You buy great food at the store, but schedule changes and time crunches leave you with extras that are headed for the trash—unless you intervene. We asked some skilled food bloggers how they utilise their unused and excess ingredients.
Photo by Runder.
We’ve previously warmed up to the idea of multi-meal recipes and making hash from leftovers. We are just one blog, however, and we don’t write about food as often as the folks quoted here do. Here’s how they save money, and face, by using up whatever’s hanging around each week.
The 101 Course for Stretching Your Food Further
• Stagger your produce. When you buy certain fruits and vegetables (bananas, pears, avocados, etc.), get half ripe, and half unripe. By the time you finish the ripe stuff, the unripe is ready to go, and nothing goes bad.
• Don’t hide perishables. Some food only has a shelf life of a couple of days, and stashing it in the recesses of your crisper drawer all but guarantees its moldy demise. Whether you’re talking leftovers or leafy greens, keeping it in the front and centre of your fridge will keep it front and centre in your memory.
• Memorise a few simple kitchen sink recipes. Burritos, frittatas, pizzas, salads, stews, chilis and stir fry dishes are excellent for using up bits and pieces of mismatched food that would otherwise go uneaten.
• Prep fruits and vegetables as soon as you arrive home from the supermarket. You’re much more likely to consume food that’s already been washed, chopped and arranged for optimum snacking. (If you have time, prepping entire meals can reduce waste and save time, as well. Take an afternoon and pull the whole week together.)
• Freeze unused meat immediately. If you’re not cooking a chicken breast within a day or two of buying it, wrap it securely and place it in your freezer. Write the date on it, and it’ll be set for pan frying down the line.
Finally, Kristen offers up these 156 recipes for ten leftover fresh herbs that’s definitely worth a bookmark, or at least a Google in the future.
Trifles, croutons and gnocchi
Clotilde Dusoulier is the French blogger behind Chocolate & Zucchini, which eventually gave way to a cookbook of the same name. She told us a few of the strategies she uses to fight food waste in her own home:
• If I’ve made a cake that didn’t get eaten quickly enough and the last few servings are getting a bit dry, I use them to make a trifle (a layered concoction alternating diced cake, poached fruit, yogurt or whipped cream, chocolate shavings, etc.).
• I make my own sourdough bread, so I particularly hate wasting it. The butt end of bread loaves that have gotten a bit stale I dice and let dry on the counter. The diced bread is then either ground in the food processor to make really good breadcrumbs, or sautéed with a bit of oil to make croutons, or used to make a bettelman (the Alsatian bread pudding). Bettelman is great with leftover brioche and croissants, too.
• If I have too many potatoes on hand and they’re starting to sprout, I make potato gnocchi and stash them away in the freezer.
• I only ever buy meat or fish on the day I plan to cook and serve them. The rest of the time, we get our protein from eggs, tofu, cheese, legumes, grains, etc. — ingredients that keep for considerably longer than meat or fish, and are therefore more flexible to work into our meal schedule.
• In general, I try to be proactive: if I worry that a particular vegetable/ingredient/boxed leftover might not get eaten until it’s too late, I put it in the freezer right away (some vegetables/fruits need to be cooked before you freeze them for best results). We might end up getting to it the next day, but better safe than sorry.
Bananas, cream, and last-minute desserts
Aun Koh, along with his wife “S,” edits Chubby Hubby, where he’s often describing how a meal, dessert or treat came together from leftovers or circumstance.
Koh has found two ways of using up the bananas you bought but never ate or turned into bread: banana ice cream, which he then pairs with tiny brownie cookies for mini-sandwiches, and his wife’s banana cake.
Cream and dark chocolate are two ingredients you can’t usually buy in tiny amounts. For the leftovers, or for any night where you lack for an impressive dessert, his pot de creme makes for a tasty, stylish dish you can bust out on short notice.
Soup, and lots of it
Heidi Swanson, proprietress of the 101 Cookbooks recipe blog, generally works with natural, healthy and organic foods. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have leftovers. Her technique, when facing a fridge or freezer full of food heading south, is to make soups like this ribollita, which uses up greens, beans, big vegetables and day-old bread.
Not particularly creative or sexy, but I make big pots of soup with any ingredients I fear might go to waste. Cool & freeze in individual or family-sized baggies (I double-bag). Then there’s just a thaw, a reheat, and a topping or two between you and a really good meal.
As always, we welcome your own food-using suggestions, leftover miracles, and recipe comments, in the comments.