Never Throw Food Away

Yeah, I know you have heard that one before. And we all agree to it in theory, right? Throwing food away is like setting a match to the dollar bills you spent on the food, just burning them in an ashtray.

But who among us is going to eat the leftover lasagna, pushed to the back of the fridge that is now growing mold? Or even the potato salad that got left out for an hour? Or the eggs past their expiration date? (OK, I would eat those eggs….more on them later.) After all, $1.00 worth of food isn’t worth being sick for 2 days.

What I am going to do is give you strategies so that the lasagna doesn’t grow mold and the eggs do not expire. You are on your own to remember to put the potato salad back right away.

1) Do not go shopping for more food until you have used up everything in the fridge. I know that this leaves you with some odds and ends that you do not know how to get rid of. So…

2) Learn dishes that use up those bits. Soup is an excellent dish for a leftover carrot and half an onion. A frittata or Quiche or omelette will use up extra eggs and a scrap of cheese and a single serving of ham. Got one lone flour tortilla left? Shredded meat plus lettuce plus tomato or green pepper makes a nice portable lunch. Only one Hogie roll? It will make French Toast or the beginnings of French Onion Soup. When I make pizza, there is a small amount of dough that I cut off the pizza tray. I pop it in the refrigerator. The next day, I roll it out and saute it in a small amount of oil. Instant naan. Drizzle with honey or fruit preserves or spread with Nutella. Yum.

3) Dinner for breakfast. Many restaurants in the United States serve breakfast meals all day long, so we are used to eating eggs and pancakes for supper. It is just custom or marketing that we do not eat dinner foods for breakfast. But all over the world, in places without electricity and refrigeration, people eat their dinner leftovers for breakfast. If tradition and practice say it is OK to eat spicy chickpea curry for breakfast people will. Millions do it. We can too. Or you can just eat them for lunch. This is one of the main ways I use up leftovers.

4) Have a leftover dinner. Do you only have one or two servings of everything you made in the past week, and just can’t bring yourself to eat them for breakfast? Warm them all up, serve them to the family and sit back and watch which ones get selected first. It helps to have a few ground rules for this so fights do not break out. At my house, everybody is allowed a portion of a desired leftover, even if it is divided 4 ways and ends up being just a taste. Usually, though, one person selects the chicken burrito, two people take a serving of the Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie and somebody else eats the pizza.

5) Ingredients are flexible. Buy ingredients, not pre-mixed foods. Pasta can be made with marinara sauce, cheese sauce, oil and garlic. Lettuce can be a salad, added to a burger, shredded for a taco or the outside of a carb-free wrap. Apples can be eaten as is, served with peanut butter or cooked in a crisp. Plus ingredients are healthier than pre-packaged food.

What do you all do to make sure you do not waste food?

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2 responses to “Never Throw Food Away

  1. My grandmother, long deceased, grew up in Belgium. (What she called “the Old Country.”) When I was a girl, she told me that when she was a child, before the days of refrigeration, her mother always kept a pot of soup simmering on the back burner of the stove. All the leftovers routinely went into the pot of soup.

    • Such a poetic way of cooking… I am myself half Belgian and I remember that my grandmother made soup every day, maybe she was following the same principle?

      Myself, I very rarely have leftover unless I plan to (in this case I put one portion aside in the fridge or freezer for my lunchbox). What I do is that I cook pretty small portions and if people are not happy with it they can supplement the meal with a fruit or a piece of bread w/ cheese. Granted, I do not have teenagers at home yet!

      Also, I usually shop with only 2 or 3 meals planned in my head, the rest of the meals (also 2 or 3) are created according to what vegetables are left in the fridge with the help of staple food in the pantry (peas, lentils, bulgur, quinoa etc…). Then, depending on time and a potential surge of creativity, I would make an additional trip to the shop (10 min walk away) or dig out some piece of meat or fish from the freezer if necessary.

      So I almost never throw food away, nor do I need to eat anything that is on the verge of going bad. Yet, one big exception, I allow myself to throw away without bad conscience any industrial sweets. I love for instance chocolate bars like Snickers, Twix etc…. but I find the packages way too big, so I break them in half and I directly throw away half of it. I know it is strange but it works wonders for me, satisfying my sweet tooth and preserving my waistline! If I happen to be at home, I would freeze half of it but keeping it in my purse if I am on the go is simply too dangerous!!!

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