I’m not freegan kidding. Today’s Food Finances Friday is about saving bread and reducing waste. It is estimated that food waste in the US is between 30% – 40%, or about a pound of food per person a day! I have found simple food storage hacks that can help reduce the amount of food we throw away due to spoilage.
This is another guest posts by my husband. He also authored last week’s Food Finance Friday post, They Put What in Cheese?
Bananas are at the perfect ripeness for about 3 seconds. How many times have you opened the pantry or reached for a banana on the counter and discovered the dreaded brown mushy mess. Bananas produce ethylene gas during the ripening process. In order to help prevent this gas from reaching other parts of the fruit, I wrap the stems in a small amount of plastic wrap. Each time you take a banana from the bunch, re-wrap the stems to help get a day or two of extra freshness. I keep my bananas hanging on an old S hook in the pantry instead of buying a fancypants over-priced holder for the counter.
If the bananas do get away from me and over-ripen, I am actually glad (as long as it is only a few). That means that I get to make one of our favorite things, Banana Bread! With only a few ripe bananas and some basic pantry staples, I have fresh banana bread in about an hour. Here is my recipe:
- 2 – 3 very ripe bananas (peeled)
- 1/3 cup butter (softened)
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- Pinch of Kosher Salt
- 2/4 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups AP Flour
Preheat oven to 350◦ F and butter a loaf pan. Mix bananas until smooth. Add the butter, baking soda, salt, both sugars, egg and mix to combine. Mix in the flour. Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour. Bread is done when a toothpick (or a piece of uncooked spaghetti #KitchenHack) comes out clean when inserted into the center. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely before enjoying!
Another item that I would reach for and be disappointed it was bad is celery. Who needs a giant amount of celery at one time? I only use 1 or 2 stalks and put the rest in the fridge only to get limp and useless. Amazingly this can be prevented very simply. Break down the celery by removing the base and leaves (don’t throw them away). Wrap the stalks in aluminum foil and they will stay crisp in the fridge for a very long time!
I have previously written about saving vegetable scraps in order to make a great stock. We keep ours in a container in the freezer (with a lid on). This is probably the single best way to repurpose and avoid wasting scraps or vegetables that may be on the verge of going bad.
Almost any vegetable can be used for stock like:
- Onions, carrots, and celery are a must!
- For a depth of flavor garlic, leeks, scallions, fennel, potatoes, green beans, bell peppers, and my favorite jalapeños
- Corn cobs, mushroom stems, cheese rinds, and herbs such as parsley and cilantro stems are great too!
There are some vegetables that I would avoid using:
- Broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage can overpower the flavor
- Any spoiled vegetables that may be rotten or moldy
Whenever I make dried black beans I never throw away the cooking liquid (we call it “bean juice” in our house). It is full of flavor from spices, onion, garlic, and the beans themselves. I strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and then a cloth napkin. Fill an ice cube tray with the bean juice and use as needed. It is an amazing umami bomb for any dish made with stock or add to instant ramen for big boost in flavor!
Another item we were throwing out all too often was bread. I was always reluctant to put sandwich bread in the freezer because when I was a kid it never tasted the same. Finally giving up on my preconceived notions I put the bread in the freezer. Now I take out however many pieces I need and either put it in the toaster oven or microwave for a few seconds (9 seconds for 2 or 15 seconds for 4 pieces). I have never noticed a difference in taste and we haven’t thrown out any bread in years.
I did go a little crazy once and bought 8 loaves when it was BOGO. That was too much bread! The last 2 loaves were starting to get a little freezer burn and hardened a little. Not enough to have to throw it out but it was definitely toeing the line of freshness.
If your bread has gone stale and hardened, don’t throw it out! As long as it is not moldy or otherwise compromised, you have a few options to repurpose it.
- Preheat oven to 250◦ F
- Put bread directly on the oven rack
- Bake until golden brown and firm (about 30 minutes)
- After cooling, crumble until your desired texture or pulse in food processor
- Preheat oven to 300◦ F
- Cube bread into 1 inch pieces (leave crust on)
- Melt 1/2 cup butter
- Mix 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder, 2 tbsp. Grated Parmesan (any other herbs or spices you wish) with the butter
- Add Bread cubes into mixing bowl and toss with butter mixture
- Place evenly on baking sheet
- Bake 30 minutes, flip croutons over and bake another 30 minutes
Stale bread also makes the best French Toast! It soaks up the custard mixture and has a great texture when cooked.
Just kidding! With a family of 5, we almost never have leftovers.
As Bob from Tawcan recently commented on one of our recent Food Finance Friday posts about saving money on groceries, “Another key tip is to reduce the amount of waste for sure. If you don’t eat that much, make less!” He’s right. We buy, prepare, and portion out just enough for 2-3 night’s worth of every meal we prepare.
On the rare occasion there is any food left, it is put in a glasslock container in the fridge. At least one of the kids is guaranteed to be asking for more food soon.
What tips do you have to reduce food waste?