Avoiding Last Minute Food Waste

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.

Plan

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.

Prepare

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.

Get saucy

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?

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The 20-Item Traveler and Other Things

I just returned from ten days back in my hometown in Indiana. It was so lovely seeing my family and friends, but I am glad to be back into my routine. I think that’s how any trip goes.

I got to experience the familiar, inconsistent Indiana weather: a mix of hot, cold and perfectly pleasant days. So of course I packed appropriately, right?

Wrong. Why did I think a light sweater would serve as a coat on the 40 degree days? LA must be getting to me.

What I packed

I tried to keep it simple for the trip since my husband and I each only brought backpacks and then shared a checked bag. I actually managed to keep my clothes at under 20 items. I did have to borrow a jacket for the 40-degree day we had, but other than that I had everything I needed.

I packed:

  • 1 Sweater
  • 1 Scarf (the only one I own – it doubles as a blanket and travel pillow)
  • 1 Purse
  • 1 Running spandex capri
  • 2 Sofee shorts
  • 2 Running/pajama shirts
  • 2 Pairs of jeans
  • 4 Shirts
  • 2 Camisoles
  • 3 Dresses (including my Versalette)
  • Underwear and makeup, but I’ll spare you those details

I also brought my laptop, which was fortunate because the clarity of a different space allowed me to make a few breakthroughs in my work.

The most important pieces

Out of everything, there were two pieces that I couldn’t have done without.

My scarf – I adore this scarf. It’s big enough to cover most of my body as a blanket if I need it too, and it’s been my travel pillow every time I’m on a plane. When it’s not around my neck, it’s laid out on our bed at home since it has a beautiful, colorful butterfly design on it. My brother got it for me from Puerto Rico 7 or 8 years ago and it has a few holes in it, but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The newest addition to my wardrobe is my Versalette, and this is the first time I was able to travel with it. The Versalette is a convertible piece of clothing that can take any shape – dresses, skirts, tops, scarves, even a bag. I got so many compliments on it, and it’s literally (and I mean really literally) the most comfortable piece of clothing I’ve ever owned.

Now that I’m back

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind, but I am so happy to be back on the blog and back to work.

I have an announcement coming soon – probably in the next post or two – that LA-area folks will find interesting.

Until then though, what are your travel essentials?