- SOUR CREAM: Sour Cream isn't a food that you can really stock up on. Most recipes just call for a dollop or a couple of tablespoons, and since it is dairy-based it won't last as long. Advice: Stick with smaller containers or to use up sour cream fast make a quick dips with prepackaged dip mix or try using lemon, salt, and herbs. You can also use sour cream as a substitute for mayo in chicken or tuna salad.
- PRODUCE: Produce actually gets tossed more than any other food group. Celery is one of the worst offenders because many recipes just call for a few stalks at a time due to its strong flavor. Another type of produce that goes to waste is one we tend to assume offers little value: fronds. "Fronds are those leafy tops to vegetables we often chop and throw out. Try re-purposing veggie & herb tops by using them (ie beets, radishes and fennel) like an herb. You can add these to a gazpacho or spread over fresh fish.
- FRESH HERBS: Going through an entire batch of cilantro or parsley can be quite the challenge. Especially cilantro since a little goes such a long way. Try to treat them like flowers. Either keep a plant in a small pot on your window sill, or put them in little jar of water and then tent a plastic bag over them. They will then keep in your fridge giving them a much longer shelf life. To use up your herbs fast, mash them into a soft cheese like cream cheese for a quick spread. Or try drying them by hanging bundles against a sunny windowsill.
- CITRUS: A lot of recipes require lemons all the time, but most of the time there's a lot left over. To not let yours go to waste, freeze them in ice cubes for use in water or tea
- BREAD: Most of you probably know that you can refrigerating and even freezing whole grain bread. The simplest thing to do is just cut them and use croutons. I promise it's super easy. Just take any kind of stale bread, slice into one-inch cubes, coat with olive oil and seasonings. I use garlic, parmesan, fresh ground black pepper, and a bit of salt. It's also easier if you mix your seasonings and oil in a freezer bag first. Toss in the bread. Seal and shake the bag then spread the cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Presto! Amazing homemade croutons.
Here's some more tips to keep more of your grocery budget in your wallet:
Shop wisely. Plan out what you want to buy before you go to the grocery store, so you don't end up buying more than you'll actually use. Most of the 40 percent of food we throw out simply goes bad before we have a chance to eat it.
Cook wisely. Don't cook more than you can reasonably eat in a given time, and be sure to include leftovers in your calculations. A lot of recipe sites give you ideas on how to multipurpose your meals with tips on how to make creative meals from left over foods. There are also a lot of recipes that you can make in batches and freeze in family-sized portions. Which will save you time as well.
Understand expiration dates. Those dates on most pre-packaged products isn't really an expiration date, it's a "use-by" date. A lot of people see that date and throw the food out right after, but most of them are not meant to indicate the safety of the food. "They're not federally regulated," says Dana Gunders, a project scientist in the food and agriculture program at the National Resources Defense Council. In many cases, "they just indicate peak quality." According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the date is there to help stores decide how long to display the product, and to help consumers know when the product is best to eat. "It is not a safety date," the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates food safety, states on its website. "After the date passes, while not of best quality, the product should still be safe if handled properly and kept at 40 degrees F or below for the recommended storage times."
Use your freezer. I mentioned this earlier, but a lot of foods can be safely frozen like bread and milk. Homemade foods, like mashed potatoes and cooked meats, can also be frozen which will give you a chance to use up your leftovers at a later date.
Watch what you order when dining out. Jumbo-size meals in restaurants lead plenty of people to leave food on their plates, and that food ends up in landfills. "Our food waste has increased about 50 percent since the mid-'70s," Gunders says. "Along a similar timeline, dinner plates have increased their diameter by over 30 percent." Still have too much food on your plate? Ask for a to-go box.
Understand portion sizes. The average cookie has quadrupled in size since the mid-'80s, the average service of soda has gone from 7 oz to 42 oz since the 1950s, and recipes in "The Joy of Cooking" have an average of 30 percent more calories than they did in 1996. Portion sizes "are just bigger, or the recipe serves fewer people" than it did in previous editions, Gunders says.
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