It’s no secret that everyone at CDS loves to cook.
But you know what we don’t love? Watching the ingredients we don’t use expire in our fridges. You know the feeling. Sometimes, a recipe calls for ½ an onion or just a couple spears of asparagus–and often, we’re left with no choice but to buy a bit more than we need. It happens.
But, over the years, as we’ve found ourselves increasingly upset at the unnecessary waste (and, of course, increasingly conscious of the health of our planet), we’ve adopted some tried-and-true hacks for making sure we make the most of everything we buy. Read on for our top tips.
Know your food’s fave environments
First things first: get to know what environments your foods thrive–and die–in, so that you can optimize storing them for maximum freshness.
A quick example: garlic and onion can last up to six months–but only if you store it in a cool, dry place and don’t peel it. Once you’ve peeled garlic, for example, it’ll only last about a week in the fridge. And if you’ve gone to the grocery store and gotten your peeled garlic from there, it could be even less time–you’ve got no idea how long it’s been sitting out.
Also, your refrigerator has specific drawers for specific reasons. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Your top shelf and fridge door are typically considered “warm zones.” That means things that are more shelf-stable, like condiments, or that don’t require cool temperatures to stay fresh, like eggs, higher up.
As the shelves descend, the temperature in the fridge gets progressively cooler (you’re likely no stranger to the phrase “heat rises”–here’s an example of that in action). That means foods that will get rancid if not stored properly, like meat and milk, are best kept on your bottom shelf.
You know those drawers at the bottom of the fridge? They’re not just there for aesthetic purposes (although they do help keep things looking nice and organized). They’re for your fruits and vegetables. But! There’s a reason there are (usually) two of them: one is for fruits, and one is for vegetables–and no, it’s not ideal to combine them to save space. In fact, certain fruits can release a gas that actually accelerates the oxidation process of certain vegetables, which means that by storing them together–even in the crisper–you’re increasing the chances they’ll go bad.
The freezer is your friend
Now that you’ve got your fridge storage down, it’s time to make sure you’re leveraging the freezer. Because, while you may think of it exclusively as a home for your ice cream and frozen berries, it’s so much more. If you want to make things as efficient as possible, you can increase your recipes so you’re using all of your ingredients and freeze the leftovers in tupperware. But, because we know that math is often easier in theory than in practice, we have good news for you: you can freeze your produce itself too.
To freeze produce, simply blanch it (that just means boil it, then give it an ice bath) to preserve flavor and store in an airtight container (tupperware will do). Typically, fruits last around a year and vegetables last around a year and a half.
If boiling and blanching isn’t your thing, rest assured: there are lots of other things you can do with your leftover ingredients. Here are a few of our favorite ways to make the most of some of the most commonly wasted ingredients.
Garlic: We know, sometimes one clove is all you really needed, but you found yourself forgetfully chopping a few. Why not fry them up in a pan with copious amounts of butter to make your own delicious garlic butter (which often requires a whole head of garlic–or whatever you have left)?
Herbs: Yes, you hardly ever need all of the herbs you purchase. But you know what frequently comes in handy when you need to add flavor to a dish–fast? Herbed olive oil–so be sure to take advantage of your basil and rosemary to make just that. For herbs like mint, that might not lend themselves as well to an oil, pop mix with ¼ cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to create a simple syrup that’ll seriously elevate either your morning coffee or your evening cocktail of choice–or both.
Carrot tops: We know–you probably lean towards throwing these out. Which only means one thing: you’re missing the opportunity to make carrot top pesto. Our personal favorite: zero waste chef Max La Manna’s recipe.
Bread: First things first: if you’re putting bread in the fridge, you may be accelerating its demise. That’s right: the refrigerator can zap the bread of moisture and potentially contribute to early staleness. When you know you won’t use all of your bread before it goes stale, store it in the freezer. If you’re working with a loaf that’s already seen better days, make the most of it: toast the bread in the oven to create croutons or tear it up to pop into a panzanella.
That’s all for now! We hope our tips help you conserve food and save on unnecessary trips to the supermarket in the months to come. Bon appetit!
Did you use any of our food waste reduction tips? If so, tag us on social media using #casadesuna