pesto that I buy or make (when basil is in season and cheap) so I freeze it for later uses. You can fill ice-cube trays with your pesto, cover with saran wrap (make sure the wrap is actually touching the pesto) and then once frozen, put the cubes in a freezer bag.
I like to buy meats in the “value packs” because they are usually cheaper per pound. If you’re not going to use the entire package at one time, wrap each portion individually in saran wrap and then toss in a freezer bag. If you wrap the meat pieces individually, it makes it that much easier to simply pull out what you need and you don’t have to defrost the entire package.
Here’s what I love to do with extra fresh herbs I have on hand. Mix with butter and then roll into logs or balls, wrap in saran wrap and freeze. Herb butters make anything taste better! You can add to fresh vegetables or put a pat on grilled meats for instant flavor.
When a recipe calls for fresh corn kernels cut off the cob, throw those cobs in a freezer bag or add to your frozen vegetable bag (if there’s room) and you’ll have another veggie to add to your stock pot. Adds lots of flavor. *Don’t do this with corn on the cob that someone has eaten off of!
This is just a partial list of what you can freeze. There are some items that simply don’t freeze well like lettuces. Experiment with what you usually toss (it’s not going to cost you anything to experiment if you typically throw it away). Here’s a few tips to keep in mind….
MAKING HOMEMADE STOCK
This is so easy. Put whatever protein bones you have in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Add whatever frozen (or fresh) vegetables and herbs you have on hand. Add water to cover and simmer on top of the stove for 3-4 hours. Let the stock cool slightly, skim off any fat and strain. Then fill freezer bags or ice-cube trays with the stock and freeze. Now you have homemade stock anytime you need it!
For any questions you might have on how long you can freeze something or what you can freeze check out this website, it’s 40 pages long and the most extensive list I have found! www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn403.pdf