I’ve gotten a couple of reader questions via email, and I thought I’d answer them in a post in case some of you were wondering some of these same things.
How do you figure how much to cook to avoid waste but still have ‘enough’? My kids’ appetites are all over the place and I can never tell whether my son will want 3 chicken legs or just one will do.
I’ve tried writing a post on this before, but it just hasn’t come out quite right. I’ll give it a try here, though.
Basically, I count on about one serving of the main dish per person and one serving leftover for my husband’s lunch. For instance, if I’m making panini, I make enough for each of us to have one sandwich with one leftover. Granted, this is not as cut and dried when I’m making something like Hibachi Chicken and Shrimp, but I do usually have a general idea of how much we’ll need.
Of course, my kids’ appetites do vary from day to day and I solve this problem by having larger quantities of the side dishes available. So, if they’re hungry after eating the main dish serving, they eat more bread or more salad(or whatever sides we’re having). I’d rather have leftover side dishes than main dishes because they’re usually easier to remake into something else, or they’re more appealing to eat leftover, at least to me. We have no problem eating leftover bread, fruit, or salad around here.
My kids are really more into side dishes than main dishes, so they’re very happy to eat just one serving of the main dish and then have seconds of something else if they’re still hungry. If your kids are huge fans of the main dish, my method probably won’t work as well, though.
Readers, if you have any great ideas, feel free to leave a comment.
I should say, too, that sometimes I overestimate how much food we need at dinner. At times like those, I have to eat leftovers for lunch along with my husband, or figure out how to make something out of the leftovers. So, my zero waste weeks don’t always happen because I’ve magically cooked the right amount…sometimes they only happen because I’ve been creative and/or persevering with the leftovers.
When you are serving leftovers, do you consider anything left after the second meal waste? Do you just reheat what you think will get eaten? What about food that is left on the plates after the meal?
I don’t often serve leftovers for dinner, so I’m probably not the best qualified to answer this question! Most of our leftovers get eaten at lunch time. In any case, when I heat them up I try to just heat up what will be eaten. For instance, if I have 10 pieces of stromboli left, I will just broil/microwave/toast as many pieces as I think we will eat initially, and then in anyone wants seconds, I heat up more. I’m not so careful when it comes to something like soup, which usually isn’t worse for having been heated multiple times. Regardless of the type of food we’re talking about, if there are leftovers leftover(there’s no good way to say that!), I just put them back in the fridge and heat them up later. Occasionally they don’t get eaten, of course, and then they end up in my food waste photo.
I try to be on the conservative side when I dish food up on my children’s plates, as I figure that they can always ask for more. Despite my best efforts, though, there are sometimes small amounts of food left on their plates. If it’s something like an apple slice, I’ll save it and use it in cooking, or if it’s something really tasty and is still relatively sanitary, I’ll eat it. If it’s something that’s unsalvageable I just throw it away. I don’t count this in my food waste photos both because the amount wasted is so miniscule and also because there’s not really anything I can do to prevent that waste sometimes. I hope this doesn’t seem duplicitous…it really doesn’t happen that much, so it’s not as though I’m hiding a bunch of waste from you all. As you know if you’ve been hanging around here long, I have no qualms about baring my food waste to the world!
On a related note, our kids have to finish what’s on their plates before they have more of something(although they never have to clean their plate if they don’t want to). This prevents them from doing things like filling up on bread while leaving their salad and chicken on their plates. Not only does this reduce the chances of them wasting food, I think it also helps them not to be picky eaters.
Thanks for sending in the questions! If you have more, email me(TheFrugalGirl at gmail. com)or leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to answer.
photo by xurbie