Waste Not, Want Not!

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Is there anything worse than opening your refrigerator or pantry and seeing food no longer at its peak of freshness? Instead of throwing it away, hold on! There are some perfectly good (and tasty!)
uses for products otherwise headed for the trash can.

It turns out, as generations before us did, we can often find a solution to making use of what we have rather than constantly getting into a cycle of buy-throw away-repurchase. Seems wasteful, right? As society grapples with a way to reduce overall waste and improve the environment, brands are looking for innovative and delicious ways to repurpose food that might otherwise end up in landfills.

Cleaning Out the Pantry
It’s inevitable. A bag of chips didn’t get rolled back tightly enough. You bought boxed stuffing on sale after Thanksgiving; what the heck do you do with any of it? Instead of throwing it away without second thought, consider incorporating otherwise wasted products to create delectable and tasty new snacks or meals.

Instead of throwing away that bag of potato chips, transform it into a savory and sweet snack. Drizzle melted milk or dark chocolate onto chips and allow to cool before enjoying them. If the chips are more on the stale side, there’s still no reason to throw them away; toss them in a food processor and pulse until they’re crumbs to use as a breading for chicken or pork chops. The same goes for crackers, especially cheesy or savory products, as they make a fantastic coating on a variety of proteins.

Look inside any pantry and there’s likely a rogue box of stuffing there, but don’t throw it out just because the holidays are months away. Instead, use it to create a savory breakfast treat by combining it with breakfast sausage, fresh herbs (sage is fantastic) and diced onions, then forming it into a patty before frying up. Perfect for meals on the go or a way to use up items in the refrigerator, these stuffing patties are sure to be requested again.

Stale bread (a few days past its prime) is also a versatile ingredient easily transformed into an edible side dish or snack. Simply slice it in half down the middle, drizzle it with olive oil and rub it cut side down with a tomato or clove of garlic, then wrap it in foil and bake until it’s warmed through. It becomes the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or Italian dish.

Waste or Reuse?
If you cook fresh food frequently, you no doubt create a good amount of scraps when chopping vegetables and herbs. Instead of adding it to the garbage or compost bin, save it to make fresh vegetable stock. As you prepare and chop vegetables, save scraps–ends of the onion, herb stems, carrot tops–all of these products make for fantastic flavor when simmering in a pot of water to create a delicious vegetable broth. Add it to a freezer bag as you go and pop it in the freezer, then when you’re ready, all you need to do is simmer in a pot of water for two hours and strain.
When you open the fridge and see a little bit of this and a few pieces of that, it might be overwhelming to figure out what to do. There are a couple of options when you want to use up products. Chop up protein and vegetables and throw them in with eggs for a scramble or use rice or cauliflower rice to create a super-easy fried rice dish.

Waste Not
The best way to deal with wasted products is to reduce the risk of their becoming wasted in the first place; that’s easier said than done, of course. Here are some tips to consider when storing and using food so it lasts a bit longer.

Store leftovers in glass containers. Better for the environment than plastic containers, glass allows you to see the content inside, meaning you won’t forget that Salisbury steak or teriyaki chicken you made a few nights earlier.

Have leftover night. Do you like starting the week with a clean slate? One way to use up leftovers is to make one night a week leftover night; this is your chance to use anything that’s still taking up space in the refrigerator before your next trip to the store.

Think ingredients first. There are plenty of creative ways to use up wasted products or leftovers. Look at them more as ingredients rather than scraps and you’ll find tons of new ways to reinvent your favorite dishes! ■

Sources: seriouseats.com, tasteofhome.com and ivaluefood.com.