Shop seasonally—and other smart tips
I’ve also got a few more tips for you about shopping, prepping, and storing. Whenever possible, buy locally grown vegetables and local farm eggs and meat—not just for cutting down on your carbon footprint (and decreasing dependency on factory-farmed animals), but also because the food is much fresher and will last longer—vegetables especially. A beautiful bunch of greens from your local farmer can last two weeks in a paper-towel-lined zip-top bag in your fridge, while that plastic box of mixed greens you get at the grocery often seems to be rotting by the time you get it home. Try to avoid buying out-of-season produce, which has probably flown 1,000 miles to get to you and will definitely be on its way downhill. If you’ve got a winter farmers’ market in your area, give it a try.
In the kitchen, don’t bother peeling most root vegetables (like beets, turnips, and carrots) if you’re going to roast or even sauté them. The skin will be tender and it’s very good for you. Save the leafy tops on your root vegetables to sauté with garlic for a side dish, to add to soups, or to purée with Parmesan and pine nuts for pesto. If you do have vegetable scraps and no compost opportunity (our community is working on a communal compost), you can freeze them to use later in an easy vegetable broth.
In fact, getting friendly with your freezer is a smart move. A good loaf of bread will only last a day or two on the counter once it is sliced, but it will last, sliced and well-wrapped, for a month in the freezer. (Don’t refrigerate bread; it will toughen.) Tortillas, naan breads, pizza dough, croutons, nuts, leftover tomato paste or canned sauce, some cheeses and cheese rinds, some fruit juices, and of course frozen vegetables and fruits all will last much longer in the freezer than at room temperature or in the fridge. (It helps to take a little bit of extra time and wrap or bag things in small portions before freezing.) And when you think about how most of our home food waste comes from throwing out food that’s “gone bad,” the freezer makes a lot of sense.
Lastly, if you’re cooking at home, take heart—you’re already helping the food waste problem. I think the gigantic portions in restaurants and on take-out menus (and all those plastic to-go containers) generate the most egregious food waste. Home cooking rocks!