Do you ever meal prep for yourself or your family and the food doesn’t last as long as you need it to, so you’re stuck tossing food and left hungry without a meal?
I used to toss food all the time. I just thought it was a normal thing to do. And it is, but it doesn’t have to be. Food waste is (almost) a thing of the past for me. I pride myself on either recycling scraps for soup broth, or using all the ugly parts of the fruits and veggies I buy, just so I’m not tossing a heaping load into the compost.
Over the years I’ve become pretty good at eliminating waste and I’ve come to realize it starts with the way I grocery shop and meal prep. No more buying random ingredients that I don’t have a recipe for, or buying two of something just because it’s on sale. I try to buy only what I need and make sure my fresh ingredients will get used up that week.
But it’s more than that. It’s about knowing how to extend the life of what you prepare so it lasts and still tastes yummy four or five days later. Over time you’ll find that since your food lasts longer, you won’t be buying more initially with every grocery shop. Here’s a few tips on how to do it:
SAVE THE PIT
Ugh, 1 day shelf-life, am I right? Not anymore! There are two major things to know about storing avocado:
Add lemon or lime juice to avocado to prevent it from decaying.
Keep the pit with the avocado that remains or with a guac (toss it right in and eat around it).
This leads me into my next tip…
LEMON JUICE ON OR IN EVERYTHING
Here are just a few things you can add lemon juice to so you can extend their shelf-life:
shredded carrots & beets
raw chopped veggies (see below)
avocado (see above)
soups, stews & sauces (add at the end of cooking)
salad dressings (if it tastes good, of course!)
This leads me to my next tip…
A LITTLE WATER GOES A LONG WAY (with Veggies)
Ever cut up fresh veggies for dip and a day later they’re all gross and dried out? Try adding a little bit of filtered water to the bottom of the container and shake it up on the daily, changing the water every other day. An extra minute of work will help your veggies last a few extra days.
STORE COOKED NOODLES WITH OIL & SALT
I’m on the fence with this one. I’m okay with cooking noodles as I need them, while meal prepping the sauce or veggies in advance. However, I’m also a fan of not wasting extra electricity and water, so sometimes I like to prep my noodles all at once. They do stick together, though, especially brown rice noodles (my fave) due to the high level of starch. So, I add a little olive oil and sea salt and toss the noodles around before putting them in the fridge. It’s not a perfect method, but it can certainly help separate them when the time comes to ration out a meal.
STORE COMPONENTS SEPARATELY
Sometimes I cook a soup or stew, which is literally the easiest form of meal prep short of a slow cooker (which is essentially the same thing). Having said that, I love a good dynamic meal and most of my meals have multiple components - base, protein, veg, fat, and maybe a dressing. When meal prepping, store like items together - warm vs. cold, wet vs. dry.
USE THE FRIDGE AND FREEZER
Meals and snacks that would typically be shelf stable can last longer if you put them in the fridge, or better yet…the freezer! The same goes for meals you made too much of, that you know you won’t get through before the week’s out. Freeze ‘em and forget ‘em. One step further, especially if you’re freezing, try freezing meals by portion instead of in a batch. That way, when you pull it out to eat you won’t have to worry about wasting the extra that you either don’t want or can’t get through.
TAKE MEAL PREP AS FAR AS YOU CAN
Some things you think can’t be meal prepped definitely can, but you can’t take them all the way to done. Smoothies for example, can be prepped in advance by putting all the frozen fruit and nut butters together in a jar in the freezer, dry ingredients like protein powder and superfoods can be put in another smaller jar, and liquids can stay separate until it’s time to blend. Another example would be prepping your hot beverages for the day. If you like teas with fresh ingredients, put all your ingredients into jars sans liquid, including things like chopped ginger, lemon slices, and peppermint leaves, and add hot water to steep when you’re ready to drink. 5 minutes is 5 minutes and you’d be surprised at how much it helps prepare you for your week.
Practice makes perfect. The more you try things out in the kitchen the more efficient you’ll become and the less waste you’ll produce, both as a byproduct of cooking and from getting the most out of your prepared meals.
These tips should help you get started and keep you from avoiding certain recipes because you think they won’t hold well in the fridge. If you need more, you know where to find me.