It's always a good idea to avoid wasting as much food as possible in general, but with shortages of certain foods becoming a real concern, using as much of your food as possible is more important than ever. There are several ways to make sure you are maximizing the food in your kitchen and getting as much mileage out of them as possible. Here are just a few.
- Plan your meals ahead of time. By planning your meals out for the week ahead of time, not only do you know exactly what you need when you go to the store, but you can also plan meals that coordinate with one another. Want to make fish tacos that require only part of a head of cabbage? Decide to try out that Asian salad recipe you've been eyeing that also required cabbage later in the same week.
- Make a grocery list and stick to it. There's nothing wrong with picking up a few fun extras that might not be on your shopping list when you're at the store, but making a list of what you need can help you streamline the process and ensure that you end up with complete meals at the end of your trip instead of a lot of odds and ends that don't make up a meal. Making a grocery list and sticking to it will also cut down on the amount of potential food waste since you would only be purchasing what you need and plan to use over the following week or two.
- Stock up on frozen food. Making sure your freezer is full of meat, veggies, and bread is a great way to conserve food. Frozen vegetables are not bad for you as some tend to believe. They are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables, are more cost effective, and won't go bad like fresh produce will after a week or two. This makes them idea to keep on hand, particularly if you are trying to avoid going to the store frequently. Bread also does well frozen, and meat or fish are other good items to buy and freeze over time as some stores have placed limited on how much meat customers can purchase at one time.
- Double check what you have before shopping. Before you head to the grocery store with your shopping list, double check your pantry to make sure there's nothing on your list that you don't already have. Want to make lasagna this week? Check to make sure you don't already have the pasta noodles, ground meat, or tomato sauce needed before going out and buying it. Planning your meals around what you already have in your pantry or freezer is another way to make sure you know what you already have and use it up.
- Have a plan B. Have a back-up meal in mind in case you can't find an important ingredient or two for a meal. For example, if you'd planned on making homemade pesto but when you're at the store, you discover they're out of pine nuts after you've already picked up the fresh basil, figure out an alternative plan for the basil by using it as a garnish on another dish or adding it to a salad.
- Eat, repurpose, or freezer leftovers. If you end up with leftovers after a meal, save them for lunch the next day. If you're not a fan of eating the same thing two meals in a row, find a way to either repurpose any leftovers or freeze them for a later date. If you have a piece of chicken leftover, use it to make a chicken Cesar salad the next day. Or, if you made a soup or stew, put the leftovers into a freezeable Ziplock bag with the date on it and pop it in the freezer to save for later.
- Save vegetable scraps to make your own stock. If you like making soups or use vegetable stock in a lot of your cooking, consider making your own. Save the vegetable scraps from other meals (carrot peels, ends of celery, potato peels, etc.) in a Ziplock bag until you have enough to make your own stock from scratch the next time you need it.