This week the challenge at Reduce Footprints is to reduce our food waste to zero. I never had food waste until I found myself with an empty nest. After years of struggling to keep a pantry and fridge stocked for a couple of boys and their friends and learning to cook enough to fill those bellies, learning to cook just enough for one was hard to adjust to. To make the adjustment I had to return to things I had learned growing up.
In our home meals were planned not just for that particular day but for several subsequent days as well. A good example would be the beef roast that would be baked in the roaster with potatoes, onions, and carrots. Gravy would be made from the juices in the pan. While there were only 3 of us in the household the roast would have been more than enough to feed a family of at least 15!
At the end of the meal out would come the meat slicer, the slices would be wrapped and put in the fridge for sandwiches during the week, the grinder would also come out to make hash. My grandfather would assemble the grinder to the edge of the table, it was a hand-powered model, and begin to grind enough of the meat and potatoes to fill a glass casserole dish just the right size for the 3 of us, then he would stir in the extra gravy.
More beef would be cut up either into chunks or slices and wrapped in butcher paper, secured with tape and marked with a wax pencil the amount of meat, which type of meal it would be used for and the date. These packages would be placed in the freezer.
We had two leftover days every week, Wednesday and Saturday, and due to careful planning on the other days of the week there were always plenty of leftovers for these days to make the basis of a meal. The fridge would be thoroughly gone over to find any leftover bits which would be assembled to make a meal. There may not be enough potatoes to go around but adding something else to those leftovers would make it stretch.
If the beef set aside for sandwiches wasn’t being eaten quickly enough, it too would be added to the leftover meal. The table on these days was more like a buffet than a typical meal. A little of this, a little of that, but enough to satisfy the appetite of each.
My eating patterns have changed since my youth, I am a vegetarian so my meals are very different. I am experimenting with no fridge as well which has made me stop and think about how much I want or need to eat that day. I still check for foods nearing their expiration date and create meals from what is found. Fruit is something that I currently have to keep up on with the warmer days upon us. A quick fruit salad, smoothie, or even adding fruit to a green salad (adding citrus fruits help us to assimilate nutrients such as iron from our greens) will use up those foods that would shortly go bad.
I will toss leftover vegetables into a soup, casserole, or even top a homemade pizza (when I have access to an oven). If you are creative you can come up with a satisfying meal from your fridge and if you need a little motivation, do what my grandmother used to do, make a sweet dessert to make up for serving yourself leftovers. In the summer months she would make a couple of biscuits (from scratch) in the toaster oven and top with strawberries, or bake a small plum cake or a chilled lemon pudding (especially if milk needed to be used up)
My only real food waste today, it you want to call it that, would be the peels, stems and such from my fruits and vegetables. These get collected and taken outside to compost, which I suppose wouldn’t make them waste after all.
We have much we can learn from previous generations who weren’t as fortunate as we are today with the abundance and options available to us. Yes, having the same roast beef sandwich all week might get boring, but by using the leftovers creatively you can manage quite well, and wouldn’t fresh food, even if it’s the third time this week, taste better than what you could pick up on the way home?
What do you do with food waste you find?