A New Years resolution to stop wasting food, save money and cut debtJanuary 3, 2013 by johnmoretti | Filed under Cooking Tips.
Here’s a trick that will neutralize two New Years resolutions – helping to cut debt and not waste food – with a single bullet: Stop wasting food and eliminate leftovers through better online meal planning.
For experienced chefs, meal planning is intuitive, and actually imperative for a successful restaurant. For everyone else, it’s an endless war against a battalion of Tupperware soldiers, occupying strategic refrigerator positions, supported by Saran-Wrapped snipers in the perches and alleyways. And it’s a war we are losing.
About 40 percent of all food is wasted in the United States, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, with the average American family tossing about $2,275 worth of food into the trash bin every year. In all, including merchants throwing away unsold produce, etc., the wastage bill totals $165 billion annually — a sum larger than the entire GDP of Hungary, and one that can be easily reduced.
I don’t consider myself an extraordinary chef, but I do garner compliments when making dinner for family at their homes, mostly because I’ve cleaned out a lot of their junk. My mission when visiting other people’s kitchens is to reconnoiter the older contents of their refrigerators and devise a plan to wipe out as many of those plastic containers as possible, and rescue the vegetables in critical condition.
In culinary warfare terms, this is known as reactionary meal planning. Someone used half of an onion a week ago, and has since either gone on a no-onion diet, or decided that the vegetable will blend its way into a plate of leftover rice on its own. The reactionary meal-planning squad is then called in to negate the threat of a pungent onion rotting on the butter tray.
It’s a problem that almost everyone has, so I scanned some blogs dedicated to making good use of leftovers and found some remarkably creative advice:
- Feed it to the chickens, who will turn the leftovers into eggs. This would be an ingenious solution – clean out the fridge and save money on chicken feed – were I actually able to raise poultry in my apartment.
- Freeze the extra, and reheat it later. Reheated frozen leftovers for dinner. You know, if I have the option, I think I’d rather just go to bed.
- Keep lots of tortillas on hand. For those who haven’t tried this in their early 20s, it really is an efficient way to save money, but as someone who has attempted to cancel debt by eating only bean burritos at home, this thought brings on a sort of anxiety-depression that might be described as Post Tortilla Stress Disorder.
Another approach is to eliminate the leftovers before they happen. Sure, there’s no guarantee that your three-year-old is going to finish everything on his plate. But it can be guaranteed that you use up all of the ingredients you have purchased, cook them in the right proportions, and even include some of the leftover steamed rice or meatballs or roasted chicken chilling themselves after the night before. This is online meal-planning, and it will save you money and lots of preparation time.