Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gross Things I Do to Reduce Food Waste

Even CBS News reported that storing sour cream and cottage cheese upside down will keep it fresh longer!
Food waste has been on my mind a lot lately. Ever since I read some amazing essays which touched on the topic, I can't help but think about the incredible amount of food that gets thrown out today. While some waste happens throughout the food chain, the vast majority is in the home after it's been purchased by the consumer.

My mom taught my brothers and I to always eat everything on our plate. She is notorious for taking several days' leftovers, throwing them in a pot with some stock, carrots and noodles and calling it soup. Surprisingly, it's always good. This was the mentality she learned growing up because my grandparents grew up in Nazi-occupied Holland, surviving on little else than tulip bulbs at times. Thankfully, neither my parents nor I ever knew hunger, but my Grandparents did. They remind me of it every time I see them.

This appreciation for the food I have the privilege to purchase has led to a dutiful sense of responsibility around how I consume it. I try to waste nothing. I feel guilty if anything goes in the green bin (compost), and further to that, if I throw compostable-scraps in the garbage. It occurred to me today, as I trimmed mold from my mozzarella, I have become borderline-OCD about food waste. To the point, it's kind of gross. Anyone else go to some crazy extremes to make the most of the food you buy?

Disclosure: I'm not a doctor and just because I have not gotten sick, I make no guarantees you will not. Try at your own risk and if you're unsure, maybe consult someone who is actually qualified to advise you on the subject of food safety. I'm just sharing what I do that hasn't made me sick or impacted my health (that I know of). 

The Gross Things I Do to Reduce Food Waste

Cut the mold off cheese
I have always been told mold is a surface growth. This website says it's OK, so it must be true. I love cheese too much to throw it out ever because of mold, especially when I eat blue cheese all the time. I usually trim all the mold off I can, then use it up right away. So far, I've never gotten sick from this and I tell myself it's building my immunity.

Ignore the expiry date on dairy products
I consider the expiry date a guideline; it's best consumed before that date, but if it's not rotten it's fine to eat. It's rotten if it smells nasty or is too "goopy" (think milk). I always smell my milk before pouring it and if it still smells good and doesn't curdle in my coffee, then it's good to go! Sour cream will last forever if you put it upside down in your fridge. Okay, maybe not FOREVER, but literally, I've ate sour cream month(s) after the expiry date when I turn it upside down.

I keep and eat leftovers
Okay; this isn't so much gross as it is just plain cheap. Even if it's less than a serving or just some vegetable scraps, leftovers go into a container in the fridge and I use them at my next meal. These Pampered Chef bowls are perfect for stashing small amounts of leftovers. I also eat a lot of omelettes, and they are an ideal place to throw scrap veggies or even some leftover stir fry. It's not gourmet but it works and keeps things interesting.

I have a freezer of brown bananas
I don't absolutely love bananas, but I buy them for smoothies. Usually they go brown before I use them, so I toss them in the freezer. Frozen, brown bananas make perfect banana bread. My family loves banana bread with chocolate chips. Win.

I drink day-old coffee
I heard a speaker from the coffee industry last year mention how big the environmental footprint of coffee is and how our insatiable taste for it is impacting those countries producing it. How much of your morning coffee pot goes down the drain? I have a bad habit of not drinking the last mouthful of coffee, but I try to pour as little down the drain as I can. So much so, that if I have more than a cup left in the pot I'll save it and either reheat it the next day or use it in a homemade mocha-cafe smoothie. I appreciate good coffee, but some days, just coffee will do.

Things I Will Never Do

Eat expired mayonnaise. 
If it's a week or 2 (or 4) I have been known to use it if it's being cooked (like in this AMAZING Hellman's Chicken Parm recipe). After that, it gets thrown out. It kills me because I never eat more than an 1/8th of a mayo jar. Sometimes I buy smaller jars but the cost is almost the same, so more often than not I have a larger jar in my fridge. I keep thinking I should use mayo more, but let's face it; a tablespoon of mayo everyday isn't exactly like eating an apple everyday. I'm open to suggestions to what to do with it, but bad mayo is probably my biggest food fear.

Eat Old Meat
I don't mean old meat from the freezer;  I cook that up and try to cover in sauce because it usually tastes like ass. I mean old, cooked meat that has been sitting in my fridge for more than 4 days-ish. If there is even a hint of slime, off-smell (the old smell test is gospel with me if you haven't notices), or it's just been there for about a week, it's going in the green bin. Again, food poisoning from meat isn't worth the risk.

Anything else with mold
Casseroles, canned food like mushrooms or pineapples that were in the fridge too long, yogurt, the list goes on. If there is mold on it, it's gone. The same usually goes for rancid nuts. You can't hide that flavour.

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