Many of the daily challenges for the Hungry Harvest 30-Day Challenge for Earth Month revolt around reducing food waste, which makes sense given their mission. Here’s a roundup of some of the challenges so far.
A lot of people think of “meal prep” as batch prepping meals for the week ahead. I’ve tried that and it’s not something that works well for me, as I would rather use my weekend time for other things. But planning your weekly menus and prepping some things in advance can help reduce waste and trash!
I get my Hungry Harvest rescued produce box on Fridays. Saturday mornings, I plan out a dinner menu for the week that first uses up what I have on hand (both produce and pantry items) before adding anything else to my shopping list. Using an ingredient-first approach helps me be more creative in the kitchen – finding new recipes or adapting existing ones to use what I have on hand – plus it saves money because I’m not buying 10 new ingredients to make a certain recipe.
When I prep things in advance it is usually single ingredients: cooking dry beans or making vegetable broth, yogurt, pickles, or homemade seitan — all things that save money and reduce trash. Sometimes I make snacks or baked goods.
Making vegetable broth from scrap produce is now just part of my regular routine. I keep a bag in the freezer for my vegetable scraps from cooking: the ends and outer skins of onions, carrot ends and peels, celery trimmings, potato and sweet potato peels, the stem ends of bell peppers, mushroom stems, etc. It’s best to avoid broccoli, cabbage, beets, and other strongly flavored vegetables because they can dominate the flavor of the broth. And don’t use parts that you trimmed off because the veggies are going bad.
Once the bag is pretty full (usually about every two weeks or so) I dump the contents in my Instant Pot, cover it with water, and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, leaving it to sit for an hour or so after cooking. Strain out the veggie chunks and portion the broth into 2 cup or 4 cup servings in freezer bags and store for future use. I don’t add salt to the broth so the leftover cooked veggies can go in my compost bin when done.
Because of the way I plan my meals, I don’t often have too much lingering in my vegetable bins but sometimes things get the better of me. My favorite ways to use up lingering veggies are:
- Making a soup, sauce or stir fry that can use up small amounts of a variety of veggies
- Preserving them by pickling or freezing
- Planning a recipe that uses up the lingering produce. I look up recipes by ingredient in the indexes of my cookbooks, or doing an online search using the name of the ingredient plus the word “recipe.”
Most of my leftovers consist of fully prepared meals, so my main use for leftovers is to eat them for lunch (or sometimes breakfast) within the next day or two. But here are a few other ideas:
- Use leftover cooked grains or pasta in a salad, soup, or to make a fried rice style dish.
- Use leftover cooked veggies in a wrap, frittata, quesadilla, salad, or add to a sauce.
- Use leftover cut fruit in oatmeal or to top cold cereal or yogurt.