Waste Free Kitchen Tips – Part 2
This is the third post in our Sunday series on waste reduction. Last month I did a blog post on reducing food waste which you will find here. Let’s expand this discussion from the Waste Free Kitchen book a bit more by looking at what to do once the food is in your home.
Understanding how best to store our foods is important. Do you know about the temperature settings and humidity settings on your refrigerator? The ideal temperature for the refrigerator is 40 degrees F/ 4 degrees C. Vegetables and leafy greens prefer high humidity. Fruits prefer low humidity and citrus and melons are OK in either humidity. OK, so am I the first one to admit, I didn’t know this? Time to go make some adjustments in my fridge. Heat rises, even in your fridge…so drinks, yogurts, leftovers, and snacks go well at the top and meats should be stored on the lower shelves.
Our freezer is an amazing tool for avoiding food waste. You just need to prepare things properly, use appropriate storage and remember to use them. The prep can be as simple as blanching some fruits and veggies to halt destructive enzymes, separting items like berries and fruit onto a baking sheet to avoid clumping. I’ve found that using large freezer bags and filling them 1/3 to half, then lying them flat to freeze is an easy way to accomplish this versus taking two steps with the cookie sheet, then bagging method. Pureeing watery items, such as tomatoes, can help them freeze better. Packing into air tight containers, labeling and storing in serving size portions will make meal prep easier. Using stackable containers, be that bags, jars or other containers helps make best use of the space in your freezer. You can thaw most items for 24 hours in the fridge, in a warm bath if they are sealed or in a microwave. Sauces and soups might need some water added as they are cooked to get the right consistency.
Canning and pickling, dehydrating and root cellars are other methods for food storage.
Be creative and use leftovers for veggie broth, soups, fried rice, salads, tacos, casseroles and smoothies.
MAKE YOUR KITCHEN WORK FOR YOU
Organize it – Less clutter is an inspiration, making your kitchen a place you welcome cooking in. Keep like items near one another. I’ve got all my baking items on one shelf, my grains in one drawer, my beans in another drawer, my tea & coffee cupboard with bulk teas, coffee, cups, sugar…everything you need in one place!
Create your own pantry list and keep those items in stock.
Be mindful when cooking – use up old items first, repurpose leftovers, try to use all of the food (yes, even those broccoli stems are good in soups or smoothies) and freeze before it goes bad.
CAN I EAT IT?
Did you know that lots of food is thrown out because people are afraid it might make them sick? In reality, sickness is caused by food contamination, not from its natural process of decomposition. While you want to avoid mold, green potatoes, and rancid foods – brown fruits, wilting, and slightly discolored greens can still be used. Expiration dates don’t even tell the whole picture! “Sell by”, “use by” and “best before” are not often regulated, nor do they confirm spoilage. They serve more as a guide for peak quality. That being said, infants, toddlers, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems may need to be more cautious in this area.
Buy Nothing offers you a way to share extra food you may have with your neighbors. People post extra food they are willing to share online and then people respond and pick up the food. What a nice way to share your surplus.
Composting is a final step to avoid food waste. We are lucky in Portland to have curbside compost pick-up each week. Or, if you’ve got some land, you can use your own compost bin and later add it to your garden to enrich the soil. Worm bins provide a choice for those in apartments too.
I’m going to be volunteering at some Farmers Markets this summer to help educate people about reducing their food waste. To be honest, it’s something I’m still learning while also being a passion of mine. I hope to see you at some of these events.
If you have other methods to avoid food waste, or questions, feel free to comment below.