The keys to additional healthy meals and culinary inspiration might already be in your kitchen. The problem? They’re the ingredients you’re about to throw away. Despite our best intentions to shop for healthy items and prepare nutritious meals, there are still ways to amp up any dish and stretch your grocery budget in the process. The foods that get thrown out most often are herbs and leafy greens that are typically sold in large quantities.
For quick and efficient ways to decrease food waste, we turned to nutritionist Sarah Goldstein and food blogger Danielle Rose for their best tips and helpful hacks.
Go into your grocery store armed with a meal plan and varying ways to use your items in mind. Sarah also suggests keeping track of the ingredients that you constantly have left over, so that you can revaluate how much of it you’re buying. “After a few weeks, you’ll usually get a good picture of what you throw out regularly, and notice the pattern,” she says. This also might inspire you to look up other recipes that call for that item.
Do The Prep Work
One simple way she advises her clients to stretch their produce purchases is to pre-chop everything so it’s ready to be cooked or even added to a salad. When she isn’t working with clients, Sarah also enjoys sharing tips with her Instagram followers at @Sarah_Goldstein_Nutrition.
Cold As Ice
“When in doubt, freeze!” says Danielle, who chronicles all of the recipes she tries and restaurants she visits on her blog, Ginger Rose (for her latest foodie adventures, follow @GingerRoseFood on Instagram). Sarah agrees. She recommends that her clients blend vegetables that are about to go bad with water, and then freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray. In a pinch, these can be added later to smoothies or soups.
For Danielle, the freezer trick also applies to parts of veggies she hasn’t incorporated in her meals for the week (think carrot tops and beet roots). Keep the pieces in the freezer, and they can be incorporated into a future homemade stock.
Break Your Habits
If you’ve perfected certain dishes and they’re now in rotation, it might be time to break out of your food routine. What you’re throwing away might actually go well in a dish you’ve never tried. Before throwing away grocery items you haven’t used, look online for recipes or flavour combinations that might use what you’ve got in creative, new (for you!) ways.
Mix It Up
While herbs like cilantro and parsley are often sold in a large bunch, most recipes might not require the whole amount you’ll have on hand. Don’t let them wilt! Taking extra steps to save them might help with future dishes. “I like to turn leftover herbs into pestos and marinades and freeze for future use,” says Danielle.
The Perfect Coat
Leftover bread can easily be turned into breadcrumbs required for certain meat recipes. However, Danielle says there are a few other snacks that can be reinvented in much the same way. She’ll smash leftover nuts, cereals, seeds and crackers in a bag and also use that mixture as breading.
One More Bite
When it comes to leftover bread, making breadcrumbs isn’t your only option. Inventive home cook Danielle says that even hot dog and hamburger buns can be transformed into French toast or used in bread pudding.
See The Solution
Eliminate food waste by starting with an organized fridge. Keep similar ingredients together so that when you reach for a certain type of food, all of your options are visible. “I keep a roll of masking tape and a marker in one of my kitchen drawers so everything gets a label, including the date,” says Danielle. “If something needs to be used up, I’ll make a masking tape label that says, ‘Eat me!’ It works.”
Spice Up Your Life
You’ll need several pantry essentials to turn potential food waste into something delicious. Sarah says that having herbs, spices, stock and nuts stored in your kitchen is helpful. A cooking oil like coconut or avocado oil, as well as hot peppers, tamari, garlic and ginger.