Friday, April 03, 2020

Eliminating Food Waste

  With bare grocery store shelves around the world, it is time to pay close attention to how we manage the food supply in our homes.  In order to stretch things and make what we have last, we need to be wise and industrious like the woman in Proverbs 31.  It will take a new measure of strength for us to navigate this current situation, but I believe God has equipped us to do it. 

"She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.  She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night...She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness."
~Proverbs 31:17-18, 27

   As things get more and more serious, I am really doing my best to avoid wasting anything in the kitchen.  This takes planning and being mindful of how I do things.  I thought I would share some examples of what I am doing in the event it might help someone else.

  Colton and I are coffee drinkers, but we generally don't have more than two cups each per day.  We have cut back to one and this is honestly plenty for us.  I make them individually using a pour over system and this ensures that no coffee is left over or wasted.  Doing it this way actually makes a gourmet cup of coffee, so it feels like a luxury instead of a sacrifice!  I use a reusable Gold Tone filter that I bought earlier in the year ($6 on Amazon) so we no longer have to buy paper filters.  The used coffee grounds will start going in the compost pile for my garden.

Pour-over Coffee Method

 Other than coffee, we generally just drink water.  We did have some juice that we purchased on sale, and Colton stretched it by diluting it with a little water.  We are not used to things being super sweet so we don't mind this.  Now that it is heating up in our part of the country, I will start making iced tea on occasion, but I will save it for when Colton is home and able to enjoy it with me.  I have spearmint growing in a pot, and this is good for adding to water and tea for flavor.

  Breakfast time has been pushed back to about 10am, and supper has been moved up to 5pm.  We started doing this when Colton wanted to try intermittent fasting (supposed to be great for health and weight loss) and it worked well for us.  This way we eat two big meals and a light snack mid afternoon, instead of three meals per day.  This also allows us to get to work in the garden before it starts getting too hot.  Colton and I have our coffee and John has his milk first thing and then we can get started with our day.  The exception to this is that I will give something to John to hold him over until breakfast if he is hungry, but generally he is just ready to go outside!

  For breakfast, eggs are obviously the top choice since we have chickens.  But the other day I realized that it is also important how I cook them.  For example, frying them takes more oil than scrambling them, so scrambling them it is.  If I use a cast iron or non-stick skillet, I do not have to use my scouring powder like I would with my stainless steel pans when I wash them.  When I fry bacon, I always save the grease to pour into a jar that I keep in the fridge.  I use just a small pat of this in the pan when I scramble my eggs.  It also makes the best biscuits you've ever tasted if you substitute it for the shortening in your recipe! 

  I have also started saving the egg shells.  After rinsing and drying them, I put them in a jar.  These can be crushed and given back to my chickens as a calcium supplement or added to the garden.  I have also seen instructions for turning them into calcium powder for human consumption so I will be looking into that.  Nothing is being thrown away!

  Bread is a great filler and can really stretch a meal, so I have been baking it in some form or another almost daily.  I made biscuits for breakfast one morning to go with our eggs, but we did not eat the whole pan like we normally do!  (Yes, we really like biscuits.)  We had a couple each for breakfast and the rest were saved to be warmed for supper.  We put jam on our biscuits but not butter like we usually do, and they were still delicious. 

  That is another thing.  As these are not plenteous times, we have to pace ourselves.  We are used to always having an abundance of food in front of us, which is a blessing, but I think this sometimes tempts us to keep eating even when we are no longer hungry!  To combat this, I have started fixing (dishing up) everyone's plates before we sit down to eat.  Another option would be to set food aside for leftovers before even putting it on the table.  I can assure you that I am giving generous portions, everyone gets a balanced meal, and no one is leaving the table hungry, so please don't think I'm withholding food from my family!  My family's health, nourishment, and well-being are of the utmost importance to me and this is just one way I am making what we have last.  

  Meal planning is probably the biggest way to eliminate waste.  Use fresh items first before they go bad, and check the dates on your canned goods to make sure you are using up the oldest food and rotating it properly.  If milk is a little past its 'use by' date, use it to make biscuits or pancakes, or freeze it to do so later.  Leftovers can be turned into other meals, or parts of other meals.  If there is not enough of something for everyone, it can still be saved and we can have a choose-your-own-leftovers night.  The homemade herb bread above was served one night with spaghetti, and the rest of the loaf was used the next day for grilled cheese sandwiches.  One side of the sandwich was spread with butter, as usual, but the other side was spread with bacon grease reserved from breakfast.  It was delicious.

  The crumbs from the cutting board were not brushed into the trash, but into a bowl I am keeping in the refrigerator for the chickens.  This is where the scraps go, although with very little waste, there are consequently very few scraps! 

  And some scraps I am keeping for us.  For example, I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer for vegetable scraps.  Peels, trimmings, etc. go into this bag for when I make bone broth.  It adds extra nutrients and flavor.  When I thinned my carrots the other day, the chickens got a few of the tops, but most of them were washed and added to my bone broth bag.  Yes, carrot tops are edible!  They taste a lot like the carrots themselves and can be chopped and added to soups or salads.  I dehydrated a bunch last year for this purpose.

  I am keeping another bag in the freezer for making soup.  This is where that one leftover spoonful of peas goes, or the tomato sauce that I rinsed from the jar gets dumped.  When I decide to make soup, this bag will be added to the pot.

  Before I toss something, I just ask myself if there is anything I can do with it.  Potato water (the water that potatoes are boiled in), for instance, can be used in bread or cooled and poured onto plants.  If you aren't sure about something, just Google it!  I also save my butter wrappers and use those to grease pans before baking.

  I hope this gives you some ideas.  It really does take a different mindset and we have to get creative.  If you have any more tips, please share them in the comments!  We are all trying to get through this strange and difficult time.