Leaving much to be desired

We shouldn’t be wasting copious amounts of perfectly good food when there are so many things to be done with leftovers.

By PHYLLIS GLAZER
February 11, 2010 18:32
4 minute read.
Leftovers are usually thrown away.

leftovers garbage 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

What’s in your garbage these days? A recent study done at the University of Arizona revealed that Americans waste about 50% of their food, at an annual cost of $100 billion. Fruits and vegetables rot in the fields when produce prices drop and it doesn’t pay for farmers to pick them. Tons of no-longer-attractive produce are chucked out by supermarkets, and fast food restaurants trash tons of food after it sits under heat lamps unsold.

At home, Americans throw out 14% of their food, including fast-food leftovers, and manufactured foodstuffs that have passed their last date of sale. All in all, an average family of four fills the garbage dump with at least $600 of still edible foodstuffs every year.

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And despite the fact that so many families in Israel go hungry, we also waste perfectly good food – in and outside the home. But if we could learn to fill our plates according to our actual food intake rather than pile it on, creatively use up leftovers, and sensibly buy raw materials rather than ready-made convenience products, we would not only save money, we would also contribute to the environment by adding fewer cans and other non-biodegradable packaging to the land in which we live.

And speaking of waste, the poisonous chemicals in cleaning products, fertilizers, pesticides, cosmetics, personal care products and plastics, like dioxins, don’t just go away, they leach into the ground water, the earth and the sea, all of which we need for our survival.

So here are 10 ideas for how to save money on food:

MAKE STOCK

When preparing vegetables and herbs, save the outer leaves, peels, stems and other parts you usually discard in a plastic bag or box in the refrigerator or freezer, and when you have enough, make stock. Cover them with water, bring to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Cook covered on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until golden and fragrant before straining. For a richer stock, remove cover and cook down till reduced. Use immediately or cool down and freeze in an ice-cube tray, then transfer the cubes to a bag or box and store to use as a base for soup, for cooking rice and grains, or as needed.

BLANCH VEGETABLES

You had good intentions when you bought that cauliflower, corn or spinach, but before it spoils, blanch it by dipping in boiling water or lightly steam, drain well and freeze.

TOO MANY ZUCCHINI

After you’ve put them in every conceivable dish, and still have too many, substitute them for all or part of the carrots in your favorite carrot cake recipe.

FRESH HERBS

Grind the leftovers (including the stems if tender) in a blender or food processor with or without garlic and your favorite nuts, together with olive oil, sesame oil or canola oil to a pesto consistency (mix different herbs or process separately with different oils) and freeze in an ice-cube tray or silicone pan. Store the cubes in a plastic box lined with parchment paper (to avoid interaction between the oil and plastic). Use as a sandwich spread, and add to soup, rice or pasta.

SMOOTH OPERATOR

Use fruits fresh or frozen in a smoothie together with yogurt, buttermilk or any kind of milk. Add honey and a spoon of wheat germ.

A SOFT SPOT FOR APPLESAUCE

Peel and cook soft apples with water to cover and a pinch of cinnamon and sugar or honey, then puree to applesauce, or cut the tops off and core, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake till soft. Serve with yogurt, sweet cream, soy sweet cream or buffalo yogurt.

END-OF-SEASON STALE

Stale bread (hopefully whole wheat) is great to grind to bread crumbs, or cut into cubes and made into croutons. Season with a little olive oil mixed with a crushed garlic clove, dried oregano or thyme and bake or pan-fry till golden.

GRAIN GROUND

Use leftover grains to make latkes or mix with vegetables or ground chicken or meat for burgers. Stuff vegetables or a whole chicken. For dessert, add sugar, eggs, vanilla and raisins to rice and bake as a pudding.

HAS BEAN

Make a salad from your leftover beans, or add them to other salads, minestrone soup, grains and vegetable dishes, puree for re-fried beans or as a stuffing for filo or puff-pastry squares.

LEAVES LEFT?

Sprinkle used coffee grounds and tea leaves around plants like fertilizer, and use any leftover coffee or tea to make ice cubes. Use them to cool off a too-hot cup of coffee or tea, or crush together with a sweetener on a hot day.


And another, personal, tip: Instead of trying to get that last bit of honey out of the jar, add a few drops of lemon juice, and pour into a cup of hot tea, or just add the hot tea to the jar and pour it back in the cup.

ALMOST INSTANT TOMATO-RICE SOUP

Makes 3 servings
4 4 cups tomato juice
4 2⁄3 cup cooked rice, preferably
    short-grain “round” brown
    rice
4 2 tsp. honey
4 Salt and pepper to taste
4 Pinch of thyme

Heat all the ingredients together. 


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