I don’t exactly recall when it was that I decided to stop making New Year’s resolutions. It was usually my intention to make a resolution that was going to be of benefit; maybe a healthier lifestyle, saving money, or cultivating better personal relationships with others.
The making and keeping of resolutions can produce a sense of accomplishment throughout the coming year. As it mostly happened for me, I’d make a resolution, break it within the first week, and then feel like a failure for the rest of the year. So now, I just feel like a failure for one day for having not made an actual resolution. But with that said, I have enjoyed achieving and maintaining a resolve I set for myself and my family a few years back. We have actively been limiting food waste in our household with a lot of success. It’s been an effort that’s seemed like no effort at all and has become a good habit.
The statistics surrounding food waste in the United States are staggering. Just look at the plates of unconsumed food that are left at restaurant tables or taken back to be cleared by kitchen staff. I was always told by parents who lived through the Great Depression that you take only what you can eat and you eat everything that is on your plate. I think that it is one reason why my husband and I don’t eat out often – I can’t keep from noticing what is left by restaurant goers. Obviously, there’s not much as an individual you can do when someone at the table next to you leaves half their meal on their plate! Our family was lucky that we had two boys who would finish their meals and finish anything their Mom and Dad couldn’t. Our plates were empty when we left restaurants.
I was glad to see Carson City’s “greenUP” initiative undertaken in our downtown recently, encouraging food donations collected by local restaurants to combat food insecurity and targeting food waste as a way to encourage such donations. The effort does have to confine itself to the restaurant community however. We can all make a resolution to actively avoid throwing away what’s in our fridge or even reducing what we buy so that it doesn’t get thrown out at home. Not only is it a good feeling to know that your household is not wasting food but also it is environmentally sound, helpful on the household budget, and it can lead to healthier eating habits. No longer do I overbuy perishables, but if I do find something is beginning to go awry in the icebox I take immediate action. You can too with very little effort.
One of the first things is to arm your kitchen with a few tools. I call them the food waste combat arsenal; small Ziplock plastic bags, ice cube trays and a good blender. I love cucumbers and usually have a couple in the fridge at any time but sometimes I find some soft spots beginning to appear if I don’t use them pretty quick. This can be the case with a lot of veggies in our crispers. The first thing I do with vegetables on the brink of disaster is wash them and cut off any of the soft or brown bits. With cucumbers and similar vegetables, chop them into 1⁄2 rounds (don’t bother to peel), pop them into a plastic bag and into the freezer they go. You can do this with just about any vegetable such as spinach, kale, celery, and fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint, basil and parsley. Fruits are another example. How many times have you tossed out bananas for being too ripe (how much banana bread can a person eat)? The slicing and bagging can be done with bananas, apples, pineapple, etc., just as you would do with cucumbers.
Then what do you do with all these frozen goodies? There are several ways but one use I particularly enjoy are green drinks and fruit smoothies. That’s where the blender and ice cube trays come into play. Squeeze the juice of limes, lemons and oranges and pour in the cube trays for use in soups, dressings, drinks, etc. Just remember, when you use the frozen pieces of fruit and vegetables, don’t thaw them first. Just pop them into the blender when you’re ready to use. It’s better to use a combination of fresh and frozen ingredients so you can blend them easily. If you find your blender binds up while mixing, just add a little liquid until it mixes smoothly. I use a Vitamix because it’s a powerful blender. It’s also best to use vegetables and fruit of similar colors so that you don’t turn your smoothies into brown,
unappetizing concoctions. Here’s one of my favorites:
Morning Green Drink
1 cubed frozen banana
1 apple chopped
2 handfuls of leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc.) 8 frozen pineapple chunks
4-5 large mint leaves
6 frozen cucumber rounds
1⁄2 nub of fresh ginger
1⁄2 nub of fresh turmeric
1⁄2 tsp green macha powder
juice of 1 fresh lime or frozen juice cubes honey (optional)
Put fresh ingredients in the blender first and layer the frozen bits in between. You can add juice, yogurt, or water to get the ingredients whirling easily. Fill your glass and enjoy. Any leftover can be poured into ice cube trays and after freezing, place cubes in a plastic bag so that all you have to grab for your next green drink is the bag and the blender. Get creative with your favorite herbs as well.
Other ideas for those perishables; blended or chopped up and frozen, they can be great additions to soups and stews. Again, don’t thaw but add directly to your hot ingredients already on the stove.