Avoiding Food Waste, in pictures (naturally)

Because I cannot stand to blog without pictures. ;)

I show you my food waste or lack thereof on a weekly basis, yes, but I don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about how I avoid food waste. So, every now and then I like to show you what I’ve been doing to use up odds and ends from my fridge. (hmm…upon further inspection, it looks like I’ve only done this once before.)

Happily, most of these small efforts took only a little bit of time and energy. In fact, I often think that the actual using up of food isn’t the hard part…most often the difficult part is simply managing to notice what needs to be used up. So, regular fridge inspections have become an important tool in my fight against food waste.

Here’s what I found in my fridge, and what I did with the stuff I found.

I had a lone lemon half sitting around, so I cut it up and squeezed it into a glass of water (given that most people don’t actually eat lemons, I figured this counted as using it up). Fortunately for me, my kids like drinking water with lemon in it just as much as I do, so this is a surefire way to use up extra lemons before they get fuzzy. Naturally, we compost our lemon slices after we squeeze out the juice.

Somehow, we ended up with too many grapes, and one package of them was getting to be a little bit on the squishy, wrinkly side. So, I washed them, de-stemmed (spellchecker says that is most certainly not a word) them, put them into an empty cereal bag, closed it up with a chip clip, and put the whole thing in the freezer. These will be used in yogurt smoothies, because in that form, no one will notice that they were a little bit wrinkly.

As I perused the contents of the fridge, I noticed we were getting a little bit long on apples, so I cut up about half of them, cooked them in a pot with a bit of water…

and made applesauce.

The last couple of handfuls from a bag of spinach went into a smoothie (honest to goodness, you don’t really taste the spinach. Shut your eyes, drink it, and you’ll be a believer).

And last, but not least, we dutifully used up leftover chocolate birthday cake frosting by spreading it on crackers. It was painful, but you gotta do what you gotta do. ;)

If you want more information about avoiding food waste, check out my oh-so-creatively-titled post about how to cut back on food waste. And do consider joining the all of us that participate in Food Waste Friday…I can almost guarantee that it’ll help you decrease your food waste (added bonus: avoiding food waste saves you money!).


  1. says

    Yay for you and your creativity! So much better than just tossing it in the trash can. Just this morning I tossed a blueberry muffin into the trash; it was forgotten about under the dome of the cake plate. Not pretty.

  2. says

    Does crumbling up an apple cake that turned out disgustingly bad and putting it in the feeder for the birds count? I just couldn’t bear to throw it in the trash. I also turned some Girl Scout cranberry cookies in to crumbs to used as a crust for 7 layer bars. Now what to do with a head of leaf lettuce that sat in the fridge while I was away for over a week? My composting efforts have failed due to limited apartment space.

  3. WilliamB says

    For me the most important factor is knowing how to cook, so I know what can be done with random bits and how recipes can be altered. The next most important factor is knowing what needs to be used up. I find that clear containers and a not-stuffed fridge are real helps. I had to train myself to open the crisper regularly and even so, that’s my Black Hole of Waste. Especially lettuce. I eat it out of duty, not love, and it’s very hard to repurpose.

    My most common ways to use up leftovers are soup, omlets (western or Japanese), and smoothies. I did something different last night: I made a bread that uses cooked rice and raisins (the recipe calls for currents but I had raisins to use).

    Kristen, do you use zest? You could zest the lemon (and any other citrus) before you use it. Put it on a plate and set the plate out to let the zest dry – I use a cold oven with the light turned on.

    Jinger, I would call that a very good disposal of wasted food. As for the waste itself, sometimes new recipes just don’t turn out well. I’m glad you didn’t feel the need to force yourself to eat it. Are you sure all the lettuce is no good? Maybe some of the inside is still in good shape.

    Which reminds me, cutting away the bad bits and eating the rest is a good way to reduce waste.

  4. HeatherS says

    I don’t know why I have never thought of freezing grapes for later smoothie use! So glad I read this today as some wrinkly grapes were just about to be thrown out today and now I can save them.

  5. says

    Kristen, you are simply fantastic! I didn’t take photos, though maybe I should to hold myself accountable, but I had to throw out a lone celery stalk (now that I think about it, I probably could have frozen it a couple of days ago to make stock) and 2 Belgian endives that I bought, then couldn’t find any recipes for!

    I did however juice a bag of myer lemons that were going to go bad and the juice will be frozen for things like lemon bars and such later. I also zested a lemon we used for citron presses to freeze the zest to use later as well, although WilliamB, I would love to know how to dry it and what to do with it once it is dried…..I tried googling it a week or so ago but couldn’t find much info!

    • WilliamB says

      I use a little gadget called a zester but you can use a sharp knife as well.
      1. Zest the citrus fruit over a plate, getting the colored part but not the bitter white part.
      2. Put the plate aside to let the zest dry. I use the oven with the light (but not the heat!) turned on.
      3. When it’s dry, put it in a baggie or jar.

      I use it mostly in baked goods. I never have enough so I should be able to think of a lot of uses.
      – When making a pie use a complementary zest in the crust.
      – In muffins or quickbreads, or mixed with sugar and sprinkled on top. I prefer the latter because you taste the citrus more.
      – In lightly sweetened rolls.
      – I suppose in waffles or pancakes, but I think the flavor would be overwhelmed by the other toppings.
      – To brighten sweet syrups, such as blueberry (which I love to make homemade but the blueberries never last long enough).
      – Mix with softened butter to make flavored butter. Orange or lemon can be used to cook fish or chicken, as well as on toast or in baked goods.

      • says

        Thank you! I love my zester, I generally zest lemons to add a bit of hidden flavor to blueberry things, but always have too much zest (we eat A LOT of lemons). Thanks for these instructions!

    • Lisa says

      Lemon zest is also yummy in fish fillets baked with cream in the oven or in buttermilk shakes. I know, it sounds strange, but it tastes like cheesecake.

  6. Tammy says

    What great ideas – both in the post and comments! I have been trying (because of inspiration found here!!) to reduce my waste – I don’t have a blog and therefore don’t post pictures – but have really been trying. This post gave me some good ideas and I appreciate that. One thing I did last week with some oldish bread was to make my own seasoned bread crumbs. I used them in a recipe and they were great! I will never buy bread crumbs again! Thanks for the inspiration! T

    • WilliamB says

      Japanese omlets are called “donburi.” They’re really easy. This recipe is for 4 eggs and will serve 2 people. If you’re making the rice as well, start cooking the donburi after you turn off the heat under the rice. Both recipes can be doubled or tripled or probably quadrupled; you’ll need larger pans but the cooking time remains the same.

      1/2 c. chicken stock
      1/4 c. soy sauce (I prefer low-salt)
      1/4 c. mirin (Japanese cooking wine, available at supermarkets) or rice vinegar
      1 onion, sliced thinly
      optional: tofu, in thin slices or small cubes
      optional: about 1/2 c. chicken, pork or beef, thinly sliced
      4 eggs, beaten
      rice, cooked Asian-style (see below)

      1. Put stock, soy, mirin, onions and optional tofu in large pan. (Doesn’t have to be nonstick.)
      2. Simmer till the onions are tender and medium brown (means they’ve absorbed some liquid).
      3. Optional: add meat, simmer on very low heat till meat is cooked.
      4. Add the eggs, stir till well mixed with the liquid, cook on low till done.
      5. Serve over Asian style rice, below.

      Asian style rice:
      This is best with medium-grain rice but long grain (what most Westerners eat) will be fine. The resulting rice is sticky, which is as it should be.
      1 c. rice
      1.5 c. water

      1. Put rice and water into 1.5 or 2 qt pan with lid. (If you don’t have a lid, use tin foil weighted down with a plate.)
      2. Bring to a boil, boil 2 min.
      3 Reduce to lowest heat, cover, cook 15 min.
      4. Without taking off the lid, turn off heat and let rest 10 min.

      • says

        We are big donburi fans here. Actually, anything served over rice in a bowl can be donburi–you don’t need eggs, but their included in many donburi because they’re economical. One of our favorites is oyako-don (chicken and egg): http://thinnerandwiser.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/frugal-recipe-of-the-week-oyako-don/

        Medium-grain rice works OK, but short-grain, or “pearl” rice makes great sticky rice too! Although it’s said you don’t have to, I find that giving the rice a good washing before cooking improves the flavor as well.

        • says

          The topping might seem kind of watery when it’s done, but just scoop up the liquid as well as the chicken and egg; it will be absorbed by the rice.

          • WilliamB says

            I think the liquidy bits and the onion are the best part. I’ll add foods that need to be used up but my favorite input is onions only.

  7. Sherry Lynn says

    I just wanted to second the part about NOT tasting the spinach in smoothies, we do it all the time, on purpose, for the iron, folic acid, Vit. K, and such….Raw spinach really doesn’t have much flavor.

    I love this…thanks so much.

  8. says

    I love freezing things before they waste. I do this with many fruits and vegetables and it has saved me a lot of food and money. I also like pureeing and processing things, because in that form it is very tough to tell that it was a bit wrinkly, as you say ;) My latestthing is pureed vegetable soup. I make this periodically to use up the last of the week’s veggies before I buy new produce. I just cook up roughly chopped veggies in a pot, add a bit of herbs and spices and then blend to desired consistency, usually minced. With homemade bread, it’s a nice addition to a meal, whether lunch or dinner.

  9. says

    This is funny because just yesterday I devoted myself to eating up the last of a large container of grapes my husband had bought at Costco. It was all the singles that were rolling around so lonesome and definitely at risk of being forgotten. I washed them up and left them in a bowl on the countertop, and sure enough, I’d eaten them up by the time the kids came home from school.

    Most importantly though, I got an enormous container out of my fridge and freed up some space. (And I will take the container to my “New Season Market” to recycle it.)

    Like your frosting on crackers, it was a terrible sacrifice. ;-)

    Katy Wolk-Stanley
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

  10. Shannon says

    Kristen, The link that says “Advertise” in your menu on the top of every page doesn’t work – just a FYI!

  11. Shana says

    I have to second having teenagers in the home as my best known option for avoiding food waste. We rarely have anything to throw away :)

  12. Laurie says

    Nice post. Makes me want to go home and get creative with what’s left in the fridge.

    The kids and I freeze red grapes on purpose to eat as a frozen treat. delish.

    • Michelle says

      Yes, we have been known to make extra frosting on purpose simply so we can make “graham cracker cookies.” Like we need both a cake AND graham cracker cookies around the house at the same time……….yum!

  13. says

    Love this post! Lots of terrific ideas, especially freezing grapes that are about to go.
    My husband is our resident “gleaner.” He regularly goes through the fridge and cupboards and either eats the odds and ends as a snack or figures out a way to add them to next day’s lunch.

  14. ~Michelle~ says

    Thanks to today’s post, I remembered a small amount of chocolate icing in my fridge, as well. I simply whipped up a pan of brownies (from scratch, of course) and created a home for the frosting! My family will be thankful after dinner tonight. ;)

    And, with our daughter’s pricey high school tuition quickly approaching, I’ve been taking advice from you and putting it to use. Cutting corners does not have to be painful, that’s for sure. It, actually, makes you feel good, creative, and is even kind of fun! ;) I’ve always been the sale shopping, coupon clipping kind of gal, but reading your posts is helping me take that a few steps further. Thanks!


  15. It's me, Sam says

    I mut admit, that I now really watch the dribs and drabs of leftovers. On Saturday, I had a handfull of mushrooms and a limp stalk of broccoli hanging out in my fridge. Normally I’d toss it in the garbage, but not this time. I ended up making a stirfry out of it, using up an orange pepper that was in the freezer, along with frozen rice and some chicken. It ended up being a tasty lunch, and I felt better about not wasting . I

  16. says

    Wow,I loved this post. I wouldn’t mind hearing how you try to avoid food waste each week along with your weekly food waste post. Thanks about the tip for the grapes, I’ve been staring at my grapes wondering how to save them.

    Any tips on lettuce?

  17. Kristin says

    Love the post. I told my husband a couple months ago that we should try to not waste any food at all and coming from a family of 5 he was all for it as they never wasted a morsal of food. I came home last night and proudly told me how he ate the rest of the lettuce, ranch dressing, crackers for croutons and turkey meat in the fridge for a salad, then proceeded to give me a cheese and crackers snack idea for the kids to use up the enormous amounts of sliced cheese and ritz crackers we have from my couponing stockpiles. It makes it fun when your spouse in on board with the ideas also.

    • says

      My husband doesn’t come up with many ideas, but if I suggest anything he rolls with it! I love a husband willing to help out in any regard to this!

  18. Dena says

    Hello everyone.I’m new to posting here.I wanted to let you know after reading this thread,I did an inventory of my fridge and pantry.This morning I did my grocery shopping, (no coupons) and spent $38 for a week’s worth of groceries for my family of four.I love all the great ideas here!

  19. Kim says

    I like to buy lemons or limes when they go on sale but then never seem to use them up. Slice them and stick them in the freezer to add to iced tea, water, or any other cocktails you might like them for! :)

  20. Stacy says

    I just wanted to tell you that I am so aware of what I buy now and what is left in my Fridge .. to eat what ever we have left . Now even we eat baked potatoes i save the skin and make potato skin . Make my own sloppy joes sauce it is sssso easy. Thanks for the bread recipes they are wonderful. my husband loves the cinnamon rolls!!!!!!!

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