I’ve heard it said often, “If we didn’t have to eat, we would all be rich.” How much food do you throw out, waste each week, month, year that is eating a gigantic hole in your budget? Food is expensive these days and getting even more so and still we waste, toss out tons of food; especially in America but in other countries around the world too. Americans aren’t alone in this but we are, none the less, very wasteful.
The cost of living has increased astronomically over the past few years and the price of food is right up there at the top of the list but we all have to eat anyhow and most of us at least want to eat healthy, eat foods that are fresh and good for us. In today’s economy that is getting more and more difficult but maybe it doesn’t have to be if we took a different approach to our food, our diet, our time, our meal planning, our shopping habits and made better use of the leftovers rather than tossing them in the garbage can.
Plan your meals and stick to the plan as much as possible. There are always situations that arise where you need to make adjustments; guests drop in unexpectedly at mealtime, you are running late for a hundred different reasons and don’t have time left to prepare your planned menu. Plans can go afoul for any number of reasons so we need to be flexible but it doesn’t mean we need to be wasteful. Prepare only what you are going to eat and if there are leftovers store them properly and use them within the next 3 or 4 days. There is nothing wrong with re-heating leftovers and there are hundreds of ways you can use them to make something a little different. All it takes is a bit of imagination and the willingness to do it.
Take meatloaf for example; it is one of the most flavorful, tasty and inexpensive ways to use burger (ground beef) other than the hamburger patty itself and a meatloaf can go a long way in preparing several meals. Unless you are a large family or are serving several guests you probably are not going to eat an entire meatloaf at one setting. Meatloaf will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator and it freezes well. A serving of meat should be approximately 1/4 pound or about the size of a deck of cards. The problem is we have been conditioned to think super-size and that more is better. That is not necessarily so and we need to adjust our thinking for our good health and to not waste so much of all that good food. So, here is what to do with that marvelous meatloaf.
Day 1 (dinner menu)
Begin your meal with a cup of chilled pineapple chunks and then serve your main course:
1 deck of card size slice of meatloaf (per person)
Mashed, baked or roasted potato or a cup of steamed rice
Tossed green salad with your favorite dressing
Whole grain sliced bread or rolls and butter (or margarine)
Beverage and dessert
You have half or better of your meatloaf left over and you don’t want to waste it. You can freeze it into individual servings to use later or for the next few days use it in other ways.
Day 2 (lunch menu)
You could make meatloaf subs; Take a grinder roll and spread it lightly with garlic butter and a slice of mozzarella cheese on each half. Take 1 deck of card size serving of leftover meatloaf and thin slice it onto the roll. Top with 2 or 3 Tbsp. of spaghetti or pizza sauce and heat it under the broiler until the cheese melts and the meat is just heated through. Top it with some shredded lettuce, diced tomato, chopped onion or whatever else you like. Serve it up with a tall beverage of choice and you have a great lunch that is filling, good for you and no waste.
Day 3 (lunch or dinner menu)
Serve up a tasty quesadilla made with cheese, diced meatloaf, chopped onion and green pepper served with a green salad and your favorite beverage and dessert if you want it.
You have just had three meals out of one meatloaf with no waste and they are all different with a change in texture and flavor. They are healthy and you have had enough. If you still have leftover meatloaf you can always freeze it up to use another time. You can make hot meatloaf sandwiches, a cold meatloaf sandwich, use it as an addition in a homemade soup or stew. You can crumble it up and add some corn or peas and carrots or beans and make a casserole with mashed potato on top sprinkled with some shredded cheese; a sort of twist on the standard shepherd pie. It is a simple and inexpensive meal in one dish and if you have leftovers, guess what, it freezes well. Just freeze it in individual servings for a quick “zap it” lunch or dinner another day.
There is nothing wrong with being a little creative when it comes to cooking and using up the foods you have on hand. You know the old saying. “Waste not, want not.” Instead of shoving yesterday’s leftovers to the back of the refrigerator to die a slow death make something new and creative out of it. Make a goulash, casserole or stew from leftover vegetables and/or meat. Stir-fry them with rice or orzo. Toss them together to make an interesting and tasty side salad or add them to quesadilla. Add them to pasta for some interesting and tasty combinations. Spaghetti doesn’t necessarily have to be served with seasoned tomato sauce on top. You can put almost anything with spaghetti or any other pasta for that matter. You can make stuffing or puddings from old bread. Bread that seems too dry for a sandwich can be toasted or grilled or used to make a hot sandwich with meat and gravy or use it to make French toast. Don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen.
One of the clues to not wasting good food is to not cook more than you are actually going to eat or plan ahead to use the leftovers in various ways for other meals. Don’t toss it, use it. Think ahead and a little out of the box. When preparing a meal cook up only what you know will be eaten. You don’t need to cook enough for a crowd if there is only you or two or three others to enjoy your efforts. Use portion management and serve balanced meals. When you are eating some of all the right foods you will feel comfortably full, your body will be satisfied and your budget won’t get busted, at least not as quickly.
Another thing to keep in mind; when you have food left over from a meal don’t leave it sitting out on the stove or shelf. Package and refrigerate it as soon as possible. Foods left sitting out gather bacteria that can cause you to become very ill and the food spoils much more quickly. Be especially careful with meats and dairy products.
When you are grocery shopping, shop smart. Don’t buy items you don’t need just because they are on sale at a really good price. If you aren’t going to use it in a reasonable amount of time, it isn’t a good sale. I worked in retail for many years and the same items come up on sale about every two to three weeks. By the time you need it the item will probably be on sale again.
Don’t be an impulsive shopper. Just because something sounds good or looks good, if you aren’t really going to eat it, you are going to waste it, not only the food but your money as well. Buying food on sale is always smart unless it is something you are not going to use before its shelf-life has expired. Check the expiration dates, especially on dairy and meat products and check your produce, fruits and vegetables for freshness. Check for any soft spots or signs of mold, withered greens. Bruised or old produce spoils quickly.
If you really want a good buy on sale items look to the non-perishable items like pasta, rice, beans and dried fruits. There are hundreds of ways and combinations you can use to prepare tasty and healthy meals from them. Stock up on canned foods when they are on sale. They have a longer shelf life and won’t spoil as quickly but again check the expiration dates. Once the expiration date is past, don’t use it. Only buy that which you will likely use within that period of time. Another hint; buy from the back of the shelf. Grocers rotate their food so the oldest is commonly sold first. The newest and freshest items are at the back of the shelf.
Food storage is another major issue when it comes to the waste of good food. The foods you buy need to be stored properly so they keep longer. To keep food from spoiling quickly it should be stored in airtight containers. Foods can become stale, flat, withered, tasteless and undesirable in a hurry when not properly stored. Bread products can dry out or become moldy before you can use it up. Foods stored in the refrigerator that are not stored in airtight containers can gather condensation that will cause your food to grow mold and become inedible, wasted food. Store your food properly. When freezing food, especially leftovers, mark the package with the date you put it in the freezer and you might want to write down what it is. Most foods will only keep 3 to 4 months even frozen, some keep well longer. Use up the oldest first.
We all waste an awful lot of good food mostly because we don’t think, don’t plan ahead and cook way more than we will eat at a meal and then we don’t store the leftovers properly or in some cases just plain refuse to eat leftovers. What a waste!
We have forgotten how to be frugal. We are a wasteful generation and teaching our children to do the same. We Americans throw out well over, get this and cringe, well over 250 million (that is million) pounds of food every single day 365 days a year yet we have people who are starving, children not getting enough food or the proper food to eat, elderly who have to choose between buying food to eat or paying the rent or buying the medicine they need right here at home say nothing about the rest of the world. We flush tons of food every year right down the garbage disposal.
It is such a waste of good food and our hard earned money and so unnecessary.
We can all eat well, not be wasteful and not be hungry if we would just use what we have. All that food we are sending down the garbage disposal is coming right out of our wallet as well. Just think for a minute about how much money you are throwing out in the garbage every week. You are just flushing your paycheck away with the waste of good food. All it takes to change all this is a little common sense and a little creativity in the kitchen. Waste not, want not. Maybe you really can afford that dream vacation after all.