How many times have you cleaned out your fridge only to be left with a trash can full of uneaten food and pangs of guilt about how much has just gone to waste? We’ve definitely all been there—life gets busy and sometimes expiration dates get past us and it’s hard to keep up with what we’ve eaten and what we’ve got left to use up.
My Zero-Waste Kitchen (available on Amazon) is a book that aims to change that, so people who are worried about their kitchen waste (both food and non-food) can be more conscientious about it. It’s full of helpful advice and will especially come in handy the next time you need to clean out your refrigerator. Below are some takeaways I found useful:
1. Some food can be salvaged, even if you think it can’t
Stuck with wilted greens? You can still sauté them or blend them into smoothies, for example. You can also revive stale cake by storing it overnight in an airtight container with a slice of bread or apple. Even some foods that have gone moldy can be saved—dry-cured meats, hard cheeses and hard fruits can still be eaten as long as you cut off the moldy parts at least 1 inch below the surface (anything else should not be eaten because mold can invisibly penetrate softer foods).
2. Think about what you can freeze
Wine can be frozen in an ice cube tray and saved for cooking, for example, and root vegetables that are starting to go can be roasted and frozen for use in soups and stews. You can also freeze cake (without icing or filling), uncooked brown rice—it increases its shelf life—hard cheeses, nuts and more.
3. Consider what you can grow or make from what you’d normally toss out
If you generally throw out parts of produce like the ends of a head of lettuce, stop right there—you can actually use those ends to plant and grow new lettuce, if gardening’s your thing. You can also use things you wouldn’t normally eat, like carrot leaves or leftover parsley stalks, to make sauces like pesto. And banana peels? Adding a ripe one to the bottom of a roasting pan can keep meat tender and moist while it cooks.
4. Try composting foods you have to throw away
There are plenty of things that can be composted that you might not even realize, like cupcake liners, tissues and napkins, chewing gum, wine and beer, and cardboard—just to name a few. Basically, if it can’t be eaten, composted, reused or recycled, then throw it away.
5. When you restock, place items in the right spots
Different areas of your refrigerator are different temperatures, so reserve things like condiments (anything that can get warm or that is less sensitive to temperature) for the shelves on the door. The top shelf is the most consistent, temperature-wise, so dairy should always go there.
Along with tips like these, My Zero-Waste Kitchen features advice for storing food and recipes and tutorials for using up food that would otherwise go to waste. It’s a smart, quick-to-read resource that can help if you’re looking to be more mindful and reduce your food and kitchen product waste.