January 25, 2020
Looking to stretch your food dollar? Here are ten ways to make the most of what you bring home
We’ve heard it a lot in recent years: Canadians toss between a third and half of the food we buy and produce. Much of that food waste is preventable, and can be addressed by developing a few useful kitchen habits.
1) Keep track of what you have. With walk-in pantries and giant chest freezers, it’s easy to lose track of what’s already in your kitchen that needs to be used. Pick up a dry erase board to keep an inventory on your freezer (and/or fridge), and challenge yourself to use the last of the odd-shaped pasta or split peas you may have bought a year ago.
2) Plan ahead. Meal plans can eliminate the late-day crunch, when everyone is tired and hungry when you have to decide what’s for dinner. Having a plan in mind, or even a few things stashed away in the freezer to reheat, eliminates impulse trips through the drive-thru.
3) Make a pot of soup. Most anything can be transformed into a bowl of soup, from a chicken carcass or ham hock to vegetables that are starting to wilt. Toss veggie scraps into a large freezer bag and when it’s full, make stock.
4) Freeze (almost) everything. From a bag of spinach you didn’t get through to a bunch of cilantro or those last few slices of bacon… toss them in the freezer, well-wrapped and labeled, and toss them into a soup, stew or curry later on. (Even if they lose their texture in the freezer, most anything can be used down the road in something cooked.)
5) Make a batch of biscuits (or pancakes, or waffles). Rather than toss the last of the yogurt or sour cream, turn them into a batch of biscuits or other baked goods. If you’re not ready to bake, toss them into the freezer until you are—they may separate and look funny, but they’re still great for baking.
6) Keep produce dry. For the most part, moisture is the enemy of fresh produce, particularly delicate herbs and greens—tuck a paper towel into the bag to absorb any excess.
7) Cook more beans. Beans of all kinds, and lentils and chickpeas, are inexpensive and versatile, and easy to keep on the shelf whether they’re canned or dried. Use them to bulk up and add fibre and protein to soups and chili, but also dishes like shepherds pie and sloppy joes, in grainy salads, curries, easy pasta dishes and even baked goods.
8) Dry fresh herbs. It’s easy to do—when you know you’re not going to get through a bundle of fresh rosemary or thyme, lay them out in a single layer on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and put in your oven at its lowest setting for an hour, or until completely dry. Gently rub the leaves off the stems, then lift and slightly fold the foil or parchment to help funnel it into a jar or zip-lock bag for storage.
9) Make smoothies. Virtually all fruits can be whizzed into smoothies with some plain or flavoured yogurt—if they’re becoming overripe, toss them into a container or freezer bag, or toss whole bananas into the freezer in their skins. Even greens make a great addition—if spinach or kale is starting to wilt, toss it directly into the freezer and then straight into smoothies.
10) Cook in larger batches. It requires about the same amount of work to make a double batch of chili, soup, stew or curry as it does to make one, and all of them freeze well, in large or even individual (lunch-sized) containers. Many ingredients are cheaper in bulk, and doing it all at once means only cooking once—chopping and prepping once, and using energy on the stovetop (or in the oven) once. (And you may save yourself some more expensive takeout on another day.) Chili also makes great use of inexpensive ground meats, and any tomatoes and peppers that might be going squishy. (Toss both directly into the freezer until you’re ready for them.)
- Julie Van Rosendaal
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