If you looked inside my fridge, you would probably think I never cook. My shelves are often empty, with just a few scraps of food scattered around looking quite lonely.
But looks are utterly deceiving! I don’t just cook sometimes—I cook virtually 100% of my meals.
So why does my fridge look like it belongs to a male college student so often? The answer is simple: I don’t like to waste food. I don’t like to waste it for many reasons, amongst them the fact that throwing food away is a very expensive habit. If you want to save money on food, making sure you eat everything you buy, till the last bite, is very important.
And of course it’s not just about the money. I care about the planet too. If you want to know what the environmental impact of throwing food away is, watch this enlightening Ted X talk. Warning: you may never discard food again.
This month, I challenge you to buy only what you will eat for a few days, and then before going shopping again, see if you can still get a few more meals out of your leftovers. Here are some effective strategies to make use of the last bits of your grocery haul.
What to do with leftover grains like rice, quinoa, millet, and couscous:
Turn them into a stir-fry by sautéing in a pan with oil and all the vegetables you want. If you want to give it an Asian note, add some soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or green onions.
Turn them into a risotto-like dish, again by mixing them with any combination of vegetables, but adding more liquid to the pan (water, broth, or a little wine will do) and simmering it for a while to make it mushier and creamy. If you want to give it an extra flavor, sprinkle some chopped herbs like basil or parsley and some chopped pecans, cashews, or pine nuts on top.
Transform them into a breakfast porridge by adding nut milk, cinnamon, chopped fruits and nuts, and a little honey or maple syrup.
Make a robust salad. If you’re not a salad person, try adding some cooked grains to it and see if that changes your mind. In my humble opinion, this simple addition makes all difference and helps me feel full, and not like I just ate some lettuce and now need a baguette to fill the aching hunger in the pit of my stomach. Simply add the grains and mix everything well with your dressing of choice. No heating required.
What to do with random remaining vegetables:
Have a little squash but not enough to turn it into a soup? A little broccoli but not enough to make a side dish out of it? Why not mix all those little veggie pieces and make a chopped veggie soup or a vegetable cream soup out of them? The preparation is the same for both and equally delicious too: Sauté some garlic and onion in oil, add the chopped vegetables, salt, pepper, and added herbs or seasonings (I love freshly grated ginger and turmeric in my soups), cover with water or broth, bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the veggies are soft. Drink the soup this way, or blend it to a creamy consistency.
Roast them. There are few things I love more than eating a mountain of roasted vegetables over some brown rice or quinoa. All I do is cube them and put them in a baking pan with salt, pepper, olive oil, and dried herbs. I then mix everything with my hands making sure all the vegetables are covered in oil, and I roast them at 375 until soft.
Make a pasta sauce. Who said pasta can only be eaten with traditional sauces like tomato or Alfredo? I find the more variation the merrier, since pasta has such a neutral flavor that goes well with almost anything. So next time you’re about to throw some orphaned veggies in the trash, chop them instead, sauté them in some olive oil, and mix them with some pasta.
What to do with leafy greens that are about to go bad:
Make a tart! This mouthwatering chard tart can get you started, or look up other ideas on the blogosphere. Not patient enough to make this from scratch? Buy the crust or leave it out and you can still enjoy the delicious and nutritious filling.
Make pasta cream sauce. Sauté any greens with garlic, onion, salt, and pepper until soft, and blend them with basil and nuts until creamy. This is the Peruvian version of the Italian pesto, and it is delicious!
Make a wrap. Use any filling you like (rice and beans with avocado, quinoa salad, falafel and hummus, etc.), and instead of a flour or corn tortilla or wrap, use leafy greens instead for a gluten-free and healthy alternative.
What to do with overripe fruit:
Turn it into a smoothie! Add some almond or coconut milk, process in the blender, and you’re ready to go! Want to take it one step further? Then add any superfood of your liking, including hemp seeds, goji berries, bee pollen, acai, chia, or flax seeds.
Make bread or muffins with them. Your breads and muffins will actually taste better (sweeter) with very ripe fruit. So look up a popular banana bread or apple muffin recipe, and you’ll have breakfast or snacks to go for several days.