This article is part of a Don’t Throw It Out! series on how to preserve fresh foods and avoid food waste.
The average American family throws away an estimated 25 percent of its grocery shopping dollars — as much as $2,000 a year. Fresh produce tops the list. Other food waste occurs by throwing out leftovers, discarding by-products such as bacon grease, and not using every scrap of food such as meat bones and the heels of a loaf of bread. Here are our ideas for reducing some of this food waste.
Bacon grease: Save money on butter and oil by reclaiming bacon grease for use in cooking. Sauté meats or vegetables (especially onions, potatoes and cooking greens), or use it to prepare fried or scrambled eggs.
Bread and crackers: Cut bread (including the ends) into cubes and dry them in the oven. Use dried bread cubes as well as stale crackers as croutons for salad or soup, or grind into fine crumbs and use to make the best meatballs or to top baked macaroni and cheese. If bread or crackers are going stale, grind into crumbs and promptly freeze.
Bones: Make your own soup stock, including beef stock, chicken stock, or white fish stock (other bones such duck, pork, lamb, salmon and shrimp can be used, but create broth with stronger flavor that may have limited use). Most vegetables — especially carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes — can also be used to add flavor to meat stock or to make vegetable stock. Avoid vegetables in the cabbage family, including broccoli and cauliflower. Vegetable trimmings make great stock, too, including peels from carrots and potatoes, celery tops and onion skins.
Condiments such as molasses, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup can be used to make sauces and marinades. Make a barbecue sauce or marinade for steak or other grilled meats, poultry and fish. Use condiments as an ingredient to add zing to many recipes such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, meat stews and baked beans.
Jam and fruit preserves have a myriad of uses beside toast. Use jam to top pancakes, ice cream or pound cake. Make a jam tart, linzer torte or thumbprint cookies. Heat jam to liquefy it and then brush over a fresh fruit tart. Use jam as a basting sauce for chicken or fish before grilling, or ham before baking. Whirl jam into B and L’s Strawberry Smoothie.
Leftovers: Avoid most leftovers by watching portion sizes and preparing just enough for your family to comfortably eat at one meal. If you don’t plan to eat leftovers the next day for lunch, freeze promptly for use at another meal. Use leftover meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, beans and grains such as rice to make another meal such as Beaker’s Vegetable Barley Soup or a stir-fry. Almost any leftover vegetable can be re-purposed in this way, including potatoes, onions and herbs.
Adopting just one or two of these practices can help you avoid food waste and save money on your grocery shopping dollars. As a bonus, you may discover new ways to enjoy foods your family already likes as well as save time during meal preparation.
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For more information about food preservation methods and recipes, see The Home Preserving Bible by Carole Cancler.