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Waste not, want not

It happens pretty much every year, I buy too much sour cream for the Hanukka latkes and wind up with leftover (usually around 1-1 1/2 cups). I try to eat healthy most of the time, so it's not a food product I have a great deal of use for normally. But I find it really difficult to throw it out, even if it cost less than $2.00. And to re-purpose it into baked goods - which I could give away - would involve buying more ingredients which I don't have in the pantry. Which seems like another level of waste.
How many others face ingrained guilt over throwing away "perfectly good food" - even if it is a stupid container of sour cream?

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  1. I too find it difficult to toss food...sour cream, however, is never a problem. Mashed potatoes with sour cream!

    Back on topic, tossing slightly to very funky veg is never a problem, as everything goes into the compost pile, as does stale/moldy bread, week old rice that migrated to the back of the fridge.

    1. I feel very guilty about it too. Sometimes I'll make a dish that's good when it's fresh, but we discover it's not so good reheated. So it sits in the fridge for about a week until Wednesday night when I toss it (trash comes Thursday). I always feel so so guilty about it. Awhile back I actually ate a whole 9x13 pan of butternut squash mac and cheese throughout the week, not because it was that good, because it wasn't, but because I had spent 20% of my food budget that week on the cheeses for it and I wasn't about to throw it out.

      The other day I threw out 2 containers of salsa that were barely used (hidden in the back of the fridge) and an unopened container of cottage cheese that expired a month ago. It KILLED me to do it. Ack!

      3 Replies
      1. re: juliejulez

        If I throw out veggies/herbs that have gone bad - then as long as it's not a huge amount I'm ok with that. Mostly because I figure that having a good selection of veggies to encourage myself to cook with them during the week is better than just getting a take away because I don't have enough in my fridge.

        However, when it comes to food I've cooked and intend to use as leftovers that I have to throw out, that's when it bothers me. The combination of the expense, the time, and the waste just kills me.

        For the past 9 (!!) days, I've had this horrible intestinal infection, so I've slowly had to throw out the entire contents of my fridge of normal food. Medical reasons take away the guilt, but it's still unpleasant.

        1. re: cresyd

          Cresyd, I agree about always having a good variety of ingredients on hand. But I am (slowly) learning to buy less--the smallest butternut squash, not that nice big one. (I mostly cook just for myself.) Also I am trying to cook smaller amounts, even though I love the idea of having leftovers ready to eat. Variety, again. I find it only takes one unexpected lunch or dinner with a friend and maybe one of those occasional and necessary nothing-but-dessert meals to throw all my leftover plans out of whack. True, I spend more time cooking this way, but none of it is wasted!

          1. re: Mona Williams

            As a single person, I have always found that "cooking for 1" to be a lot more work and always a bit difficult to eyeball. Also as all of the kitchen duties fall to me (shopping, cooking, washing up), having leftovers is vital for me to not eat out too much.

            However, one thing that I've done to help with wasting so much is planning on multiple shopping trips through the week. I work close to an open air market, so I keep in mind a midweek shopping trip which has helped in not relying on one large trip a week to determine everything I'm eating for the next seven days.

      2. I dislike wasting food (but never feel guilt) and try not to. But sometimes, there just isnt another sensible option but to bin it.

        But it's never really wasted. All vegetable matter goes on my compost heap. And all other food waste goes into the council's recycling bin.

        1. i never throw out "perfectly good food" no matter what it is. i keep it and try to use as much of it as i can. if it goes bad before i can use it up i still feel a twinge of guilt, but at least i tried.

          BTW in addition to mashes potatoes, you can use that sour cream for other savory dishes like chicken paprikash, beef stroganoff, potato or egg salad, deviled eggs, enchiladas, or even just a basic dip for veggies (mix in some chopped fresh herbs or a little dry soup mix).

          1. One of the "perks" of an office job is that I can always leave food items in the kitchen and they'll be consumed. I'd buy a packet of dried onion soup mix and a bag of ridged potato chips, make some dip and put the whole thing out for coworkers. Or give to some sports-viewing friends/neighbors.

            8 Replies
            1. re: tcamp

              I do tend to turn it in to dip, mixing with some salsa, but I'll eat it compulsively...although I got a little sampler pack of popcorn seasonings which may be good to mix in for quick dip...argh!
              Hubby has requested turkey meatloaf, perhaps this weekend those mashed potatoes will come in to play.

              1. re: BeeZee

                A couple of times I put a bit of leftover ricotta into my meatloaf, just to get rid of it, and it was a nice addition. Made it much less heavy.

                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                    Yeah now I'm annoyed when I make meatloaf and don't have any ricotta on hand. Now that you mention it, I tried other dairy products like yogurt but only ricotta did the trick. Not sure about sour cream.

                    1. re: coll

                      Mmmm...ricotta in meatloaf. Now that sounds good.

                      Oh, and when I have leftover sour cream, I make more chili (and probably buy more sour cream).

                      1. re: coll

                        I am thinking about making it his weekend, What is your ricotta to meat ratio? Do you alter the amount of bread crumbs?

                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                          Not that much, around 1/2 cup. The bottom of the tub, basically, whatever's left. I don't use bread crumbs in my meatloaf, I do use 1/4 cup oatmeal and 1/4 cup crushed Ritz crackers to 1.5 lb meat, just as I always did.

              2. Beef Stroganoff is an obvious choice for me, but I'm guessing that might not be an option.

                1 Reply
                1. re: GH1618

                  I sometimes make vegetarian mushroom stronganoff when I'm not in a beefy mood but want the creamy richness.

                2. Lucky for me, when I eat healthy it's high fat and low carb. So, for me, sour cream + bowl + spoon = yum.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Violatp

                    Or in a mashed cauliflower soup[!!

                  2. In my house dip for that leftover sour cream along with fresh veggies and it's gone gone gone.

                    I always wind up with more gravy than I need. Usually take it to the neighbors. What's more than enough times for me winds up being something fresh for Charlie.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: HillJ

                      I had a bunch of leftover turkey gravy one year (homemade) and used it as a base for soup (diluted with stock and water).

                    2. My parents had MAJOR food issues as it relates to waste.

                      I grew up being forced fed grotesque amounts of food. I was the kid forced to sit at the table until 10pm at night because I couldn't choke down 4 cups of mashed potatoes, which is as much as a waste of food as throwing it out.

                      As an adult, I try to be mindful of my food purchases and do take pleasure in using "it all up" but I have no guilt about tossing food. I am rebeling against my upbringing.

                      I often think "Dad would freak out" when I throw something out.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cleobeach

                        Oh Cleo I know what you mean!!! My Mother would always use "leftovers". Ever had reheated canned green beans?? And yes she was a great cook but..... I'll gladly toss if it doesn't taste good or there is just too much and reheating wouldn't work.

                        1. re: Linda VH

                          Reheated canned green beans? I weep for you.

                          There was pretty much nothing that my dad would not eat. Nothing was too stale, too moldy, etc. He was also a food pusher so I had to be on guard about mentioning I liked something.

                          If I said I liked Little Debbie rolls, the next time he was at the food outlet, he would buy a case of expired Little Debbies and expect me to eat every last one of them. Not that there is anything wrong with expired food but no teenage needs to eat hundreds of Little Debbie chocolate rolls.

                      2. sour cream and brown sugar mixed far enough in advance to meld flavors, then top or dip fruit.

                        1. Just add an envelope of Lipton's dry Onion Soup mix, mix well and chill in the fridge and you have yummy onion dip!

                          Yes I know that is Sandra Lee-ing it (as we say in my house... I detest that (insert pejorative here)) but it is a childhood comfort food.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                            I don't have a lot of guilt, but I don't like waste. So .....last night I made 10 mini banana loaf cakes (Dorie Greenspan's banana bundt cake recipe x2) using the leftover Hanukah sour cream and 8 bananas that I'd frozen when they were past their prime. Now I have more room in the freezer, more room in the fridge and ten nice little gifts. Swelling with pride - so glad you asked!

                            And potatohouse, thanks for the onion dip reminder - a college favorite. Perfection with Lays rippled potato chips.

                            1. re: janeh

                              I think I have to stop at the store on the way home and get sour cream, Lipton's Onion Soup mix and a bag or two of Ruffles...

                          2. Oh god yes. I'm trying so hard to stop buying much lately because I have so much already and it pains me to throw things out. Expiration dates make me crazy. I know that logically, many things are not 'bad' at those dates, but I end up in a rush to use things up before then and nowadays even after then.

                            Currently I have a whole bunch of half used condiments in the fridge that have been in there an excessive amount of time (beyond my comfort level to use) but I've been avoiding tossing them because of how bad it makes me feel. I usually have to take a 'rip it off like a band-aid' approach. A quick grab and toss. That'll happen soon I hope.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Tovflu

                              A few years back, there was a thread on "What's the oldest thing in your refrigerator" It was pretty funny.

                              wow I can't believe I got it almost word for word

                            2. Unless your pantry is particularly spare, there are plenty of baked goods incorporating sour cream that you ought to be able to make out of on-hand ingredients. For example, I've got a recipe for an sour cream ring cake for which -- beyond flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and sour cream -- the only ingredients are orange juice and grated orange or lemon rind. Also, if you dilute it with milk, you can substitute sour cream for buttermilk in many recipes.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: masha

                                My sour cream pound cake is on regular rotation in our house. Mr. Pine generally isn't a fan of "that white stuff," but he loves the pound cake.

                              2. I usually make stroganoff with leftover sour cream ... but I've also started using Greek yogurt in place of it, which I never thought I'd do. I realize that might not be appropriate for the holidays ...

                                I read recently that in the US alone, we use water the equivalent of Lake Erie every year to produce food that's never eaten (this includes food wasted at all points in the process, not just post-consumer).

                                Before getting my first dog, I had decided that I would cook for them, so since then, almost nothing has gone to waste. They eat all my 'Tamar Adler' leftovers--the last of the cilantro, the last bit of the casserole or sauce that's not a whole serving, etc. Since they cannot eat onion, if I have leftovers that I'm not about to use, I chop and pop into the freezer and use them later when cooking for myself. My city also has yard carts, so various inedible things like grape stems can go in there.

                                I typically don't cook anything that I don't want to eat ... I keep working on it till I'm happy with it. I also make a list when grocery shopping and stick to it about 98% of the time. I sit down and think about menus, and make sure I really want to eat what I'm planning to make. The other thing that really helps me is fleur de sel. I always hated the graininess of table salt on my food, so I had to get the salt exactly right during the cooking process. Now it's easy to fix that issue at the table.

                                I also shop at stores with open produce, IOW carrots that you can bag exactly how many you want vs 2-lb bags. The 2-lb bag will work out too as the dogs can eat the leftovers, but the quality is better if you choose each one yourself.

                                  1. I feel guilty about throwing out good food. I find that making smoothies helps with some of the leftover fruit and veggies. Also I have a pet rabbit. ;)
                                    My grandmothers grew up in the depression so I know my frugality is engrained.
                                    What helps me is buying more inexpensive ingredients and seeing what I can come up with. I see it as playing with my food. Some of the yummiest dishes ever created have come about because of not wanting to waste food. My friend John tells me that chinese dumplings are often a way to use up whatever is lying around in the fridge. We hounds could come up with a loong list of such creations.

                                    1. Another way of thinking about this, is in the real of children and food and the concept of "cleaning your plate".

                                      In the obesity/healthy living research, they recommend not encouraging children to clean their plate because it leads to children (and then adults) not being able to pick up on their body's cues when they've had enough. I guess in the realm of what are the important lessons to teach, this adds a new wrinkle.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: cresyd

                                        In my world, eating proper portion sizes and not wasting food are perfectly consistent with each other. Eating more than you need is another way of wasting food. I don't understand why leftovers are anathema to some people. To me they mean less work.

                                        1. re: foiegras

                                          I think this point is more to children, where just because the parent has assumed "this is the proper serving for a child this age" - that it's still important to let the child ultimately decide how much to eat - if they're not hungry then they should stop eating.