We’ve all been there – staring into the fridge, wondering when and how we’re going to use the almost-expired groceries staring back at us. Even the best of intentions can be buried by a busy week or sideswiped by fatigue, leaving all that food hidden in a crisper drawer to be re-discovered at the eleventh hour.
Fear not: Unless it looks like a science experiment gone wrong, there are ways to save many foods so you can eat more, spend less, and waste less.
Here are a few tips for saving and making the most of common ingredients. Already a member of the #NoWasteBrigade club? We’d love to know your tricks in the comments below!
If we had $1 for every time we heard someone say “fresh herbs go bad so I don’t buy them,” we’d be retired on a beach in Mexico right now. Herbs liven up our dishes in endless ways. If you prepare your leftover herbs the right way, they continue to bless your dishes with flavor for several months.
Recipes may call for two tablespoons of parsley, but you have to buy it by the bunch. When you’ve used what you needed for a recipe, chop the remaining parsley in with garlic and lemon, top off with olive oil and you’ve got a versatile green herb sauce that livens up everything from potatoes to fish for a couple weeks. You can also incorporate leftovers into a basic pesto recipe.
Herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint, and basil don’t freeze well on their own. The important step here is to chop them up and store in fat, like olive oil or butter. Once they’re prepared and stored properly, you can add to soups, thaw and use as a spread for sandwiches, or on top of any roast vegetables.
Kale and chard are the kinds of cancer-busting vegetables we could all stand to have more of in our fridges. If time in the kitchen is not on your side, remove the stems (but don’t throw them out – see below!) and add to any pasta dish to amp up the fiber content.
Instead of throwing out the stems, which can taste fibrous and inedible, cut up into ½” – 1” pieces and saute in a hot pan until tender before adding to a pasta dish or fill out scrambled eggs for breakfast.
When in doubt, bag everything up and toss into the freezer to use in a vegan vegetable stock. Keeping a bag of vegetable trim in the freezer for stock is the most economical and nutritious way to ensure you always have some available.
Ah yes, the true work-horse of the vegetable group – carrots, turnips, beets, rutabaga, parsnips, and many more. Maybe you purchased a few of these because they were irresistible at the market, you were feeling ambitious. But they managed to fly under the radar, and they’ve now become a tad gnarly looking.
Unless you start to see mold, they’re still perfectly okay to eat. Prepare your vegetables to roast them in an oven until golden brown, and keep these covered in your fridge for up to a week. Or, make this Sopa Verde with Parsnips or Turnip & Sweet Potato Soup for dinner and freeze the leftovers. With the exception of soups with cream in them, most soups freeze well and can be enjoyed whenever you want them.
Stale bread and bread heels are not the most appealing. But, they’re perfect for making your own breadcrumbs and croutons.
Cut the bread into cubes, bag, and freeze. Pull them out and warm up until crunchy in an oven when you’re ready to garnish a soup or salad, or use them in savory breakfast stratas or sweet bread puddings.
For breadcrumbs, we recommend drying out cubed bread in a low-temperature oven before pulsing in a food processor until fine.
And if you bought a baguette or sourdough loaf but couldn’t break into it the day you bought it, wrap it up tight and store in your freezer. When you want bread to eat with a meal, pull the bread out with enough time to thaw, and warm up in a 350F oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. You can also pre-slice your bread before freezing, so you’re able to take only what you need.
By now, you can guess what you can do with leftover cooked rice. If you’ve ordered takeout and have more rice than you needed for your meal, simply bag it up and freeze it. Or if you get into a habit of making larger batches of brown rice or quinoa, having these healthy carbs available to you from your freezer whenever you need them is a treat.
Mix in your thawed rice to this delicious weeknight fried rice, make a veggie paella, bulk up your soups, or simply re-steam and eat plain. Cooked quinoa makes a fabulous morning porridge and even muffins.
What other #NoWasteBrigade tips and tricks do you have for saving food in your fridge? Let us know in the comments!