This article is part of a four-part series on buying, storing, preserving and composting foods to prevent waste
We have an extreme problem with inefficiency when it comes to food production across the globe. The resulting excess usage of natural resources has an enormous effect on the environment. As individuals we can take small actions that add up to big improvements. Americans waste about a pound of food per day and fruits and vegetables are some of the most frequently wasted foods. Here are some ways to consider preserving food so it gets eaten instead of tossed.
Freeze: Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet, but often they are just as nutritious frozen, even more so if it means they don’t go bad in the bottom of your crisper. If you find that you are often unable to use a whole head of broccoli or bunch of carrots before they go limp, try freezing them yourself or choosing to buy them frozen. Wash and prep your produce before you freeze it. To prevent it from freezing into a giant clump, freeze everything flat on a cookie sheet for a few hours or overnight and then transfer to a plastic bag or tightly sealing container.
Most leftovers will last 7-10 days in the fridge or 6 months or more in the freezer. It’s great to make extra food and plan to have leftovers, but no one wants to eat the same thing three meals a day. Freeze what won’t likely get used during the week within a day or two of making it and in manageable portion sizes. If you wait until they are on the verge of going bad, you may never take them out of the freezer! Likewise, if the portion in the freezer is too big, the time might never be right.
Preserves: Acid, sugar, or salt in any combination can slow microbial growth and keep food tasty longer. Think of how long jam or pickles stay good in the fridge. It’s easy to cook fruit down with a little sugar and maybe a squeeze of lemon into a yummy jam or sauce for toast, yogurt, or just plain for dessert. Start at a low heat and keep the lid on so the fruit steams and releases its juices before it comes to a boil. Cook with a few spoonfuls of sugar until you reach your desired consistency. Let cool and refrigerate or freeze. Or eat warm, maybe with a splash of cream.
Pickles can be as simple as just tossing veggies with some salt and vinegar and coming back to them later. That will buy you a few extra days. Or you can pack your veggies in with a brine made from vinegar, water, salt and any aromatics you might like. Find a great recipe here www.feastingathome.com/quick-pickled-vegetables. Your homemade pickles will be great on a green salad or in a sandwich. Serve them with a cheese plate or just eat them straight out of the jar!
Mieko Diener is a dietetic intern with a master’s degree in nutritional science from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.