Tag Archives: food waste

More Food Planning/Use

Today is the day I usually go to the farm for our week’s food. If I’d been home yesterday, I would put aside whatever remaining foodstuffs from last week I didn’t think we’d use.

I’ve started that effort today instead, but it IS being done.

I’ve also planned what I’ll get at the farm, that makes food use a bit less random!

Finally, I go right by our favorite markets on the way home, so I’ll do the weekly shopping. There’s a package of chicken thawing in the fridge for tomorrow and Sunday.

Tonight’s dinner is probably a cheese omelette and salad, or that’s the plan. This is subject to DH’s input, how much and types of cheese we have, etc. We had HM hummus, freshly baked bread, and green salad. It was too hot to cook and I’d been gone all day, no interest in cooking at all!

I culled 2 jars from the pantry as their contents will be replaced, starting today.

This is working! We’ll see if I can keep it up. DH and I have had a few discussions about the “menu plan,” and he thinks it’s a good idea and agrees with my long-term goals: getting us used to smaller, cheaper meals like we’ll have when he’s retired, spending less on restaurants/prefab food, less meat, more veggies, better use of the veggies we’ve paid for (from the farm), and less food waste.

Photo by petra cigale on Unsplash

And for me, the kicker is that this isn’t so rigid that I resent it and it takes away the creativity I normally use when cooking. The I don’t know what to make with what I’ve got randomness is the only piece of cooking I really like: taking a bunch of random ingredients and using up what needs it in a meal.

I know people who sit down and plan a year’s worth of menus at once. I couldn’t do that, any more than I could do something similar to Once a Month Cooking or Mega Cooking. I tend to put pieces aside, not meals. (For example, cooked rice and stems from greens for soup.)

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Extreme Food Planning: Part 2

Other things I can do:
  • Look at the bulk price per lb for turkey parts at the co-op. I don’t like the taste of turkey as well as chicken, but turkey pound for pound, with bone in, is usually a better deal — there are fewer bones.
  • Get the coupon file up to date, haven’t done this since April.
  • Make food from recipes I have using foods I almost always have, first.
  • Figure out how many potatoes and onions I’m likely to need over the winter. (Garlic is < 1 full braid, so are chilis. Carrots approx. 6 dozen.) Onions and potatoes were all used or tossed a month or more ago. After I have a number, I can explore purchasing enough to make it through winter, my goal.
  • Develop a basic stew/soup veg recipe and conversion recipes, so I’m not putting food aside to toss the following spring. Found something to try, a veggie soup recipe that has 2 distinct parts, the first pretty generic!
  • Make more “stewed” tomatoes this year so I don’t run out in Feb. again.
  • Try the celery thing.
  • Make a sourdough starter and USE it.
  • See if you can find unpasturized wine so you can make your own vinegar?

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Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

Note:

  • 17 heads of garlic still on braid, one in basket.
  • Cayenne ristra jarred. Old pepper flakes discarded. 5/16/19

Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.

It Occurred to Me

This morning, again, that I need to have the freezer EMPTY by Memorial Day.

To that end, I looked at what remained: a shelf of stew/soup veg mixes, a shelf of fruits, a shelf of asst. veggies.

I have ONE container of salsa verde left, a large one, and it’s not full. I have ONE container left of stewed tomatoes.


Conclusions?

  • We eat a lot of stewed tomatoes and salsa during the winter.
  • We do not eat home froze veggies for soups or stews without a specific recipe attached otherwise.
  • Same with the fruit.
  • Obviously, I need to do less generic, unplanned food storage and more prep so that I  waste as little as possible!

I made up a really basic chart, or it’s a start anyway.

Vegetable

Recipe/Used In

Asparagus

Fresh, Pickled Asparagus/ WP p 115-9

Beans, green

Fresh, Frozen? Pickled?

Chilis

Fresh, Dried, Froz: Mex Lasagna Rodale Home Freezing p 183, HM chili sauce

Corn

Fresh, Frozen Corn Casserole/Home Ckbk

Garlic

Fresh, Pantry Dried ristra

Onion

Fresh, Pantry Dried. Any way to buy with leaves for a HM braid?

Peppers

Fresh, Roasted Froz: HM roasted pepper soup base

Potatoes

Fresh, Pantry Dried

Radishes

Fresh, Pickled, HM Radishes from Hell

Tomatoes

Fresh, Froz: HM stewed

Tomatillos

Fresh, Froz: HM salsa verde

Zucchini

Fresh, Puree Froz/Rodale Home Freezing p233

 

I’m not likely to do all of this, we get about 1 bunch of asparagus a year and it gets gobbled up right away. I make my spring risotto with sausage or ham, the asparagus, onion, etc. I don’t have a recipe for this, I’ve been doing it so long I long ago lost it. When I went to make it a few weeks ago, I had to do an internet search to remind myself how much rice to how much broth. After that I just used what I had, like always.

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Photo by Julian Hanslmaier on Unsplash


Three containers of mixed veggies are in the composter. There’s 4 more waiting to go.

I think I need to make a cobbler or fruit pudding or something with some of the fruit. I have peaches, rhubarb and apples to use up. I have a rhubarb cobbler we like I use it for, so that’s easy. The apples I don’t have anything for. I’m not fond of cooked apples, I’m not sure why I put them aside, except it was an unexpected bonanza of cheap apples. The  peaches will probably be used in a peach-blueberry cobbler I make too.

So the apples need to go. I think there’s 4 or 5 packages of apples. There were 3 large containers of apples. I forgot the persimmons when I made the list too. I don’t know where the recipe is, but I know I have one. Persimmons are used for persimmon pudding here.


Assuming I get rid of the obvious above, that’s about a dozen packages of food going in the composter. That’s great, but it’s still only about 1/2 the problem!

Sigh.

Pantry Soups & Other Ideas

This was started in February, just so you know!

Twice now I’ve made what I call “Yellow Hand Soup.” The first time it was mostly carrots with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion. This time it was mostly sweet potatoes with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion, no carrots at all.

The first time we had it with grated cheese. This time we had it with carmelized pecans.

Both times I cooked the squash in the micro then scooped the cooked flesh into the pot with stock, the onion and other vegetables.

The first time I had a new bag of carrots from the CSA to deal with and a bag full in the fridge. This time, I’m in the same boat, but with sweet potatoes, which we use much less often. Both times, the idea was to use what we have the most of, before it goes bad.

As a part of the food planning for this spring, I’ve also been researching how long various veggies last. The idea is that I’ll arrange menus to use up the most fragile foods first. I don’t have anything really fragile still in stock, but I will next spring!

There’s a buzzfeed list of how to store your foods, and how long. You can find it here. I don’t agree with all their times, but if you get your food from a market in a city, they’re probably right. I don’t, I get much of our food fresh from the farms where they’re raised, so no time is spent in warehouses, on market loading docks, or in walk-ins.

YMMV!

It’s another way to cut down that 40% we all supposedly waste, right? Use the foods which will go bad the fastest before the others.

Other Stored Food Meal Ideas:

Things we eat regularly from canned foods:

  • corn cheese soup (creamed corn, some onion, cheddar cheese, s & p)
  • bean soup. (rinsed beans, onion, mush with food processor or fork, add seasoning, onion, bacon or sausage if you have it)
  • fried rice: rice, LO meat, onion, other fresh or frozen veggies, as available.

From fresh foods:

  • ____soup (some veggie, appropriate stock, onion, celery. Can be curried, creamed, or just veggie or you can add meat and make beef vegetable soup, etc.) Or, you can make it stew by adding cream sauce, or making gravy instead of stock.
  • ____ stir fry (usually baby spinach, onion, maybe LO meat
  • meatloaf (ground beef, onion, seasoning) or meat balls (same) or hamburgers. If meatballs, can be with pasta or served in Albondigas soup.
  • chicken ______ , recently I’ve made creamed chicken with dumplings, curried chicken, fried chicken, lemon chicken with rice, chicken salad.

From frozen foods:

  • Sausage soup (frozen sausage, onion, frozen greens).

I rarely use recipes. Do you have standards you make with whatever you have to hand? I’d be interested to know what food you make! Because I don’t follow recipes, the quality does vary, it’s almost never horrible, but sometimes it isn’t as good as it could be.

 

 

Food Waste Tracking & Food Plan

I dropped the ball on the food tracking because I was just too busy: compiling tax data, cleaning house for new to us freezer, and yesterday dealing with something we really needed: another cord of wood. (We heat with wood.)

In between there we voted, had meals, counted ballots, did laundry, etc. But there has been one major thing having to be dealt with after another all week. It’s done. Hurrah!

Today we get to go to the dump. DH is working on the pot rack he’s building. I started cleaning the kitchen cabinets. Laundry has been done. Dishes have been put away. Life is slowly returning to normal. And I have no idea what we ate which day. I tossed 4 packages of old left overs Wednesday, thinking I was going to the dump, but we didn’t make it. Definitely have to go today, the trash is stinky and full!

DH finished the pot rack he was making! Well, he used up all the materials he had. This meant that we cleaned another part of the kitchen, removed the old apple ladder and grid wall we’d used to hold our pots, pans and colanders/strainers. All of that is on the new rack. Very spiffy!

Why didn’t we buy a rack? DH is 1’+ taller than I. To get pots where I can reach them, he’d be whacked in the face by them. Put them where he can get them? I can’t. So he built one, a spiffy new version of our old ladder.

I tossed one package of food during the freezer move. We unpacked the old freezer, thawed and cleaned it, packed the food in coolers. Moved the old freezer outside. Repacked it, turned it on. And kept it cold for a week. Then we unpacked it the morning the new freezer was delivered and packed all the food into coolers again. Cleaned old freezer. It was put on the driveway to be picked up when the new one was delivered. That happened. The new freezer got packed with the food from the coolers. The coolers got cleaned and put away.

We’ve discussed what happens to the coolers now? The old freezer wasn’t frost free. The new one is. At one point I thought we could store the small cooler inside the bigger one, but that won’t work, alas. They take up a fair amount of real estate on top of the fridge. (We’re going to wait and see how it goes.)

My job re the freezer now? To empty it as much as possible before 6/1, when we start getting farm produce and here we go again!


What I’d intended to talk about was historical food planning. I have a brochure from WWII era by the local electric company and another, I think it’s older, from Knox Gelatine.

From the electric company (edited) and with my comments in italic;

  • Don’t pare carrots; scrub with a stiff brush. Seems my root veggies are always really sandy. I’ll have to try this and see if it works!
  • Cook potatoes in jackets; eat skins and all. See above.
  • Cook young beet tops as other greens. If we ate beets, I would. DH hates them.
  • Don’t peel tomatoes or pare cucumbers or apples. My plans for this year include making tomato powder from tomato skins and there are various ideas for apples. Never thought about cukes. We hardly eat them. Hmmm?
  • Use green onion tops as seasoning. I do this already.
  • Save celery tops for soups, salads, etc. I just use them, always have.
  • Save coarse part of celery; puree for soup. If I’m not planting the bases this year, I’ll try it.
  • Use dandelion and other wild greens. We’ve done this.
  • Use every scrap of baked goods. (bread, cake, cookies) We do this and then also do something I’ve never seen elsewhere. There’s usually a small container in the freezer of “flour dregs” which is the left overs from kneading bread. I use these to thicken soups & stews or make gravy.
  • Use carrot & radish tops as garnish. Or food. I have a recipe I call “beans & greens” which I save carrot greens for every year.
  • Check refrigerator and bread box daily. I usually do this before I make a meal.
  • Plan to use all left overs daily. Nice idea, I rarely manage it.
  • Keep a list of left overs and check them off as used. Never considered this. The tracking I was doing effectively does this.

The Knox book includes recipes for leftovers: meats, rice, etc. The main idea I got from this isn’t actually in the book: making gelatin from LO jelly.

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Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

We always have various jellies going. It seems that they all run out at once: lime marmalade, current jelly, orange marmalade — there’s just a little bit left in the bottle. I have not had an idea what to do with that tiny bit? Maybe make a drink? That seemed like it might be easy to make something which tastes bad: too thinned, so it’s all but tasteless, or if I combined the jellies to make a drink base, it might just be awful.

So I haven’t.

I think I’ll try making small gelatins instead. The flavor/no flavor thing could be a problem? We’ll see!


Honestly? I don’t even know if I have any plain gelatin in the house!

 

Status

  • Email: I’m still deleting old emails, back to at least 2012 now. I’m down to 27,400 unread emails. Remember this? I had 28,000 unread emails then. Not remarkable progress, but actually, it is when you consider that of course I’m still getting daily emails  and I’m not doing the deletions except now and then. That’s 600 unread emails I’ve eliminated in about a month. Definite progress. ||Still working on this, but not as fast, with all the new ones I’m only down 30 this morning. 3/5/19 See next post for updated, corrected number! 3/6/19
  • There’s a hole in our kitchen where the old freezer was. I need to do a major clean up in the kitchen because the new-to-us freezer is supposed to be here Thursday. Next week! 3/6/19
  • I used up 2 packages of frozen food with last night’s dinner. Haven’t added it to the tracking, but I will. When we took everything out of the freezer to defrost it, I made a brief catalog. Now I should know EXACTLY what’s in the freezer. I’ll use the basic form I came up with to track our food usage and put the data in there. Then I’ll know what I’ve got, mostly. There’s still the fridge’s freezer;it hasn’t been tallied. . . .
  • I need to finish pulling together business data. That got set aside. My appointment is next week, so it definitely all needs to be done before that.
  • Part of making enough room on the porch for the old freezer: eliminating a trash bag o’ stuff, and 2 boxes of books were unpacked into the house.
  • There’s 1 full box for the bookstore in ME, there’s one of priced books to go to the booth, and 2 more flea market boxes. The check was sent off for the flea market. I gave a book to a friend.
  • The last check needs to go out this week for the farm food.
  • We need to find another cord of DRY wood.

That kitchen clean up effort is on-going. In the dump bin are the ms. for a book I’ll never finish, because the internet made it obsolete. In the shred folder are the W-2s for years before we were married? (Four decades or so ago.) Also the review from my first 6 months as a professional writer!