To celebrate Earth Day, here are my best tips for reducing food waste plus my recipe for delicious homemade chicken stock!
In honor of Earth Day, the Recipe Redux theme for this month was to show how we reduce food waste. This is an important topic that I’ve become very interested in as I’ve learned more about it in recent years. Did you know that roughly ⅓ of the food produced around the world (about 1.3 billion tons) for human consumption is lost or wasted each year? This number is even higher in the United States where approximately 40% of food goes to waste. These are staggering numbers!
Nobody likes wasting food or having to throw away spoiled or moldy produce. But though we don’t intend to do it, it inevitably happens. Although this is a complex, global issue, there are lots of things you can do to reduce food waste in your home. Here are some tips on how you can make a difference.
Take a little time at the beginning of the week to plan your meals for the whole week. Choose dishes that use up all of the ingredients that you buy so that you don’t end up throwing them away at the end of the week. For example, if you’re buying a whole head of broccoli simply to use a handful of it in a salad recipe, plan to use up the remainder the next day in a stir-fry dish or a batch of broccoli soup. Get creative and have a clean-out-your-fridge meal at the end of each week.
-Take stock of your kitchen before you shop:
How many times have you bought something at the grocery store just to come home and see that you already had that item? Once you plan your menu for the week, take stock of your fridge and pantry so you don’t buy things you don’t need.
-Shop in the bulk section:
When you only need a small amount of an ingredient for a recipe, check out the bulk food section of your grocery store. You can buy only as much as you need and it’s perfect for ingredients like nuts, seeds, spices, and grains. The salad bar is a great place to get small amounts of things like vegetables, cheese, olives, and hot peppers.
FIFO is a common practice in the food service industry and stands for first in first out. It’s a simple method of rotating your food items so that they won’t spoil. When you purchase new items like milk, place the new milk in the back of the fridge and move the older milk to the front so that you use it up first before it expires. This not only helps reduce food waste, it’s also important in preventing food borne illness.
-Store your food properly:
Make sure your fridge is set at the proper temperature (40ºF or lower) and learn how to store fresh herbs and produce properly to extend their shelf life. Store fruits and vegetables in the crisper drawers to preserve them longer. Don’t wash delicate berries until you’re ready to eat them to prevent mold. Certain fruits, like bananas and apples, should be stored by themselves because they emit gases that ripen other fruits and vegetables around them. Consider storing food in clear containers- if you see them, you’re less likely to forget about them.
-Take advantage of your freezer:
If you don’t think you’ll be able to use up a food before it expires, consider freezing it. Plenty of foods freeze well and can be stored in the freezer for several months. You can freeze uncooked items like bread, seafood, tomato paste and even fresh herbs. You can also freeze whole cooked meals like casseroles, meatballs, and soup.
-Use up every part of the food item:
Try to use up as much of the fruit, vegetable or protein that you purchase. Leafy greens like Swiss chard have stems that are delicious when sautéed. And the next time you buy beets, try adding the delicate greens to a salad. One of the best ways to use up vegetables and herbs sitting in your fridge is to make a large batch of homemade stock. If you purchase a whole chicken or rotisserie chicken, you can add the carcass to the stockpot for a delicious chicken stock.
I sometimes buy rotisserie chicken from the grocery store as a time saver on busy weeknights. Last week, I bought one and used it in three different ways over the course of the week.
The first night, we enjoyed it for dinner paired with a hearty salad. Then I used the remaining meat to make chicken sandwiches for our lunches the next day.
Then on the weekend, when I had a little more time, I made a big pot of homemade chicken stock with the leftover carcass. I threw in all of the veggies and herbs in my fridge that were getting past their prime including some celery that was getting a little soft and my daughter’s carrot sticks.
I also had some old poultry blend (thyme, sage and rosemary) and parsley, which I tossed in, stems and all. As the stock simmered away on the stove, it made my whole house smell delicious!
After straining it, I stored some in the fridge and some in the freezer to use another time. I look forward to using the rich stock in a wide variety of dishes in the upcoming weeks. See below for some ideas on how to use your homemade chicken stock!
Homemade Chicken Stock
- 1 whole chicken carcass from a leftover roast chicken or rotisserie chicken
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 2 carrots, cut into large pieces
- 2 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
- 1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 sprigs parsley with stems
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Add all of the ingredients to a large heavy-bottomed pot or stockpot. Pour in enough cold water to just cover the chicken. Bring the liquid to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours, covered.
- Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. The next day, remove the surface fat. Store the stock in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for 3 months.
Here are some ways to use homemade chicken stock: