One of the biggest problems facing the world today is food. Particularly how much food is wasted when there are so many people who would be happy to eat it. Grocery stores throw out perfectly good food every day and lock it into dumpsters. Restaurants scape tons of food into the trash every day because people do not finish their meals and don’t wish to take them home.
In other words, food waste is a real problem! The problem isn’t limited to just businesses. The problem also happens in the home more than we care to think about. We waste a lot of food in our homes without a thought to our hard-earned money to purchase/grow the food and the hours we put into the food.
This really needs to stop! Fortunately, I have some things you can do to combat food waste in your home. Unfortunately, I have learned some of these things the hard way and have done my fair share of not caring as much as I should about our food. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes!
16 Ways To Not Waste Food (and Use Up The Leftovers)
1. Have some leftover raw vegetables from a veggie tray? Saute them in butter or oil to soften. You can then add them to omelets, frittatas, soups, stews, and casseroles. You can also roast them in the oven for a delicious meal or side dish.
2. Have trouble with eating up leftovers before they go to waste? Make a list on your fridge of what needs to be used up. Plan meals and snacks around the leftovers. I know a lot of people who keep a whiteboard on the side of their fridge just for this reason.
3. Freeze your leftovers. A lot of food can be frozen and will taste fine when reheated. I love to do this cooked meat especially because it makes a quick addition to casseroles. You can also do this with chili for a quick lunch for work or at home.
4. Can your leftovers. Yes, you can preserve your leftovers by canning them. This works especially well with soups, stews, and chili.
5. Dehydrate your leftovers. You would be amazed at what you can dehydrate and store.
6. Leftover fruit and fruit salad can be frozen, used in desserts, as a topping on ice cream, or in smoothies. You can make leftover fruit into jam or jellies and can it.
7. Repurpose your leftovers. Of course, you will be bored eating the same food day in and day out while trying to use up those leftovers. You can turn them into another meal. Have leftover chicken and rice? Turn it into a casserole with vegetables, cheese, and cream soup.
8. Stick to portion sizes. If you have people in your life or you yourself are opposed to leftovers, you will want to stick to portion sizes so you do not have any extra food left over. You will want to make exactly the amount of food you need to eat for a meal and not any more than that.
9. If you have small children eating, you can certainly have a lot of food go to waste! There are a few tricks you can use to keep food from going to waste:
- Use small plates and bowls for young children. I especially like the ones that grip the table or high chair tray.
- Just give them small amounts of food at a time and only one food at a time if needed. We often like to think they can eat more than they really can, but often we give too much at a time. Just give them a little bit and when they finish that, give them more.
- If they do not finish their meal, put it in the fridge and warm it up for the next day. Teach them early to like leftovers.
- A lot of kids go through stages of picky eating or only wanting to eat one thing. Indulge them a little bit and serve that. You should encourage other foods, but do not waste a lot of food when they will not eat it.
10. If you like to shop in bulk, learn to store food properly. One of the biggest problems I see (and used to have) was that food would go to waste when purchased in bulk. While I encourage bulk shopping, you should have a plan to break down the bulk packages into more user-friendly packages.
- You can freeze bulk boneless, skinless chicken breasts in portion sizes appropriate for yourself or your family. You can also do simple freezer meals with them such as freezing them in marinade or sauce.
- You can take a bulk bag of oats, beans, flour, sugar, and other grains/legumes/baking supplies and break them down into smaller packages. You can use canning or storage jars for grains and legumes. You can store flour and other baking items in resealable bags and freeze them for a day or two. Then you can seal them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers to keep them fresh.
- Bulk produce can be frozen and used in smoothies. You can also preserve bulk fruit as jam, sauce, or as is.
11. Do you have food in your pantry that appears to be expired or needs to be used before you forget about it again? I feel your pain. By them you remember it again, you are not sure it is still good or you find out the bugs have gotten into it (good-bye cornmeal…). Been there, done that. I like to pull those foods out of my pantry and set them on the counter where I will see them. Then I make them part of the meals for the week to use it up. I have also seen where people use a basket for anything they want to use up quickly and will pull from that basket first.
12. Once a year, do a freezer cleanout. Figure out what you need to use up in the freezer and make it part of your meals for the week or the month. Do you have some freezer meals that have been in there for a year? Do you have meat that has spent more time in your freezer than alive? Make a concentrated effort to eat these things up that week or that month. I usually spread my freezer clean out over a month.
13. Inventory your freezers and pantries. One of the reasons food goes to waste is that we simply have lost track of what we have on hand. Since I am a hardcore believer in food storage, this can really be the enemy of your food storage. Inventory your pantry, food storage, and freezers to have a better idea of what you have on hand and what you should be using.
14. Compost what cannot be eaten. Whether you have peels, tea leaves, coffee grounds, and more, you should really try to compost these items. Some cities are now setting up compost stations you can take your food scraps too as well as your yard waste in return for some free compost. Otherwise, you can search online for a great way to start your own compost pile or purchase a compost barrel.
15. Make your own broth and stock from leftover bones and vegetable scraps. You can make delicious stocks and broths from many different poultry bones and vegetable scraps. You can cook them together or separately for chicken broth or vegetable broth. You can then freeze or can the broth for later use. (If you have chickens, you can feed the scraps from the broth to them!)
16. If you are constantly finding yourself making too much food and not using the leftovers up as quickly as you want, invite friends over for supper to help you eat those bigger meals. Otherwise, find a family who needs a meal and bring them one (Nice to do when there is a new baby or a death in the family. Or when the family is just in a busy season of life). You can also take a meal to an elderly person who may have trouble getting a good meal together for themselves.
What tips or suggestions do you have for using up leftovers and not wasting food? I would love to read your tips and suggestions in the comments!
Thanks for reading,
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