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Smart ways to avoid food waste

Chefs share tips for using every bit of the food you buy.

Imagine having an extra $600 a year to spend on anything you want. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, that is the value of the edible food each American family tosses in trash cans, disposals and dumpsters each year. We turned to chefs—cooks whose profit margins depend on using food efficiently—to learn how to rescue those dollars from the refuse. 

Avoid food waste

 

MAKE EVERY MORSEL MATTER: 
These tips and tricks will help make the most of your grocery dollar

  • Shop frequently for perishable items such as produce and meat.
  • Buy lettuce and salad greens whole when you can—leafy greens stay fresher longer than bagged salad mixes do.
  • Bag and freeze trimmed ends from carrots, onions and celery. Once you have a good amount of trimmings, add them to a pot with a few cups of water to make homemade vegetable broth.
  • Bag and freeze rotisserie chicken carcasses and add them to the above vegetable trimmings to create great-tasting, almost-free chicken broth.
  • If your family is small, a whole head of broccoli or cauliflower may be too much for you. Instead, consider purchasing vegetables in smaller amounts.
  • Turn leftover roasted vegetables into roasted vegetable soup simply by processing them in a blender with a little chicken or vegetable broth.
  • Tomatoes looking sad? Pop them into a bag and place them in the freezer whole. Add the frozen tomatoes to the pot any time you make chili—they will disintegrate in the pot, giving your chili great texture and flavor.
  • When you have too much zucchini, shred it and use it in muffins or quick breads.
  • Turn day-old bread into homemade bread crumbs by giving torn pieces a whirl in a food processor. Make croutons out of day-old bread by spraying cubed bread with olive oil cooking spray and toasting it in a 200°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • When you have extra pancakes, toss them in the freezer for another day; then reheat in the toaster.
  • Use leftover mashed potatoes to make potato patties for breakfast. Shape them with wet hands, dredge them in flour and sauté them in olive oil.
  • When your fridge is full of bits and pieces of different cheeses, grate them, mix them together and use them to make the best mac and cheese ever.
  • Chop extra fresh herbs and add them to ice cube trays with a bit of water. Drop whole herb cubes into any recipe calling for that herb.
  • Use extra basil or parsley to make pesto.
  • Add Parmesan cheese rinds to minestrone or other vegetable soups—the rinds will add incredible flavor.
  • Coffee leftover after breakfast? Freeze it in ice cube trays for iced coffee drinks. Do the same with leftover tea and enjoy the cubes in iced tea.
  • Save the liquid left in olive cans and jars. Use it when you are cooking dried black beans, or save it for dirty martinis.
  • When a bit of honey is stuck in the bottom of the jar, add a few tablespoons of lemon juice, give it a vigorous shake and use the mixture to add flavor to hot or iced tea.
  • To remove water spots on chrome kitchen or bathroom fixtures, simply squeeze a bit of lemon juice on a soft cloth, rub the fixtures lightly with the cloth and polish fixtures to a shine.
  • Deodorize a cutting board by rubbing its surface with a lemon slice. Let the board dry naturally; then rinse with warm water.
  • To stop garbage-disposer stink in a hurry, just drop a few lemon wedges into the disposer and grind them up.
  • Remove stains from man-made countertop surfaces, plastic leftover containers and polyethylene kitchen tools—without chemicals. Just squeeze fresh lemon juice over the stain, rub lightly and let stand 20 minutes before rinsing.
  • Place orange, lime or lemon peels on a paper towel and allow them to dry completely—the dried rinds make excellent fireplace, grill or campfire kindling!
  • Freshen humidifier water by adding 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice when you fill the reservoir.
  • Make a lemon-scented air freshener that costs just pennies! Just combine 2 cups hot water, ¼ cup baking soda and ½ cup lemon juice in a spray bottle. Shake well, and spritz away.
  • Freshen the refrigerator with pretty, do-it-yourself deodorizers—salt-filled citrus shells. To make, scoop the flesh from a lemon half and then fill the shell with kosher salt. Place shell on a small plate or in a small bowl and refrigerate; the salt will absorb odors while the shell emits a fresh scent.
  • To remove water spots on chrome kitchen or bathroom fixtures, simply squeeze a bit of lemon juice on a soft cloth, rub the fixtures lightly with the cloth and polish fixtures to a shine.
  • Deodorize a cutting board by rubbing its surface with a lemon slice. Let the board dry naturally; then rinse with warm water.
  • To stop garbage-disposer stink in a hurry, just drop a few lemon wedges into the disposer and grind them up.
  • Remove stains from man-made countertop surfaces, plastic leftover containers and polyethylene kitchen tools—without chemicals. Just squeeze fresh lemon juice over the stain, rub lightly and let stand 20 minutes before rinsing.
  • Place orange, lime or lemon peels on a paper towel and allow them to dry completely—the dried rinds make excellent fireplace, grill or campfire kindling!
  • Freshen humidifier water by adding 2 to 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice when you fill the reservoir.
  • Make a lemon-scented air freshener that costs just pennies! Just combine 2 cups hot water, ¼ cup baking soda and ½ cup lemon juice in a spray bottle. Shake well, and spritz away.
  • Freshen the refrigerator with pretty, do-it-yourself deodorizers—salt-filled citrus shells. To make, scoop the flesh from a lemon half and then fill the shell with kosher salt. Place shell on a small plate or in a small bowl and refrigerate; the salt will absorb odors while the shell emits a fresh scent.