Save, don’t toss: How to make the most of what’s left in your fridge

How many times do you go to the grocery store with the best intentions, loading up the cart with fresh produce and other perishables, only to look in the fridge a few days – or weeks – later to find unused, wilted fruits and veggies? You are not alone. It’s estimated that Americans discard an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption each year, according to a government study. It works out to about a pound of food every day for every American. That’s a pretty sad statement, given both how many hungry people there are in the world and the rising cost of food.

So next time you look in your fridge, save the food that’s about to turn! Here are some ideas on making the most of what’s in your fridge. Two things to remember in this effort: 1.) Your freezer is your best friend and 2.) label everything you freeze so you know what you are looking at in the future!

Day (or two)-old bread: Either slice and freeze, or throw in the food processor and make homemade bread crumbs. Freeze in freezer bag.

Berries: Freeze in one layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen. Use in smoothies, muffins, and pancakes.

Melons like pineapple, cantaloupe, and honey dew melon: Peel and chop into bite size pieces. Freeze the same way you do berries.

Bananas: Throw in freezer, peel and all. Great for smoothies. Banana bread is always an option – our favorite recipe has chocolate chips.

Veggies like broccoli, carrots, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, etc.: Make a quick pureed vegetable soup where anything goes – you can’t go wrong. Melt some butter and olive oil in a pot and sautee a chopped onion and a few crushed cloves of garlic. Add any veggies you have, chopped (greens like spinach and kale work as well), sautee for a minute to soften, salt and pepper to taste, and cover with broth by about two inches. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until all veggies are tender. Puree with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor until you get the texture you like. This freezes very well, and is great with a squirt of lemon juice, a grinding of fresh pepper, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese before serving.

Leftovers: Have a leftover night once a week where you reheat all your leftovers and set up a buffet. Make a green salad on the side, and you have any easy and economical dinner. You can also freeze most leftovers in tupperware – be sure to label – with the date!

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