Last week, my mom called to say that she had figs. And cucumbers. And okra and peppers and tomatoes. Did I want any? When I told her yes, I knew what was coming my way—many pounds of produce, much more than two people could eat. And when life hands you food, well, you've got to figure out what to do with it. Here's what I learned.
When it comes to food, I try to be extremely conscious of creating waste. Now that we have our own compost bin in the backyard, it's easy to get rid of scraps. But when we have too much food leftover, more than we can eat, I hate watching it go.
Food is too precious a resource to waste. Too many people go without to make it ok to throw something out—and what my grandparents drilled into me at every meal ("Clean your plate! We don't waste food in this house!") feels like more of a mantra than a challenge these days. So I've learned to get creative. Here are a few tips I've learned from my own trials:
• Freeze it. Even with small amounts of leftovers (from restaurants or my own kitchen), if I know I can't eat in the very next day, I put it in the freezer. Then it's a perfect quick meal any time I need it—for packing a lunch to work or for reheating on a late weeknight. That's also where I keep bread (great for toast), browning bananas (for one-ingredient ice cream or smoothies), and multi-grain tortillas (which reheat quickly).
• Don't have time to make jam with fruit that's quickly turning? Spend 20 minutes processing it, and then freeze it. Those extra figs I had (a few pounds) got pureed and cooked for about 15 minutes with a little lemon juice and honey. I poured the mix into a freezer-friendly dish and for adding to a cheese plate, or maybe even a filling for homemade fig bars. The same can be done with berries, peaches, pears, or plums. They can be used for pies, ice cream, or even as freezer jam!
• Give freely. When I knew we had more cucumbers than we could possibly eat (and no time to pickle them), I gave them away to friends and colleagues. They were happy to accept, and I didn't have to add them to the compost.
These tips have helped me approach food in a smarter way, whether it's from the grocery store or our own backyard garden. What tips do you have for avoiding food waste?
• How To: Never Waste Food Again
• Afraid to Can? Try Freezer Jam!
• Prevent Food Waste and Save Money
(Image: Amber Byfield for Re-Nest.)