Budgeting for food can be difficult, especially if you’re feeding a lot of people (or even just a few very hungry ones). A great way to stretch your food budget is to use things you might otherwise throw away. Not only does this save you money, it saves the environment as well. Planning to reduce your food waste is all well and good, but how can you really translate that into more food for you and your family? Here are six tips to help you on your way.
1. Make Scrap Stock
I keep a gallon ziplock bag in my freezer at all times. Whenever I buy carrots, celery, onions, garlic or herbs, I always save the peels and ends. Then, I stick them in the bag. Once it’s full, I dump it into my stockpot, add plenty of water, some salt, pepper and a few handfuls of garlic cloves and let it simmer all day. If I have a chicken carcass sitting around, so much the better! I can make four quarts of good-quality, organic stock for free, just by saving things I would otherwise be throwing away! And it tastes much better than store-bought too.
2. Embrace New Pesto
You don’t have to only make pesto out of basil! Use carrot tops, beet tops, parsley, kale or a mix of greens. Not only are whole carrots much cheaper than pre-cut ones, you have the opportunity to use both the skins and the tops to make other dishes. And PS—this technically isn’t a food-waste-saving tip, but you can swap pricey pine nuts for walnuts in pesto and nobody will ever know the difference. Shh!
3. Sad Apples Save Sugar
If you have a few slices of apple from lunch that you’ve left in the fridge a few too many days, don’t throw them out! You can use them to rehydrate dried-out cookies, bread or even sugar. The moisture from the apple will rescue that block of brown sugar at the bottom of the bag or give your peanut butter cookies new life.
4. Make Bread Salad
This sounds fake (isn’t salad supposed to be made of vegetables?), but panzanella is Italian bread salad and it’s the best way to use up a slightly sad loaf. In fact, this recipe works BEST with stale bread, because it soaks up all the delicious tomato juice, olive oil and herbs. If you have a loaf that’s too tough to eat, that means it’s time to make panzanella. Alternatively, you can cube it, toast the cubes in the oven and then throw them in the food processor to make homemade breadcrumbs. No added salt or preservatives, unlike the store-bought version.
5. Freeze Your Cheese
If you have cheese in your fridge that’s about to go bad or has already dried out, stick it in the freezer. Then, you can save it to make pasta or homemade mac and cheese. Frozen cheese crumbles easily, so you can grate it quickly and add it to recipes. And honestly, it’s a crime to waste cheese.
6. When in doubt, make soup
Or stir fry, for that matter! When you have a handful of rice at the back of the fridge, plus a drawer full of slightly sad vegetables, that means it’s time for soup. Take a quart of your homemade stock, throw everything in, add some seasoning and you have a meal. If it’s breakfast time, make an omelette—eggs are the perfect vehicle to camouflage two stalks of asparagus leftover from dinner and a handful of wrinkly cherry tomatoes.