I grew up in a household where meals were prepared daily, well, except for Taco Fridays, and the fridge was always stocked with fresh food. There was however, one area of the fridge that was constantly neglected; the fruit and veggie tray (aka the “bottomless pit”). Sure, there was fresh produce on the top layer, but if you dug deep enough there was always a fruit or veggie or two lingering, transforming into mush, and growing fur. And so, just as grocery shopping was done bi-weekly, so was the tedious (and disgusting) task of excavating moldy produce from the “pit.” I always wondered…”Am I going to repeat the ways of my foremothers?”
Fast forward about 20 years later. While living in France I didn’t really need to stock the fridge because I survived on baguettes, cheese, and pain au chocolat. While living in England I was often too busy to prepare meals so I opted for Mark’s and Spencer’s “take-away” meals.
I learnt many lessons (not just about food) while living abroad, but I can say that everything I needed to know about food I learned in Italy (cliché but true!) I learned three important lessons:
1. Grocery shopping is done on a daily a basis. Buy what you need!
2. Even if the fridge is half empty you can still find inspiration to prepare a healthy meal.
3. Use up everything before it goes bad. (Obviously this is easy to do because there’s so little in the fridge.)
I am proud to say that I have become a resourceful and waste-not advocate!! The other day, while sipping my Grande Soy Tazo Chai at Starbucks, I was inspired to compile a list of cooking and storage tips that I use on a daily basis to facilitate meal prep, and to save many fruits and veggies from a short lived life!
Here’s what I came up with:
- Store fruits, such as ripe bananas and strawberries in the freezer to use in smoothies.
- Chop entire bunch of parsley and chives and store in a freezer bag or Tupperware. Use as needed. Note: basil and mint do NOT freeze well!
- Line veggie and fruit drawers with paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
- Wrap lettuce, scallions, and other greens in paper towels to absorb moisture. They will stay fresher longer.
- Store loaves of bread in quarters. Remove when needed and/or defrost in a toaster oven or microwave.
- If lemons or limes are starting to brown squeeze the juice into ice cube trays.
- Pour leftover wine in ice cube trays and use individual cubes when preparing risotto or stews.
- Label and date baby cubes!
- Store homemade broth in ice cube trays. Use as needed to cool down soups or to add to reheated foods to moisten them.
- Frozen fruits, such as strawberries and ripe bananas are great in smoothies.
- Use ground flax to replace eggs in baking recipes (one egg=1 tbsp. flax seed + 2-3 tbsp water)
- Use applesauce in baked goods instead of oil or butter.
- Make a “pastasciutta” frittata with leftover dry pasta.
- Take out green core of garlic, which tends to be very bitter.
- When making “sauce-free” pasta dishes, always add pasta to the pan with condiment and some pasta water so it doesn’t become too dry.
- In recipes that call for honey, maple, syrup etc, and oil, always put oil in measuring cup first. The other syrupy ingredient will just slide out without sticking to the cup.
- Try to avoid taking off the pith (the white part under skin) when zesting lemons, limes or oranges. It has a very bitter taste!
After compiling my own list of ideas I was inspired to find more and came across the website www.lovefoodhatewaste.com. It has all you need to know about meal planning, reading labels, storage tips, recipes, and more!