The kitchen smells like cinnamon. Wrinkly old and “mouse” nibbled apples have been chopped and stirred, and now lay waiting for morning porridge or sweet afternoon tea treats with a dollop of cream. It’s something my great grandmother would have done. And while her skilled hands worked from a place of necessity, scarcity even, the sentiment is the same: to take something fleeting and lacklustre and give it a hand up to its rightful place of respect, indeed reverence
Yes, the nutrient density of said food may be on the decline and choosing seasonal produce rich in life force will always be my priority, those slightly waning nutrients are far better off in our bellies that rotting in land fill.
Here are 10 ways to shift your thinking about the freshness of your food, with the added bonus of stretching you grocery budget even further.
- Bananas that are bruised from tumble turns in lunch boxes can be peeled and frozen on trays before being bundled into a container for smoothies, banana breads and muffins.
- Bendy vegetables may not elicit nods of appreciation when added to a dip platter but roasted with olive oil, sea salt and a sprinkling of your favourite herbs will bring them to life again. Or frying them off with garlic and onion forms the base of a delicious soup.
- Soft tomatoes? Chop them roughly and tip them into a saucepan with garlic and olive oil (be heavy handed with these two!). Let it bubble away with a seasoning of salt, pepper and a whisk of sugar, then enjoy it tossed through spaghetti or simply supped up with chunks of day old bread.
- Treat “use by” dates as guidelines. Of course you need to be sensible but also trust your senses. Your eyes and nose will alert you to off milk and funky yoghurt. Food simply does not turn from good to bad when the calendar flips over.
- Slightly soured milk is a pancake’s best friend so don’t throw it out. Now I’m talking about slightly sour tasting milk not that frightful mass of curds situation. If milk has been refrigerated properly and has gently soured, not spoiled, it is perfectly safe to use in baking. Again, trust your natural instinct. Sadly, we have “de”volved to ignore our basic senses. It’s time to reclaim them.
- Wilted greens can be stir fried in olive oil and garlic and topped with a fried egg and chilli flakes for a nutrient dense lunch or muddled together with half a dozen beaten eggs and a handful of cheese for a simple mid week frittata for dinner. The same goes for broccoli stalks.
- Create the other fruit bowl in the fridge where the half eaten apples can sit for a day or two. Chop these rogues into smallish pieces and add water to the bottom of the pan with a fairy sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon. Simmer til soft then serve over yoghurt, porridge or stirred into muffin batter and cakes. Walk this path with bruised or overripe stone fruit too and then add a simple crumble topping and win all the hearts.
- Buy the day old bread from bakeries and slice and freeze in a brown paper bag wrapped in a tea towel. Perhaps a little robust for a sandwich but perfect for toast!
- Present toast “as is” to your family and let them butter their own. Any leftovers then are usually spread free and can by popped in a container in the freezer to be turned into breadcrumbs. I have a designated container that is easily accessible and toss unwanted toast into it straight from the breakfast table. When it’s full, simply whizz it up in the food processor or blender for perfect breadcrumbs. Store these in a up cycled jar in the freezer.
- Become the heroine of the “throw out” fruit and vegetables. I’d prefer to bring home ghastly polystyrene and plastic wrapped bananas, tomatoes etc. as I can mindfully deal with the packaging and save the food from landfill. If left unpurhased, the whole thing (food and packaging) is headed to landfill anyway. Let go of the expectation of an empty rubbish bin and try to broaden your thinking; always striving forward, always questioning. Our planet’s crises run far deeper than plastic alone. And purchasing these seemingly lacklustre items also sends a powerful message to the store owner that these foods are still valuable.
Sadly food has also fallen prey to the conveyor belt nature of a capitalist world. We buy, refrigerate, consume (or languish and toss) with little conversation. It’s no wonder we often forget where it came from, the people who were integral in its growing journey and the energy it took to get to us. Let’s reclaim our food autonomy, get creative and see how we can stretch every morsel.