This is never acceptable. But in times of crisis is absolutely vital that our food waste bins be virtually empty.
So, today, I want to share some ideas on how to achieve this and stretch your food stocks.
My credentials for doing this? Not only am I am middle-of-the-road prepper and mother of six (most of whom are now adults), but I also worked for a couple of years as a cook/chef in the public sector. That means that I took those food hygiene courses so I know how to fact check my sources.
Let’s begin with some basics, the meaning of those freshness labels:
Best By – This means that this product can still be used past this date, but the taste may not be the same. You should also be more careful to make certain it has not gone off. Check for signs of mold or separation.
Use By – This one is important. It means what it says. Unless it has been frozen…
Which brings me to the next basic, freezing:
Food that are approaching their Use By date can be cooked and stored to extend their lives.
If those hamburgers are Use By today, then cook them today even if you aren’t going to eat them today. You can extend that Use By date by three days by cooking them and storing them in the fridge. Better yet, freeze them. In your fridge/freezer, they can remain useable for three to four months. And if like our @HomeCrazzyHome you have a deep freeze, they can be kept for nine months to a year.
You can also freeze many everyday dairy products.
Milk, cheese, sour cream, double cream, butter, and margarine can all be frozen for later use. But the freezing process will cause changes to their inconsistencies and sometimes separation. So, it is best to use thawed products in your cooking.
I would suggest that you even freeze them in smaller, single-use quantities because once thawed you must use them within three days. So, for milk, wash and reuse old plastic water bottles. Pour milk into them, leaving room at the top for expansion due to freeze. For your creams, I suggest using ice trays or any small molds you can find. Freeze them until solid, remove from trays, and store in old plastic takeaway tubs. Then you have convenient ready-to-go portions for casseroles, soups, and baking.
Eggs are a bit trickier. You can 100% safely bake and freeze quiches. This could also use up any vegetables that may be approaching their Best By dates. Do NOT freeze hard-boiled eggs or eggs in their shells. Some sources say that you can break open the egg, beat the yolk and whites together, and freeze this way. I will be trying this one, especially for baking. But I cannot verify it at this time. Other sources say that only the whites can safely be frozen. But if you scramble them, it is also safe to freeze.
Again, all of these will change the consistency of these foods. So, it is best to use them in your cooking or in the case of milk over cereal.
Most fresh fruits and vegetables can be frozen.
The key to this one is knowing whether it is best to cook them first and how much.
Some fruit can be frozen fresh, such as bananas, even in their skins, grapes, mangoes, peaches, kiwis, and many others. You can even mix them together, store in those takeaway containers, and freeze. Take the container out of the freezer, add with some frozen juice, and blend in your blender for an excellent, nutritious smoothie treat for yourself or the kids.
Oh, by the way, the vegans have a wonderful secret called ‘nice-cream.’ Peel and freeze bananas broken or cut into one-inch pieces. Once frozen remove and toss in your blender or food processor with other fruit, chocolate powder, peanut butter, or other favorites. Blend until smooth and then refreeze until solid. Note: this does not keep well long-term. It turns into a solid brick. So use it that same day.
Speaking of old bananas – banana bread can be baked, cut into pieces, and frozen. Or just make it into muffins that can be frozen and taken out individually. Or peel, stick on a chopstick (that came with that takeaway), wrap in aluminum/kitchen foil (because it is marginally more sustainable than plastic wrap), then freeze. Melt chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, then dip the frozen bananas in it for a quick, easy lollie for the kids or you. Note:
Don’t let that chocolate go to waste either. Make brownies with your frozen or fresh eggs. Then freeze the brownies if you have any left.
As for vegetables, most of those are best frozen after parboiling. If that is a term you are not familiar with, it means to boil them briefly, one to two minutes. Just enough to soften them slightly. Then you need to drain them, allowing them to dry well, before putting them into those takeaway containers.
This is true of green beans, peas, carrots, and many other vegetables. Greens such as kale and spinach are best if fully cooked, drained and then frozen or if you have washed them well and dried them you can freeze them raw. But like your dairy, it may change the consistency.
Potatoes should be fully cooked. I recommend peeling (do NOT throw those peels away, but I’ll tell you more about that another day), dicing them, then boiling until al dense, meaning cooked but not overcooked. Drain them then freeze in old margarine tubs. You can freeze mashed potatoes too. But with this one, it is best to bake it until golden brown in the oven or use as topping for cottage or fish pies.
As for baked/jacket potatoes, which is one of @PanKwake’s few approved foods, I have found this website with a suggested method that I will be attempting today. I am hoping that at least it will be good enough for her twice baked potatoes skins and we can use the insides for our mash. I will let you know how it goes.
Note: Lettuce CANNOT be frozen. If you are a big salad eater, I strongly suggest that you begin to grow your own. You can find cut and grow varieties that can feed your family for almost a month.
What is more, you can regrow lettuce from the stalk of your head. Once you get to about an inch from the end, stop chopping, fill an old plastic cup or those sour cream tubs with a bit of water, place that end of the lettuce in it. Do NOT cover it with water. It will sprout new leaves in about a week. You can either cut those leaves and eat them or plant out in a pot.
I will be doing a blog on growing your own, even inside your tiny London flat, later this week. So stay tuned.
Batch cooking and freezing food is also a good idea.
Especially for days when you are not feeling up to cooking or if you become ill. Some good dishes that can be cooked in quantities and frozen include:
Lasagna, cannelloni, and pasta bakes – But don’t put the cheese on top. Bake as you normally would, then remove the lid once done, cover with your frozen cheeses, and broil for another 5 minutes until it melts. This works best in those aluminum trays with cardboard lids. But you can use other containers as well.
Chili – Can the biggest pot you have of it. Add extra cans of beans to stretch it as far as you can. Portion into those repurposed plastic containers. Just enough for you or your family. Then allow to cool before freezing.
Spaghetti Bolognese – Same as above.
Stews and soups – Same
Casseroles – such as shepherd’s pie, fish pie, tuna casserole, and many others can also be cooked in advance, portioned into those aluminum trays, and frozen for later use. I do tend to freeze the ones that are topped with mash without it as I find that they cook at different times. So, your mash on top may be burnt but the meat beneath still frozen.
Bread and muffins – Just as store brought items can be frozen and thawed. So, too, can homemade ones. If you don’t have a large family, I suggest portioning it out into individual or a couple of days at a time servings.
One word of caution: Rice is the most dangerous food to freeze or reheat.
I am NOT saying that it cannot be safely done. It can be. But most of those dodgy tummy complaints with takeaways aren’t from the meats but as a result of the rice. If you freeze rice, be certain to heat it all the way through. Microwaving is fine. Be please, please be careful. you don’t want you or your family to end up ill from this one.
Okay, that is the basics. Now, hopefully, if anyone panic bought, they won’t be in a position of allowing too much, if anything, to go to waste. That is the last thing anyone needs in this world.
I have always done my best to keep to these standards, but I am getting truly fanatical about it now. My ideal is to have only onion peels in my food waste because they don’t compost well. Oh, that reminds me, yes, onions can be put in your food processor. Chopped, then frozen, even in those ice trays. Same for fresh herbs. Now go save all those foods that are approaching their use-by dates.
From our @HomeCrazzyHome to yours