Waste Not… What’s in Your Refrigerator

I just read a darn good post on using up the food you buy instead of letting it go to waste. I say darn good because even after my decades of hands-on research into the subject, the article told me something I didn’t already know.

It said post the grocery receipt on the refrigerator. That will remind you what you bought and when you bought it. They didn’t say, highlight the perishables you want your family to eat up, but that’s a good idea too.

They also said trim and cut up produce right away. I’ve rejected that idea before, because once you cut into something its rate of decay speeds up. On the other hand, last week I washed and cut the celery as soon as I got home, and it really has been more convenient to use it because of that.

They talk about a reality check in terms of knowing exactly what you’re spending on food. My twist on that idea is a reality check on what you’re really going to eat. If your Ideal Self eats lots of fresh produce but the real you doesn’t, there’s nothing gained by spending money on it just to throw it away. Maybe your real self eats baby carrots once in a while. In that case buy a small amount, just once in a while. Alternatively, if you really want to eat lots of produce, add it to your meal plan in a concrete and realistic way, and then stick to the plan.

The article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-cordaway/9-ways-families-can-waste_b_4620970.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000729&aolHPFinancialEduJan

Recently I filled a 2-liter bottle with water and rolled it to the back of the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. My main motivation was to save electricity by having the refrigerator closer to full. Things in the refrigerator hold the cold so it uses less electricity to make it cold again after the door has been opened and let warm air in. When it isn’t full of food, containers of water will serve this same function. Another thing it does is prevent food from getting pushed to the back out of sight, where it quietly goes bad, unnoticed.

Here’s a short clip on the subject of not wasting food from my book:

“Bread crumbs can be made by drying bread in a 400°F oven for 10–12 minutes. Then blend or crush it into crumbs. You can add whatever kind of seasonings you like, such as Italian seasoning.

Bread can be frozen. When I used to eat bread and didn’t use it up very fast I would put it in the freezer after the first few days and take slices out as needed. They thaw in just a few minutes when laid out on a plate in one layer. They toast very well also.

Broccoli stems can be steamed or grilled or added to a slow cooker meal. Trim off the tough outer skin and just cook the tender inner part.

Celery keeps for up to a month when fully wrapped in aluminum foil. If it gets limp, cut it into pieces that will fit in a covered container. Add a little water and refrigerate to restore the crispness. Sometimes I skip the foil step and just wash and cut the whole bunch and refrigerate it in a container.

To reuse a cinnamon stick, I found it works to put it in the refrigerator, in an open container so it can get dry and won’t mold. If you put it in the cupboard wet or even a bit damp it is likely to mold. The internet average is three uses. I go for many more, until I can’t taste the cinnamon in my green tea any more.

To use up the last of things like mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce or salsa, I add water to the jar and shake to get all of it. Then I use it to season an inexpensive, tough cut of meat when braising it. Braising was new to me. First you brown the meat in a skillet. Then add liquid to about half way up the meat. Cook, covered, at very low heat for one to two hours until very tender.

Cottage cheese will stay fresh longer if stored upside down in the refrigerator. So will sour cream and yogurt. The most common estimate is that this method of storage will make them last about a week longer.

Eggs: to see if eggs are still good, put them in water over their heads. If they float they are bad. If they lie down they are very fresh. If they just stand up without floating they are okay. Eggs don’t absolutely have to be refrigerated, but a day at room temperature is like a week in the refrigerator as far as shortening their useful life. Eggs can be frozen. To freeze whole eggs, beat them up and pour into an ice cube tray and freeze. Two cubes is roughly one egg. When you are ready to use them, let them thaw 24 hours or so in the refrigerator. If a recipe calls for just whites or just yolks, you can freeze the part you didn’t need. To keep the texture of yolks you need to add some salt; the ratio is ½ tsp. salt to 1cup yolks. One cube will be roughly two yolks. Beat and freeze. Egg whites can be frozen as is; they are about one cube per white.

Green onions are said to keep well with just the roots in a cup or glass of water. You can set them on a windowsill, or loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. I tried this twice. Once the onions thrived and the other time they wilted. I don’t know what made the difference, maybe how long they had been on the shelf at the store.

Honey that has crystallized is still safe to use. To make it liquid again, heat it very gently in a pan on the stove, stirring often.

Lemons: if you are just using the juice, freeze the zest. If you’re just using the zest, freeze the juice. Lemons left in the crisper drawer too long may wither. To prevent that, set them in a container of water just deep enough to keep about half of the lemon wet. Set the container in the crisper and the lemons will stay plump for weeks.

Lettuce: wash leaves and place them in a plastic grocery bag on top of a small towel or paper towel. Close the bag loosely but not completely and store in the refrigerator. Romaine is thicker and keeps better longer.

Mushrooms keep best in a brown paper bag. Don’t put them in the crisper drawer; it’s too moist in there. When I’m going to use them within a day or two, I just loosen the plastic wrap on the container they came in, to let air circulate. Don’t soak them, they suck up the moisture and get all soggy. I like to use frozen mushrooms in recipes, they taste more like fresh than canned ones do and frozen mushrooms are less work than cleaning fresh ones.

Nuts and seeds keep really well in the freezer. The high oil content keeps them from getting really hard so you can eat them directly from the freezer without thawing first.

Only need part of an onion? The rest of it will keep better if you leave the root end on and cut off what you need from the other end.

After you’ve eaten all the pickles, make more by thinly slicing peeled cucumber and adding it to the pickle juice in the jar. Use an amount of cucumber that will be completely covered by the juice. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a week or two. Pickle juice is also good as a flavoring in potato salad and as a tenderizer. You can cook pork chops in it or use it to braise a tough cut of meat.”

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