I have taken a new approach to my shopping and preparing food lately, and much to my surprise, it has ended up saving us money and reducing our waste.
I am extremely prone, even with a list, to forgetting lots of crucial ingredients for meals. I have even forgotten to buy taco shells for tacos. Silly, I know. In the past, this would have resulted in me calling Jeremy at 6PM, begging him to run into Safeway on his way home. This was becoming more of a nightly routine than a once-in-a-while, and understandably, Jeremy got tired of it. And as for me, its just too much work for me to load all the kids into the car to go to the store for 2 things. I decided to turn over a new leaf and not make my husband go to the store all the time. I use what I have. Sounds like a pretty simple, no-brainer thing to do anyway though, right? Yeah, you're probably right. But that is how this whole new approach was initally started.
Then, it was wierd.... I started getting a lot of emails recently about those in 3rd world countries and what they wouldn't give to eat the stuff that is in my fridge that I forget about and end up tossing in the trash, or the excess that goes down my garbage disposal. Americans are wasteful. We have such an abundance, and have the means to replace just about anything, so we don't think twice about it. If it goes in the trash or down the disposal, oh well. But the more I think about those people who don't have what we have, and how wasteful I am, the more convicted I started to feel about my waste.
And it makes economical sense too. If a head of lettuce costs me $2.00, and I forget about it and it goes bad, that is basically $2.00 tossed in the trash. In the end, that is $2.00 that could have been spent on something else. And it all adds up.
So now I have begun a whole new system, and thought I would share. With a little creativity (and some pretty frequent help from allrecipes), you can use just about anything, use it completely, and still get something tasty. Here are a few examples....
A few weeks ago, we visited my sister-in-law, who has a great garden with an overabundance of cucumbers. When I told her husband to "load me up" with "whatever" was in their garden, he gave me, no joke, like 20 or more cucumbers! While grateful, I was thinking, what the heck am I going to do with 20-some-odd cucumbers?! I have put a few in sandwiches, made some tzatziki sauce with 1 of them... But that only used up 4 or 5 of them. That didn't exactly put a dent in it. So I went onto allrecipes.com and used their advanced search to locate a salad that used a bunch of cukes and not a lot of anything else. I found this recipe for Fresh Cucumber Salad, and made a double batch -- and used up 6 of the biggest cukes in the bag! I have to make a salad to take to a baby shower this weekend, and while I was going to run to the store and grab things to make my Asian Cabbage Salad, instead I am going to use up the rest of the cukes, making another batch. ...Whew! Crisis averted. No wasted cukes, no wasted time, no wasted gas, no wasted money.
Last night we had tacos. Once again, I had forgotten to buy taco seasoning. No biggie - I made my own. Super easy, not nearly as loaded with sodium, no preservatives whatsoever, and again, it saved money, time, and gas.
Earlier in the week, I had 2 heads of broccoli about 1 day away from being pond scum and didn't know what I was going to do with it, but didn't want to waste it. I had no meat to cook it with as a side dish, and plus, old broccoli tastes gross on its own. But, I had milk and half and half.... Ooh! A lightbulb went off! Cream of Broccoli Soup! Jeremy kept commenting that it looked like whale snot (I thought it was pretty!), but he loved it, and so did Joy and I. (Seth didn't, but he never likes broccoli, so his vote doesn't count.) Paired with some Bisquick biscuits (just Bisquick and milk - the recipe is on the box), that was dinner. And it was delicious!
Then there was the "refridgerator quiche" I made when my sister was here. I had been sick all but 2 days she was here (mastitis SUCKS!!), so I hadn't gotten to grocery shop. Jeremy was in Portland that night, and my sister doesn't have a domestic gene in her DNA, so dinner was left up to me. I wasn't going out, nor was my sister, so I had to use pretty much nothing. Somehow though, I created a really yummy quiche - I had to write down the recipe. (And I submitted it to allrecipes.)
1 zucchini, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 roma tomato, diced
10 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
Saute' zucchini, carrot, and green beans in olive oil until firm-tender. Pour into the bottom of a metal pie pan. Stir in diced tomato, basil, and parsley, and spread evenly over bottom of pan. Sprinkle cheeses evenly over the veggies.
In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, milk, dill, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour over cheese.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the heat up to 425 and bake another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown on the top, and there is no liquid remaining when toothpick is inserted.
I guess my point is, its NOT that hard to cut your costs and your wasteful impact. This approach, literally, cut my grocery bill this week in about 1/2! I didn't have time to get everything (at 12:55, only 4 aisles into the shopping trip, I remembered I had to be at the school at 1:20 to pick Seth up for early release day), so I just got some produce, some meat, some dairy, some pasta noodles of various kinds, and a few other staples, and I will be getting a minimum of 6 meals out of it - for approximately $75!! Not to mention the saved time and gas for last-minute trips to the store.
So yeah.... Waste not, want not. (Isn't that what our grandmas always used to tell us anyway?)