Waste Free Kitchen Handbook

A guide to eating well and saving money by wasting less food

by Dana Gunders

I read this book in between the last four. And took lots of notes. It’s about saving food in the kitchen. Planning better to buy only what you need, being organized so you don’t forget what’s in the back of your cupboard (or fridge), storing things properly so they stay fresh longer, and lots of tips on how to use up leftovers, salvage a dish that got slightly burnt or over-salted, or tell if your slightly-off-looking produce is still okay to eat. What you can freeze and for how long. There’s a chapter on how to start composting, a list on what you can safely feed your pets, and more on making household use of food items you won’t eat (banana peels to shine shoes, onion skin to make egg dye, etc). Facts on food-borne illness, what exactly causes it, how to avoid it.

Some things in here I’ve already been doing for years- I try to plan meals to stretch the ingredients- for example, I often make a meat pie dish with whatever vegetable bits are leftover in the fridge, and I nearly always make enchiladas using sauce from a chicken mole the day before. I usually peel broccoli stalks and dice them up to add to a soup or the meat pie, but never thought of doing a salad with them. There’s a section of recipes that give general guidelines for using whatever you have on hand that needs to be eaten- soup, fried rice, shepherd’s pie- and I’m going to copy some of them down. Also others that sound like great ideas but I’ve never tried before- brownies with black beans in them, a chocolate mousse made out of slightly-overripe avocado. Disappointed that the directory mentions using cooked quinoa to make a flour-less chocolate cake, but there’s no recipe for that so I’ll have to look for it elsewhere. The directory is a list of some 80 common foods, with notes on how to store them, how to tell if they’re still good, and how to make the best use when they start to go bad or you have too much extra. (No notes on cabbage though. I had to look online: cabbage goes in the high-humidity crisper drawer. Yes, my family eats cabbage- I have half a head in there right now!)

In the middle of reading this book I put it down, went and adjusted my crisper drawers (I’d been using them wrong), moved my oranges in there, put my grapes and fresh-picked green beans in paper bags. I’m sure there’s other things I’ve been doing sub-optimally all this time! Not all the instructions work for me, though. This book says that potatoes, onions and bread shouldn’t be kept in the fridge. But where I live we have high humidity. I’ve found that onions kept under my sink will spoil, bread wrapped on the counter goes moldy before we eat it all, and potatoes in my basement storage room (where I thought it would be cool enough), go bad. So I do keep all those in the fridge.

Borrowed from the public library. I found an article by the author here, on why she wrote the book. Notes I took for myself below. There’s more on my garden notes blog.

  • Freeze leftovers if you think you won’t use them soon, and label with a date.
  • Don’t overcrowd the freezer, it needs air circulation to work well.
  • Rewrap meats brought home fresh from grocery store, before freezing portions.
  • Burnt pan of food? put in a larger pan of cold water, then scrape off what’s salvagable.
  • Eggs are good three to five weeks past the ‘sell by’ date.
  • Whole wheat flour and brown rice should be kept in the fridge in an opaque, air-tight container.
  • Use yogurt instead of milk in baking: add half teaspoon baking powder for every cup yogurt.
  • Save peach, plum, nectarine etc pits in freezer. Make syrup w/them later.
  • Save butter wrappers, freeze, use later to grease pans
  • Scrape clean the base of a pineapple top, remove lower leaves and root in water for a houseplant!

 

Rating: 3/5
200 pages, 2015

4 Responses

  1. This is so interesting as trying to use up leftovers is a real thing with me. Quite often the leftover meal is as nice or nicer than the original one. I do keep my potatoes in the fridge I must admit, I find they keep better in there, and carrots. I don’t keep bread or onions in there or eggs and yes eggs keep for weeks after their sell-by dates. I’m not a great fan of these ‘dates’ anyway, what’s wrong with sniffing or tasting to see if it’s ok? I haven’t managed to poison us yet. I’m careful with chicken but otherwise pretty much anything goes in this household. Food waste is a ‘huge’ issue here in the UK, ‘huge’. Mountains of perfectly good food going to waste. It’s obscene. We have two large freezers in the garage and a smaller one in the utility room, indoors, for leftover bits. We need the two large ones for freezing our garden produce, but I think most people think we’re a bit crazy. LOL!

    1. Yes. I’ve always tried to use stuff up, eat the leftovers, compost the scraps, etc- but I always feel like I could be doing more. So I’m glad this book reminded me of a lot and gave me some new ideas, too.

  2. I’d heard the banana peels to shine shoes tip before, but I don’t wear shoes that need shining. I wonder how well it really works?

    Having a pineapple top as a houseplant would be so cool!

    1. Maybe next time I buy bananas, I will shine all my husband’s shoes with the peels and see. And tell him after, of course. I’ve tried to grow plants from various end bits before- carrot tops as decoration didn’t work, garlic cloves planted in the garden do marvelously, seed from an apple grew into a tree we kept in a pot for several years, out of eight avocado pits I had one great houseplant that lasted ten years, and mangoes have repeatedly failed on me. I do keep trying with the mango pit. Don’t often buy a whole fresh pineapple but next time, might give this an attempt too!

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