By Heather Reid
Does this sound familiar: At the beginning of the week, your refrigerator is full of vegetables and fruit, and this time you’re going to use it all — really. Fast forward a few days and you open the fridge door to find wilting lettuce, limp broccoli and a bunch of sad radishes. What were you going to do with those again?
Here’s the thing about food waste, though: It’s wasteful all around. “Not only is it a waste of water and time from the farmers’ perspective, it’s often an unseen cost to families,” says Reilly Brock, a content manager at Imperfect Produce, a fruit and vegetable subscription delivery service that works with farmers to sell produce that is considered too ugly for supermarkets or restaurants directly to consumers. According to Brock, “The average family of four loses more than $1,300 a year in food waste.”
We’ve rounded up a few ideas to help you avoid food waste, save money, and feel like a kitchen ninja.
1. Make stock.
“Stock is a great catchall for the last sad carrot and the often overlooked fennel greens,” Brock says. If you have a lot of veggies that have gone limp all at once, throw them into a pot with some water, a bay leaf, and some peppercorns, and simmer for about 45 minutes, before straining through a fine-meshed sieve. If you have just a lone celery stalk or half-onion, throw it in a freezer bag until you have a critical mass of vegetables.
2. Make pesto.
Beet greens, radish greens, carrot tops and other extras are sometimes ignored as actual ingredients, but don’t throw them out! “Using your vegetables completely, root to greens, is a great way to save money and reduce waste,” says Brock. Transform those random salad greens, beet greens and other ‘tops’ into a mix-and-match pesto that you can toss with pasta, spoon over fish, or mix with plain yogurt for a quick, tasty dip.
3. Make fritters.
If you ever find yourself with too much zucchini, too many potatoes, or really anything that can be shredded and fried, the solution is simple, but genius: Make fritters. Here’s a recipe to get you started, but you can add texture, flavor and color by including other vegetables and herbs.
- 4 cups shredded vegetables (see note)
- Kosher salt
- 3 scallions or ½ small onion, minced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup unflavored almond milk (or other milk of choice)
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- ½ tsp. cayenne, optional
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado oil or ghee, for frying
- Place shredded vegetables in a colander, toss with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and let stand for 10 minutes to drain. Rinse and squeeze well in a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.
- Transfer shredded vegetables to a medium bowl and add scallions, cilantro, chickpea flour, garlic, eggs, almond milk, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne (if desired). Season with ½ to 1 tsp. salt and ¼ to ½ teaspoon pepper.
- Have ready a paper-towel-lined plate. Warm 4 Tbsp. avocado oil or ghee in a frying pan over medium heat. Spoon heaping tablespoons of fritter mixture into the warm oil, spread into 3-inch patties and cook for about 5 minutes, until deep golden brown on the bottom. Carefully flip and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer. Place on lined plate to drain. Serve warm.