I just returned from another successful visit home! Since we didn’t go home for the holidays, we planned a trip back this month. It was a great visit, but as always it’s good to be back in the swing of things.
With all this traveling, our bank account and our refrigerator have been seriously struggling – one is too empty and the other is too full.
So how can I make sure to not waste the food I’ve worked hard to pay for? Not to mention save myself the anguish of having to throw away food when there are others in my own city that are going hungry.
Welcome to Food Saving 101: for the unprepared beginner.
Too much, too late
I often find myself in this predicament, despite adequate planning: I have too much fresh food and only a day or two to deal with it.
Sometimes I just throw it all into a smoothie and hope it works out. But there are better ways to handle it!
Here are my tips to saving your food before vacation or if you just can’t seem to eat it fast enough. Please note that I am not a food-prep expert, so these tips are just what have worked for me.
This is the best way to avoid a last-minute excess. Sit down and plan out every single meal and snack for the five days leading up to your trip. Think of recipes that allow for variables: smoothies, salads and pasta dishes can usually knock out a few stray veggies.
You may alter your meal plan to include more dry or frozen items in the week leading up to a trip so that you don’t have to worry about spoilage.
I’ll even add some frozen pizzas onto the shopping list so that I can fall back on those if I end up not getting enough.
One or two days before you leave, evaluate your food situation. Still too much? Then it’s time to get smart with how to save it.
Freeze it whole
When bananas are on their way out, I toss them whole into the freezer. Same goes for any leafy greens that I want later for smoothies. I also toss jalapenos and ginger whole into the freezer.
For easy meal prep when you return, chop up peppers, squash or zucchini. Or whatever you find yourself in need of chopping later on.
My kitchen looked like a science lab a couple weeks ago: things were bubbling, beeping and it all smelled really odd. That’s because I was making sauces.
I cut up all my leftover apples that wouldn’t survive the ten days we were gone and tossed them with some cinnamon and water into the crock pot. Boom, applesauce.
I threw some spices, cilantro, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos into the blender. Boom, salsa.
I mashed up some avocados with our last bit of sour cream (and some cilantro, lime juice and spices) and boom, guacamole.
I tossed all of these into tupperware (I used a ziplock bag for the guacamole) and then into the freezer. I was so happy to have this all prepared when I returned this week.
I have no set process for this, but I did pull everything that was going to spoil out of the fridge. I took some time to look it all over and to think about how I would really use it when I returned ten days later.
Also, learn from my mistakes: label your food. For some reason, the applesauce and the salsa kind of ended up looking the same, so I accidentally made some really funky applesauce beans and rice this week.
Cook it down
If you have a little extra time, roast your veggies before tossing them into the freezer. Future busy-you will thank you for it. Same goes for soups! Just take them out a day or so before you need them and they’re a great leftover meal option.
I also had a ton of extra cooked beans (I buy them dry), and they stood up well in the freezer too.
Moral of the story, the freezer is your friend.
Keeping it all clean
At the end of all this prep, I recommend that you give your fridge a good cleaning.
Get rid of expired things, leftovers and just generally anything that is or could get gross. I see it as doing yourself a favor because there’s something almost as bad as having to waste food: having to clean up moldy food.
I know this isn’t as typical as my other posts, but I got a lot out of this process and I think it will help me avoid food waste in the future. So I decided to share!
What are your best tips for avoiding food waste?