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Mar 5, 2010 07:46 AM

Ideas for wasting less and using ingredients before they go bad

It occurred to me that I have been wasting too much. I buy a carton of cherry tomatoes and a fair amount go bad before I use them. I buy a thing of white mushrooms and half of them get too brown before I use them. Of course, bananas.

It occurred to me that I should be roasting the extra cherry tomatoes before they get to the throw away stage. Same with the mushrooms. Sautee and then use or freeze. I made some low fat (kind of ) bearnaise sauce with milk I would not have used. I froze that.

I bet there are a million other ways to work with ingredients to extend their life. And then refrigerate or freeze for later use.

Any other ideas like that I'm not thinking of? And ways to use the preserved ingredients?

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  1. well as far as mushrooms are concerned, but them loose and buy what you need....

    4 Replies
    1. re: babbabooey

      Exactly, and they are cheaper that way

      1. re: roro1831

        karykat might be in the same situation as I grocery stores don't sell loose mushrooms! They only come 2 ways: 8 ounce box or 1 pound box. Total pain in the butt.

        1. re: Val

          hm, ok...well when you use them, make them two different ways this way you can have them for dinner the next night? one b"box" of mushrooms isnt really that much though..I freeze my bananas and use them in shakes or i make banana pudding or banana bread once they are ripe. i also freeze grapes and eat them frozen. bernaise is tough if not used immediately because there are eggs in it and when reheated, the eggs will cook.

          1. re: Val

            I can get them loose, but for unknown reasons, the packaged ones usually look fresher (less browned.) Not sure why.

      2. Veggies are easy to use up in soups and stews....then you can freeze the soup/stew if you have too much of that! For your mushrooms, perhaps make some marinara sauce and freeze that.

        1. dehydrate and run through a food processor to make flakes or powder, then bag and freeze. add to soups, broth, stews.

          blanch or saute and refrigerate to give yourself a day or 2 more to use.

          3 Replies
          1. re: appycamper

            Interesting. We have a food dehydrater we haven't used yet. What vegies do you do?

            1. re: karykat

              pretty much whatever presents itself. if you take tomatoes to a leathery consistency you can pack in olive oil. i keep things like green beans, summer squash, onions, sweet peppers, greens, mushrooms in one container. stuff that should have more time cooking like potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots, parsnips i keep separate so i can give them extra time when added to a soup.

              hot peppers i also keep apart so i can add as needed. so maybe 3 freezer containers in all.

              if you really want full control over flavor profiles you could keep separate containers for each item, but what the heck i like the mix.

              1. re: appycamper

                I dehydrated slices of sweet potato, spinach leaves, onions, green onions, peppers, garlic, ginger, apples, limes and lemons. Now I can use them whenever a recipe calls for them.

          2. I hate wasting food. We grocery shop once a week and I think doing a bit of meal planning before we go is the most helpful in terms of not buying too much (it's easy to get a bit carried away buying things if you don't know what you need). I try to choose recipes for the week that have some ingredient overlap.

            Also, I have some flexible recipes, like salad or marinara sauce, where I'm perfectly fine throwing in whatever. I needed to get rid of some cherry tomatoes and carrots and some green onions last night so I just sort of put them all in and it worked out perfectly fine.

            I don't shoot for anything too complicated because I don't want to make more work for myself.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Memily_G

              I agree w/ having a few key "cleanup" recipes that absorb all kinds of extra veggie ingredients. I also do a hearty marinara w/ shrooms, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and just about anything else. My other recent favorite is coucous tossed w/ grilled/roasted leftover veggies (cherry tomatoes and asparagus most recently) along w/ roasted garlic, olive oil, a little lemon, and parsley (or whatever herb I need to get rid of). Adding toasted pine nuts, other seeds, or feta, parmesan, or some other flavorful cheese can also add to this or take it in another direction. Basically, I just use the couscous as a palette for the roasted leftovers.

              1. re: sholli

                Couscous is my go-to move as well -- known in my house as "kitchen sink couscous" but delicious nonetheless. A bit of ras el-hanout is often thrown in for good measure -- and I definitely second the cheese and/or nuts.

              2. re: Memily_G

                My go-to "cleanup" recipes are omelettes, quiche (or frittata), and pizza.

                Great for those small amounts of veggies, meat and cheese.

              3. I agree re meal planning - maybe you're doing this already and getting thrown off by life events (happens to the best of us some weeks!) but I find that making up menus for the week on the weekend & then shopping for what's needed helps a lot with waste. Otherwise, your ideas sound good - and I'd add that soups are a great way to get rid of stuff that's on its way out, as are frittatas. We eat a lot of frittatas! I also often use Epicurious' ( advanced search feature to plug in whatever crazy ingredients I have and get ideas/recipes. That's probably my #1 strategy.


                1 Reply
                1. re: gansu girl

                  me too! i usually make frittatas or soup with the left overs. fried rice or noodles is another easy way to use up the extras. Oh what about pizza?