Thursday, March 15, 2012

Waste Not Tips

Living in Winnipeg, where winters are usually long and very cold it really reduces the growing season of our gardens. So often I would buy herbs and vegetables in the winter only to have them go bad on me. This rarely happens today. Between buying smarter and being organized with a weekly menu and that great invention the freezer, the tossed out waste has been so much less. We are a family of 6 so not wasting our money is so important.

Today I want to share with you some of my kitchen tips that help me to waste less.

1) Make a Plan: A meal plan has saved my butt more times than I can count. Not only do we waste less by buying stuff we won't use, but we save money only buying what we KNOW we do NEED. We make extra for freezer lunches and save money & our health from that "boxed" stuff. Now that we have meal plans I am also not scrambling at the end of the day with what to make. Same goes for my hubby should he need to whip something up.

You don't actually have to make each recipe on the date stated, just know what you're going to eat before shopping.



2) Things I Freeze: I'm sure there is more than this, but right now this is what I actually have in my freezers.
  • Herbs - Washed, dried and tossed in a labeled bag for freezing; ready for most cooked applications.
  • Roasted Garlic - I buy a huge bag and roast over half of it, once cooled I put into ice-cube trays and transfer to bags, or place right into freezer bag & break off chunks as needed.
  • Garlic - Of the bulbs I have not roasted, I peel them and freeze them whole, grate frozen into whatever dish you need.
  • JalapeƱos - Put them in whole and grate them into your food for kick, best used cooked.
  • Ginger - Put the whole root right into the freezer and grate to cut off chunks as needed.
  • Lemons/Limes - Often a recipe calls for these and often I wouldn't have fresh, so buy in bulk and freeze some. Once thawed they can easily be used in most cooked recipe. I will sometimes grate the zest and freeze that on it's own. You can even just freeze the peels and use in recipes or tea.
  • Bread - Stale bread makes for great crumbs, but I don't always have the time to process, just get a big bag and toss the pieces in. When you need crumbs, the frozen bread processes really easy or make a nice snack to feed the birds.
  • Wild Rice - This often takes so long to cook, so I usually cook it all and then freeze it in bags. You don't even need to thaw it to use it. It breaks up so easily and can me added to any recipe right from the freezer.
  • Vegetable Ends - I have a container just for ends to that when I need to make stock I have onion, carrots, celery, parsley stems, broccoli stems (not too much of this though) ready to go in.
  • Chicken Bones - We order organic whole chickens twice a year, so rather than freezing them all whole I will carve some up into portions we like (just drumsticks, thighs or breasts). The carcass is amazing and has so much good stuff left on it. I wrap it up well and put in freezer for when I have time to make stock. Same goes for cooked chicken, though I usually just make the stock right away then (it's already warm, so just put it all in the oven and leave it overnight really low).
  • Lunches - We haven't purchased lunches for my husband in so long I can't remember. When cleaning up after supper I make pre-portioned lunches in freezer safe dishes, label them with the meal name and date. Ready to go any time; even for a quick lunch for me.
  • Coffee - I do this more in the summer, but there is something to say for coffee flavoured ice cubes in my iced coffees.
  • Watermelon - Last year I was given a watermelon that was just bogged with water. It was mush. I strained/picked out the seeds and froze it (breaking it up a bit before it became a huge brick) and it has made delicious dessert or slush for drinks. The flavour is so intense.
  • Pie Crust - I don't make pies too often but when I do I make a bunch so that it's ready when I need it. Keep them in small disks or roll out into flat pieces (more breakable), wrap in wax paper really well and they will keep for a long time. Thaw in the fridge though or you could get too much condensation.
  • Butter - An obvious one I know but when you get a good price with no limits, how do you not stock up?

3) Buy Bulk: Some things are really best bought in bulk if you can. I know it involved some planning and creative budgeting at times, but if you can manage to buy in bulk it really does save over all. Here are some thing we try to buy in bulk. Most things are actually cheaper at Superstore, but watch the flyers because Bulk Barn can surprise you.

  • Chickens - Organic, free-range. We will buy about 10 Spring and 7-10 Fall. I found the fall ones more fatty than the spring ones.
  • Beef - We usually get half a cow a year and share the other half with family. We could probably use a whole one in the future. These are also from a free-range, mostly grass-fed source.
  • Pork - We have bought a whole cut pig in the past but we don't eat it enough to buy this way anymore, so we just watch for good sales (30-50% off), though we would trade for some beef in the future.
  • Eggs - We order farm fresh, grass-fed from a friend for $3/doz. Stores charge up to $6/doz. 10 doz/month lasts us well.
  • Xylitol - This is so expensive at the health food store so we have been searching cheaper sources. Right now we found a source in the USA, but we need to drive there to pick it up. We are ordering through our friends right now and we're pricing it out to see if it's worth it or not. It is seriously less expensive there though. $20/lb here and $30/5lb online. CRAZY!
  • Almond Flour - Right now we just get this at Bulk Barn, but we're willing to get it elsewhere for less if we can find it. Nothing just yet.
  • Chick Peas, and most all dried beans, lentils - They last longer and won't have the same sodium content than canned.
  • Raisins - Most dried fruits really can be cheaper in bulk anywhere. You might feel they are less fresh, but if you store them well in an air tight container they freshen up pretty well.
  • Nuts - Since we make our own LaraBars and granola bars, it only makes sense to buy bulk. Superstore has the best price for this.
  • Other - We also buy things like Maca Powder, Arrowroot Powder, Chia Seeds, Chickpea and Coconut flour in bulk (Bulk Barn). We are looking for honey and may have found a source for that, but we do prefer liquid most of the time.

4) Make it yourself: I am new to a lot of this, but I am learning something new every month it seems. I know a few families who make most everything themselves and that is just so cool to me. It used to seem impossible, but if you just try one new thing at a time it becomes more possible.

  • Bread - Not that we eat a lot of grains in this house, but at least if I make it myself (bread machine for mixing) I know there are no bad chemicals in it. I am still learning on how to make grain-free bread, but I'll figure it out yet.
  • Pizza - We make three different types of crust and like bread if we're using wheat at least we know what's in it. We also make a cauliflower crust and an almond flour crust to steer away from grains.
  • Yogurt - I am not yet making the yogurt base, but I am learning. For now I buy an unsweetened plain, organic yogurt and flavour it myself. My favourite these days are to add freeze dried strawberries (Bulk Barn) and some xylitol. Fresh fruit works as well, but the powder from the freeze dried helps to keep the yogurt thicker.
  • Granola/LaraBars - There are so many recipes out there for this I got mine from Pinterest.
  • Fabric Softener - Easy and it works. This will be really nice come summer and we dry out on the line.
  • Laundry Detergent - Haven't made a batch yet, but we are making it next week.