When you’re a plant-based vegan who’s cooking for one, it’s easy to let unused ingredients go to waste. But with a little bit of planning, you can avoid wasting food and save money at the grocery store.
Here are ten easy tips to help you avoid wasting food when you live alone.
1. Plan Your Meals
Hands down, this has been the best thing I’ve done for my grocery budget and for stopping food waste in my home.
Once a week (usually Saturday night or Sunday morning), I eyeball what is in the pantry and refrigerator and plan meals accordingly for the upcoming week.
For example, today I noticed an unopened box of pasta and will be incorporating it into a pasta salad and at least one pasta lunch or dinner for this coming week. I also have three lemons that need to be used, so I will be slicing one for iced lemon water during the week and at least one more when I make my vegan lemon pasta recipe.
2. Shop Smarter
When you are cooking for one or even two people, it’s easy to overbuy at the grocery store. The sales are designed to make you buy, whether you eat or even like the food or not. And with our economy tanking, prices are higher than ever, so it’s even more important to save where you can!
To avoid wasting food, always make a list before you go grocery shopping. Only buy what is on the list or what you absolutely need. This way, you’ll avoid having excess food that ends up going to waste, and you’ll save money too.
And don’t forget to shop from the bulk bins! This way you pay only for what you need or can use, and the quality is often fresher than the same bagged products.
3. Get creative with leftovers
If you have leftovers, find a way to turn them into a new meal. No one likes to eat the same thing day after day, which is what we solo dwellers often end up doing!
Think of leftovers as an opportunity to try something new
For example, if you have some leftover rice, try making fried rice or a rice pudding. Turn leftover vegetables into a soup or a stir-fry, and with leftover tomatoes, use them on a sandwich or in a salad.
So the next time you have some leftovers, don’t just reheat them and eat them as is. Avoid wasting food and get creative – let’s see what new dish you create!
4. Learn how to freeze leftovers properly
One of the best ways to avoid wasting food is to freeze leftovers. Freezing not only prevents food from going bad, but it also makes it easy to reheat and eat later. Plus, freezing leftovers is a great way to save time and money.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when freezing leftovers:
- Let the food cool completely before putting it in the freezer. Otherwise, the food releases moisture as it freezes, which can cause freezer burn.
- Make sure to wrap the food tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This helps prevent freezer burn and keeps the food fresh longer.
- Label the storage container with the date and the contents so you know what it contains and how long it has been in the freezer.
- Use airtight containers or freezer bags for liquid foods like soup or stew. To avoid spills, place the container in a bowl or pan before freezing.
- When reheating frozen food, be sure to thaw it completely before cooking. Otherwise, it may not heat through properly.
Freezing leftovers is a great way to can avoid wasting food and you’ll have something ready to eat when you’re short on time.
5. Use smaller dishes, pots, and pans
Have you ever cooked a big meal, only to find that you can’t finish it all? It can be frustrating to waste food, especially when you know how much effort went into making it. One way to avoid this problem is to use smaller pots and pans.
Cooking in smaller containers helps you avoid wasting food by limiting the portions you can cook. For example, using a sauce pan instead of a large pot to cook pasta or rice in will automatically create a smaller pan full of pasta or rice.
When we cook for ourselves, it’s also important to be mindful of portion sizes. One way to avoid eating too much food is to use smaller dishes.
So, instead of using a dinner plate, try using a salad plate. This simple change can help you avoid eating more food than you need.
6. Keep a well-stocked pantry
A well-stocked pantry should include basics like vegetable stock, flour, sugar, nuts, baking supplies, herbs, spices, pasta and grains like rice or quinoa.
Whether you have a bowl of leftover sauce or a fresh bag of a neighbor’s peaches, these staples will provide easy and available ingredients to help turn those extra foods into creative new dishes.
7. Learn how to re-purpose kitchen scraps
Did you know you can freeze leftover onions, vegetables, greens and potato peels and use them to make homemade vegetable broth?
And leftover tea and coffee grounds can be used as mulch?
Also, don’t throw out your citrus peels! They can be zested or dried for baking cookies or cakes, or used fresh and infused with other ingredients like vinegar or distilled water to make natural and safe cleaning supplies.
These are just a few ideas on what you can do with kitchen scraps. And in a future article, I promise to share more.
8. What to do with leftover bread
Do you find you’re always throwing out bread due to mold or it’s stale? I finally started storing my sliced bread in the refrigerator and that stopped these problems.
Try making croutons from stale bread. Just cut the bread into small chunks and place them in a plastic bag or a bowl. Then add some olive oil, salt, and a clove of crushed garlic and mix well to coat the bread. Spread the bread onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and make in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-8 minutes, or until the edges turn brown.
The croutons are great for salads or soups, and can be stored in tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
You can also allow the bread to become very dry and toss into a blender to make bread crumbs. I do this with old baguettes or very crusty breads, and break them into small chunks. Put them into the blender and add salt, garlic powder, dried onions, and dried herbs like thyme, oregano, and rosemary. Push the pulse button on the blender until the bread and spices are broken down into crumbs.
The bread crumbs make a wonderful coating for fried green tomatoes or baked zucchini slices. And they can be stored in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for several weeks.
9. Learn your measurements
If you’re cooking for one but looking at recipes designed for more, see if it’s able to be easily halved or divided. For example, if a recipe calls for a whole onion, use half an onion instead.
Second, pay attention to measurements. When scaling down a recipe, it’s important to use smaller measures such as teaspoons and tablespoons rather than cups. If you don’t already know your divided measurements, get a reference chart like this magnetic one and refer to it as needed.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen. If a recipe seems like it will make more food than you need, try cutting back on some of the less essential components. With a little bit of trial and error, you’ll be able to resize any recipe to fit your needs.
…And last, but not least —
10. Learn how to store your produce properly
Produce can spoil quickly if it isn’t stored properly, so eat your fresh foods as soon as you can to avoid spoilage. Here are a few more tips:
- Store fruits and vegetables in a cool, dry place, like the crisper drawer in your refrigerator.
- Wash your produce before storing it, but dry it thoroughly first so mold doesn’t have a chance to grow.
- Don’t store produce that is already starting to spoil. Use it up right away or compost it.
- Most vegetables do best in humid conditions, so don’t forget to wrap them in a damp paper towel before putting them away.
- Fruits emit ethylene gas as they ripen, which can cause other nearby produce to spoil more quickly, so it’s best to store them in a separate part of the fridge. Ethylene-producing fruits include apples, bananas, pears and tomatoes. Ethylene-sensitive produce includes leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage and carrots.
- If you have ripe fruits or vegetables that you won’t be able to eat right away, freeze them. Just wash and chop the produce, then store in airtight containers or bags.
Wasting food is not only bad for your wallet, it’s also bad for the environment. By following these tips, you can help reduce the amount of food that goes to waste in your home.
Do you have any other tips to share? Please leave me a comment below – I would love to hear from you!