October is a world wide focus on not wasting so much food and we have some easy tips for you.
First steps are always the hardest but trust us it gets easier. We’ve included a few of our favorite tips and tricks for reducing your personal food waste. At the bottom of the blog you can find links to learn more about food waste, the consequences of not changing our habits, and other people and organizations working on this problem.
Let's start with garden guilt. When our garden dreams in the spring are bigger than our stomachs and when fall rolls around and food rots on the vine or languishes in the back of the fridge. Our gardens were just too big. But the problem is even bigger than that. Beyond our kitchen garden waste 1 in 5 grocery bags of food is wasted; thrown into a landfill. It’s a massive problem both in terms of economics but also for the health of our planet. If food waste were a country it would be ranked third in terms of CO2 emissions. This is such a huge and pervasive problem that it's hard to even wrap your head around the numbers, the sheer quantities, the mountains of wasted food. But as with all problems, little first steps add up to huge change when we all work together.
Food Scrap Stock: this is a simple and tasty trick to make great homemade soups, stews, and risottos. Keep a mason jar or bag in the freezer. Every time you have scraps from cooking: carrot ends, squash tops, onion bits, tomato ends etc.. add it to the freezer bag. When the bag is full it's time to make stock. Get out the slower cooker and add your scrap bag, a hunk of seaweed (we recommend sugar kelp or oarweed), and your favorite blend of spices and some water. Let it simmer for at least a few hours but the longer the better. If you want a meat stock then save your chicken, ham, or beef bones or lobster shells and add them in as well. When the stock looks and tastes good, chill it, strain it and turn it into your favorite comforting soup or stew. If you're not feeling like soup then freeze the stock. A friend of mine just gave me an awesome tip for this. Pour your stock into a freezer or silicone freezer bag. Close it tightly and freeze it flat on a baking tray. When it is frozen solid you end up with a little sliver of stock that takes up hardly any room in your freezer!!!! For more details check out our blog Easy Peasy Soup Stock.
Too Much Garden Produce Freezer Meals: Ready to go homemade freezer meals are a mainstay in our house in the winter. They are the perfect way to make sure that we use everything in the garden and are eating lots of vegetables all year long. The three I make every year are vegetable lasagna (which is awesome cause you can use extra tomatoes by making the sauce yourself and an overabundance of eggs by making homemade noodles), chicken pot pie, and shepherds pie. The key to all of these meals is they start with roasted vegetables. I throw everything that is ready to be picked onto baking trays and roast away. You can add in summer squash, carrots, beets, potatoes, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, winter squash, eggplant, and tomatoes or whatever combination is ripe. Even if you don’t have a garden but bought too much at the farmers market or have a CSA box that you can’t finish, this is the perfect way to make sure that nothing goes to waste and you're eating well in the winter. My pro tip is freeze everything!!! Do you have too many peas, beans, carrots, kale...you name it. Blanch it, spread it on a baking tray and freeze it. When it's solid, scoop it up and put it in a freezer bag then any time you need some veggies you just have to reach in and grab the perfect amount for any meal. Spice up eggs with some frozen kale and corn, make your soups swoon worthy by adding in all your summer veggie favorites. Veggies are expensive in the winter here in Maine and come from far away. By freezing my garden I am able to eat well and eat locally all year long. We have LOTS of recipes on our blogs including Zucchini Tots.
Cheese Bin: This is a trick that Claire learned from watching a Jamie Oliver program. Keep a bag or jar in the freezer where you can stash ends of cheese. Many households end up buying too much cheese and it molds. Especially if you are single, buying the right quantity of food is super hard and lots goes to waste. The cheese bin means that all your cheese gets used. Use the harder cheeses for soup stocks or save up until you have enough to make a bomber mac and cheese. Freezing cheeses can affect the texture of some types of cheese so it is best to make something where the texture doesn’t matter.
Cupboard Crisp/Veggie Baking: Yesterday both Claire and I ended up making an apple dessert. The really good farm stand apples we had bought a week ago weren’t so crisp anymore and we only had a few left. Instead of chucking them in the bin Claire made a small apple crisp and I made an apple cake. Everything got used, nothing was wasted, and we got a tasty dessert. Another great way to use up extra fruit that is a little past its prime to is make and then freeze fruit desserts. That way you don't feel like you have to eat a whole pie, crisp or cake. Freeze individual desserts like hand pies, slices of cake, or turnovers, which means you can always have the perfect portion of dessert. Another great dessert trick is to make desserts using vegetables. In Maine, it's much much easier to grow vegetables than fruit. We always have too much summer squash, carrots and beets. All of these make fabulous desserts, cakes, cupcakes, even frosting. The best part is that all these desserts freeze great too!!! Here's the link for our beet and seaweed cupcake recipe.
Don’t Follow the Recipe: The last tip is that recipes should just be a guideline. Sure for baking you should take less liberties since it is a science but everything else; change it up. If you have more veggies then add more veggies. If you have one ingredient but not the other substitute instead of a shopping trip. Get creative and use what you have. Especially these days when going to the grocery store is a scary ordeal you really don’t need that special ingredient.
To learn more check out the following:
1 Million Women: Food Waste Free October
Jamie Oliver’s Food Waste Campaign