Like everyone these days I’m making an effort to be “green”. I take shorter showers, drive a fuel-efficient car, hold my thermostat at 76° instead of 72° and eat less red meat. My latest focus is kitchen waste, particularly food that gets thrown away before ever seeing a cutting board or pot.
Unfortunately, my refrigerator often reflects my total lack of self-control when it comes to the mesmerizing grocery store produce aisles and farmers market displays. The lower shelf houses clamshell containers full of wilted salad greens with browning edges. My vegetable drawer often looks like a science project where I aim to depict the various stages of decay. Below thin plastic bags of yellowing greens lay various dehydrating fruit; the flesh deflating under the skin resembles a breast implant due for a fresh saline injection.
Menu planning definitely helps, but it’s tricky if—like me—you fluctuate between extreme cravings and complete indecision. To deal with this I buy ingredients for just three or four meals. This way if I get a crazy craving that I can’t shake, it becomes one of our dinners out and I push the planned meal to the next night.
However, this doesn’t always get at the main problem, which is the ridiculously short shelf life of my produce. Below are some tips I’ve been employing to combat this issue.
Wash and place fruit like strawberries, cherries and grapes in bowls in the center shelves of your fridge. This way when you pop open that door looking for a nibble you’ve got easy access to several healthy options. They won’t be forgotten in a back corner of the nether drawer.
Chances are you never walk into your kitchen eager to break down a melon or softening mangoes. So, take a few minutes to cut them up as soon as you bring them home, and keep them in containers for a snack or light breakfast.
You can extend the life of parsley and cilantro by employing a little sushi technique. Remove the elastic or wire twist securing the stems as well as any bad or yellowing leaves. Wash, and shake well to dry. (Remember if your herbs are wet it will be impossible to get a feathery chiffonade or fine mince, so wash them before storing). Lay the sprigs out on a couple of paper towels. Roll them up carefully like you would if you were making a maki roll. Store the roll in the plastic bag you purchased the herbs in.
But being socially responsible need not only be about extra kitchen prep, scratchy toilet paper and choking back blocks of flavorless beige soy products. Saving produce from a landfill can offer tangible satisfaction by using this trick I picked up in Beijing last year.
Since tracking down ice cubes in China yields basically the same success rate as Googling Tiananmen Square Incident, an enterprising friend began turning surplus strawberries into ice. Simply remove the tops and store them in ziplock bags in the freezer. When you’re ready for a cocktail, pop a few in a glass, top with gin and tonic (or your liquid of choice). Suddenly you have a visually stunning and delightfully refreshing reward for your efforts.