Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Not Wasting Food - Spaghetti Salad to the Rescue!

It was a never-ending mantra at my house when I was growing up: "Finish what you have on your plate. Don't waste food!" If we were lucky, our Dad (who we called the garbage disposal) would eat our last few bites. As kids, we understood that we were lucky to have dinner on the table every night, and that every kid didn't have that.... but we didn't really get it. Even now, I don't really get it, because I've never been without food.

However, I can try to "get it" by not wasting the food that I'm fortunate enough to have. My friend Berkley made a New Year's Resolution to not waste food, and she has inspired me to try even harder not to let stuff get moldy (photo at left illustrating my failed attempts). Of course, this also fits in with the whole "recession" thing we've got going on. Not wasting food means not wasting money, and that's something we could all do a little better.

It's harder than you might think, especially if you live along and are trying to cook/eat for one person. Often times I have good intentions when I purchase food at the grocery store, but then have to work late, or a friend calls up, or I overestimate what one normal sized person actually consumes, or I get sick and can only eat chicken soup and bananas for a week or... you get the idea.

However, I have come up with a few tricks to prevent waste:
  • "Just In Time" food purchases. Only buy food for the meals you are 100% you are going to prepare. This may mean more than 1 trip to the grocery store in a week, but it prevents waste. I'm still struggling to control what my boyfriend calls me "food buying urges." It just all looks so pretty on the shelf...
  • The freezer is your friend. Label and freeze leftovers after cooking, and before they go bad. Trust me, after the third night of lasagna you're going to want to take a break. A month later, though, the lasagna from the freezer will make a great weeknight dinner!
  • Re-use! Or do what I call "re-purposing." Leftover rice can easily become fried rice. Bread on its way to becoming stale can become croutons, bread pudding, or stuffing. Or my new favorite: If you made too much spaghetti and meatballs and not enough tomato sauce,and happen to have a head of romaine lettuce and italian dressing in the fridge, make Spaghetti Salad (photo at right)!
  • Host a Leftover Night. My mom also used to have what she termed "leftover night," where dinner would be bits and pieces of the previous night's meals. You could invite a close friend or two over to bring their leftovers, and all enjoy the potpourri of foods. Of course, they would have to be the close type of friends who wouldn't mind eating leftovers.
  • Share at work. There's nothing people like better than free food, especially if it's homemade. Share the wealth, people!
And for those foods that have gone victim to the mold monster, or all my extra vegetable cuttings, I have my handy (but grumble-y) indoor compostor, which turns organic trash into nutrient-rich dirt.

Hopefully with a little more creativity, and a lot more self control, I'll reduce my wasted foods. What are your tips for reducing food waste? And what's the most creative (but still tasty) leftover creation you've made?

Related Posts: Composting in an apartment; Shopping Thriftily; Find local food locally; CSAs Rock
Photos courtesy of me and my kitchen. :-)


Krystle said...

Lots of times I have to buy an extra ingredient for a recipe I am making and there is never the perfect amount being sold.

So I often turn to so that I can turn my leftover ingredients into fabulous food!

Casey said...

My friend Jackie IMed me this: Once every two weeks or so I use all the leftover veggies to make a soup, brocolli stems and all! And i always freeze the leftover butts of a cheese tray and when accumulate enough either make fondue or mac n cheese.

Casey said...

I would like to emphasize the LABELING part of freezing food. I have a mystery lunch today and I don't like it.