Ash Wednesday is just a couple of weeks away, which means I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d like to give up for Lent this year. As someone who cooks for a living, I always seem to have a surplus of ingredients left over from recipes (a cup of sour cream, half an onion, a partial carton of beef stock, etc.). I know I can and should re-purpose this stuff so it doesn’t go to waste, but I never know off the top of my head what to do with it. Every time I open the fridge, I see them sitting innocuously on the shelf, and I remind myself that I should hunt down a recipe that uses them. Then I shut the door and immediately forget about it, my good intentions resulting in nothing but shriveled onions and waaaaay expired sour cream.
This year for Lent, I’ve decided to tackle my chronic food waste problem. My goal will be to all-but-eliminate food waste from our household in three big ways:
Start saving vegetable scraps to use for stock
- Sure, plants are biodegradable, but it just seems like such a shame to throw a way a technically edible part of the plant (like potato peelings or broccoli stalks) when I could save it instead. I have a great vegetable stock recipe that uses veggie scraps, but it takes me a long time to accumulate enough material to make it. I probably should have started a cache of frozen veggie scraps ages ago, but that’s kinda the point of all this: to get me to do what I should already be doing. Hopefully I’ll have enough scraps stored up to publish a post about the stock recipe soon! Added bonus: like many families, we abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, and homemade vegetable stock is a great start to a meat-free meal.
- Subgoal: Learn about (and implement?) urban composting. We rent our house instead of own, so a compost pile for our vegetable scraps isn’t really an option. However, during Lent I’ll be looking into urban composting to see if it’s a good fit for us.
Organize my fridge so leftover ingredients don’t get pushed to the back and forgotten
- This is the main culprit of my waste: I forget I have things. Then I clean out my fridge a month later and find containers of food I could have easily used. Right now my organizational method stinks (probably since it consists of NO method), so I need a way to make sure the random odds and ends are always visible.
- Subgoal: ALWAYS find a use for these items. It wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice to pat myself on the back for serving leftover sour cream with tacos once during Lent. Instead, I want to challenge myself to ALWAYS find a use for extra ingredients. If I make a Lenten commitment, I know I’ll be more motivated to find recipes that use them. I’m also planning to make a Pinterest page of any recipes I permanently add to my weeknight cooking repertoire as a result of this challenge (and hopefully right posts for some of them!).
- Since Lent is just as much about sacrifice as it is about making a positive change in your life, I can’t turn a blind eye to my difficulty with leftovers. I easily get bored when my meals are too repetitive, so if it takes more than a few days to finish a dish I made, I start ignoring it in favor of other food (even if I know it will go bad soon). The final part of my Lenten challenge will be to always finish leftovers and prioritize the items that will go bad sooner.
- Subgoal: Give more food away. When I cook for other people, I’m really good about keeping things professional and tidy. I pull my hair back, wash my hands, and NEVER lick my fingers. What I’m NOT good at is maintaining that same standard when I do my blog cooking. You can usually find me at 11 am on a Monday morning, still in my pajamas, with a beautifully finished dish in front of me while I stand there with uncombed hair, licking my fingers after I adjust the garnish for the millionth time. This makes me reluctant to give blog food away. It just feels gross to give away a batch of doughnuts when I know I licked glaze off my fingers as I plated them (or fear a stray hair may have fallen into the batter). This means we sometimes wind up with more food than we can eat, and some of it gets wasted. So from now on whenever I cook for the blog, the hair goes up and the fingers stay clean. No more sad food that I’m too ashamed to send to the office with the Mister!
So that’s my challenge! Starting on February 14th, I’ll be sharing an intermittent blog series chronicling my journey to less food waste. I can’t promise that I’ll post on an exact schedule (since I’m not exactly sure what I’ll consider worth sharing), but they’ll most likely appear 4-5 times throughout Lent, most likely on Tuesdays.
Normally I don’t post about stuff like Lent because it’s not relevant to what I blog about, but this year is a little different. I know there are other people out there who want to cut down on food waste too and might want to see what I learn during this process. I also want to hear from people who are succeeding where I’m failing.