KITCHEN TIPS: FOOD STORAGE TIPS TO HELP REDUCE YOUR FOODPRINT
Caring for the food we buy will maintain its taste, texture, nutritional value and reduce food waste. Learn how your fridge, freezer, cupboards and cold room can make the foods you love last. The downloadable Best Before Chart provides information on food storage times and how to properly store food so you can gage how much to buy.
Here's some graphics you can print out and post on your fridge.
Leftovers happen. Some people love them, others not so much. Let’s look at these two schools of thought and see how each can help reduce food waste and your ecological Foodprint.
Using food that is not quite as fresh as it once was is part of a long tradition. The lightest gnocchi is made from wrinkled potatoes because they are drier and flourier. Fried rice is best when it is made from day old rice. Much of the world’s cuisine comes from peasants who knew how to use every scrap!
In-house Picnics and Smorgasbords
Part of the allure of picnics and smorgasbords is the array of food available at one table. Partner your leftovers with olives, pickles, and crusty bread for an at-home picnic. Cooked pasta dishes can stand on their own or with a few fresh vegetables and dressing can become pasta salads. Cooked foods can last three to four days in the refrigerator and two to three months if they are frozen. Thaw in the fridge while you’re away at work.
Casseroles, Omelets, and Frittatas
A casserole is a French saucepan or deep dish pan that is both a baking and serving dish. Leftover pasta and sautéed vegetables, with fresh herbs in a cream or tomato based sauce, topped with seasoned bread crumbs and cheese is a classic example of leftovers being used in a baked casserole. Served with a salad this is a complete and quick meal. Cooked vegetables, meats, fish, little pieces of cheese can all become filling for omelets or frittatas. For omelets, cook the ingredients before you use them as a filling. Oven baked dishes allow you to do two things at the same time. While the meals is in the oven you have time to read, have a quick shower, play with the kids, or do dishes. Just remember to set the timer!
We’re not all chefs that can create a 5 course meal from the contents of a black box. Sometimes we’re stumped. Luckily there are websites that provide recipes based on the ingredients in your fridge and pantry. As a test, okra, chicken, tomatoes, and rice were entered into the recipe search page at Project Foodie. The search suggested gumbo recipes that could be tweaked to make a quick meal. Perhaps having a laptop near the kitchen is a great idea?
NOT SO MUCH?
Unattended they can pile-up and get pushed to the back of the fridge. Here are a few suggestions to reduce your amount of leftovers.
You’ve heard the adage, your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Before you begin to cook, portion the ingredients onto plates, based on the number of people sharing the meal. Keep in mind that rice doubles in size when it is cooked. Seeing the ingredients on the plates will give you a sense of how much you need to prepare. Before long you will know intuitively how much to cook so that there will be little or no leftovers. Added tip: nutritionists suggest that half or more of your plate should be vegetables!
Dressed salad greens make for soggy leftovers. Have each person dress their salad at the table, or dress just half of the salad and take it to the table, reserving the other half for seconds. Suggestion, wash salad greens ahead of time so they’re ready when you need them.
Consider the meals that you cook as the first phase in a two or three phase meal plan for the week. By planning ahead, there is no longer a concern that these “leftovers” will be forgotten or have no use. Steamed, sautéed, or roasted vegetables one night can be added to a frittata or soup later in the week for a second meal. Roasted chicken on Monday can be used for a pasta dish on Wednesday or Thursday. Cooked chicken can safely be kept in the fridge for three to four days. The frozen carcass can be used for soup up to six months later. See the Best Before Chart for more storage times.
More of us are choosing to live on our own than ever before. With a few changes to how you shop, cook and store your food, one person can have zero food waste.
Living on you own gives you the opportunity to change your mind at the spur of the moment. Building flexibility into your food purchases will go a long way to reducing how much food goes to waste. Consider buying foods based on when you intend to use them.
- Perishable foods that will be eaten in 3-5 days or can be prepared and frozen to eat later
- Fresh foods with a longer storage times; potatoes, onions, carrots
- Dry goods, foods that can be stored in the cupboard
- Frozen prepared foods or easy to freeze foods, that can go directly in to the freezer with little or no prep
During periods when cooking is less convenient select fewer foods from Category A. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, choose foods from categories C and D only. Take a look at storage tips listed in Kitchen Tips or the storage times in the Best Before Chart to help make your decisions.
PREPARING GREEN MEALS
Even with the best of intentions, preparing meals regularly can be a tall order when it’s solely up to you. Make it easy: here are a couple of suggestions that will help you use the leafy greens in your fridge:
- Wash tender greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale ahead of time
- Spinners that use a bowl to capture the water are useful for washing and then storing salad greens in the fridge (just make sure the water in the bowl isn’t touching the greens in the basket)
STAGGERING COOKING & EATING
Heat an already prepared meal to eat tonight, while cooking another to have later that week. This way you can use your time to cook, without the rush of a have-to-eat-now finish line. Soups, stews, casseroles, curries, and pasta dishes can all be cooked, divided into serving sizes, and refrigerated or frozen for later. Refrigerated frittatas make wonderful lunch or dinner items for the next day. Thawing frozen meals can be done in a microwave or in a double boiler. To start the thawing process remove the food from the freezer and place in the refrigerator in the morning.
Ovens cook while you do something else. A roasted chicken, or a casserole can take between 30-45 minutes to cook, just enough time to shower or do some yoga! Remember to set a timer!
Cooking ahead doesn’t mean eating the same thing for a whole week. Make a selection of meals that you freeze to eat later. Remember to label them with a description and date before you freeze them, so the labels won’t fall off! Thaw in the fridge when you need them. Change of plans? The thawed meal will be fine to eat over the next 3 days. (See the Best Before Chart)
Kids with their developing taste buds can be very selective about the foods they eat. Add their ever changing appetites and you have the possibility of half eaten meals and discarded snacks. Here are a few suggestions to help reduce the amount of food that goes to waste in your family:
- Smaller portions: cut fruits into smaller sizes and reserve the uneaten pieces for a future snack or to be incorporated into smoothies, pancakes, or fruit salads. Buy smaller, kid-sized varieties of fruits and vegetables.
- Support the culture of 2nd and 3rd helpings: smaller helpings will mean less food waste. They can always come back for more! When serving your child, ask if they are small, medium or large hungry.
- Lead by example: by not throwing food away yourself and talking about what your family can do with leftovers you can help your child appreciate the value of food. Make buying, preparing and growing food fun! They won’t want to waste something they helped to create.
- Likes & dislikes: some kids won’t eat anything that has more than one ingredient. Instead of salads, try vegetable platters. They can stack the vegetables on a plate “so they don’t touch”. Encourage your child to make the dip. Vegetables that are not eaten can be used the next day, put into lunches, or incorporated into omelettes, soups, etc
- School lunches: kids often don’t eat all of their school lunch. Instead of throwing it out, ask that they bring it home. It can be eaten as a snack before supper.
- Foodprint Challenge: take the Challenge as a family. Track the foods you save and waste with the Weekly Foodprint form. Plan a fun family activity with the money you saved!