Americans waste one-quarter of the food they buy, throwing out $130-$175 a month in the form of rotten food. That’s a pretty big amount of money to be tossing in the garbage every month.
So let’s talk about these foods and how to avoid wasting them. Here are some ways to use up commonly wasted foods:
Fish: Since I too have thrown away fish, I have a rule that I only buy fish the day I will be eating it, and only then in portion sizes for the number of people I’m feeding. If there are leftovers, we have to eat them the next day. The same rule goes if I open a can of tuna.
Other Meat: Freeze it. I put all meat directly into the freezer and only pull it out when I am going to use it. Cook portions that you know you’ll eat. If there are leftovers, put the meat into something new–pasta sauce, meatballs, stir-fry, etc.
Milk/Cream: I have heard you can freeze both of these, but I’ve never tried it. Instead, I try to buy smaller containers that I know our family will use. It costs a little more but it means less waste in the long run. If milk or cream is about to go bad, I will likely use it up by making something like ice cream or ricotta cheese.
Eggs: Since I have chickens, I get a lot of eggs. When they seem like they are getting old, I make hard-boiled eggs and eat as snacks. Or I do some baking to use them up.
Cheese: Unlike soft cheeses, most Americans buy hard cheeses that are easy to freeze. When the cheese starts to go south, cut any mold off the outside. Usually the cheese underneath is fine. Transfer the cheese to a container and freeze. Use when a recipe calls for melted cheese.
Pumpkin: I’m not sure why pumpkins are being tossed out so callously–maybe Halloween?–but they are easy to freeze. Cut them up raw, freeze the pieces on a cookie sheet, and transfer to a plastic bag. Or you can roast the pumpkin in the oven (300-350 degrees for about an hour), puree in a food processor, and freeze. Later, it can be baked into a host of delicious recipes.
Greens/Lettuce: Store greens in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper. If they starts to get slimy, peel the bad leaves off and you’ll probably find that the inner leaves are still good. Use right away. Alternately, buy spinach, which is more forgiving and versatile. Not only can you use spinach raw in salads, if it starts to go bad, you can cook it or freeze it.
Onions: This surprises me, as I have never had my onions go bad. I store mine in the vegetable crisper and they last at least a month that way, if not longer. If they do start to go bad, simply peel off a few layers. Mostly likely the inside of the onion is fine. If for some reason you have more onions than you can handle, make an onion-oriented dish like French Onion Soup.
Garlic: Store in the fridge for a long life. When garlic starts to sprout, it’s still usable. Simply cut off the sprout and use the rest of the clove. (Or put the sprouting clove in the garden for a new head of garlic.)
Cherries/Peaches: Goodness, why is anyone throwing these out? Both of these fruits can be used up in dozens of recipes, like cocktail cherries, peach cobbler, or cherry clafoutis. They can also be canned, frozen, or turned into jams, among other options. Store in the fridge for a longer life.
Lemons/Oranges: Juice like you normally would, freeze, and use in any recipe that calls for lemon or orange juice. (Frozen lemon juice also makes good lemonade.) If you only have a little bit of lemon juice, freeze it in an ice cube tray for a convenient serving sizes.
So there are my tips. How do you prolong the life of these commonly wasted foods?