With a title like "Use It or Lose It," I could be discussing anything from fitness, brain power, or your health spending account. Rest easy, I talking about food and your pantry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics the average American spends more than $6,000 on food each year. Do you know how much food the average American throws in the garbage due to spoilage? We waste 27% of food fit for consumption! That's a lot!
My goal for 2012 is to make small changes in my pantry and ingredients that I buy so that I pitch less food this year. After taking an inventory of my pantry, refrigerator and freezer, my creative cooking juices started flowing. I've come up with these "livable and lovable" tips to help you use up your food.
- Why purchase an expensive chili sauce when you probably have all the ingredients in house to make your own? All it takes is garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger, and a few other staples. How often do you buy a knob of fresh ginger only to let it go bad in the fridge. This is a great way to use some of it! The best part is that you can add additional ingredients like sesame oil, bell peppers, or yogurt to make it your own recipe. Check out for my basic recipe here.
- Just like the book you read as a child, make some stone soup tonight for dinner. Hold the stones, please. Start with a chicken or vegetable stock and make a game of it by trying to see how many small partially used bags of frozen vegetables you have in the freezer and make it into a quick and easy soup. Need a little more flavor? Try adding the rind of a small piece of Parmesan that you may have in your refrigerator. (Always keep the rind from Parmesan and other hard cheeses. Store them in the freezer and use them to flavor sauces, soups, and stews. Discard before serving.)
- Need bread crumbs? Don't waste your money by buying the box brand, make your own--you can even use the heels of bread that no one seems to want to eat. Place one or two slices of bread on your countertop and allow to dry out for a couple of hours or place in a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pulse in a food processor until they are the size you are looking for in your recipe. Made too much? Bag up the leftovers and place in the freezer. You can use them to thicken soups or stews.
- Use up your oils before they go rancid. Don't buy prepared salad dressings. Make your own by whisking a ratio of three parts oil into one part vinegar. Spice it up by adding Dijon mustard, all-fruit jam, or herbs from the garden.
- Make a bag of odds and ends topping for oatmeal or snacks. Combine any partially used bags of dried fruits or nuts.
How much food would you estimate that you waste in your household each week? (What percentage?) What is your best tip for cutting down on food waste?
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