Waste Not, Want Not: How to Make the Most of Your Food

hate waste.

Chucking food out as often as we do (and most people do, when you see the statistics) makes me cringe. After all, we are on a relatively tight budget. So aside from the moral and environmental issues of wasting food, it is something we simply cannot afford to do.

I have been slowly dipping in and out of a truly wonderful book over the last year or so. It is called Zero Waste Home. Bea Johnson, the French journalist who wrote the book, has actually managed to get her family’s waste down to just 1 litre a year. I can’t say I see myself adopting everything she suggests in her book, but I would say that I am already doing a number of her suggestions, and would like to try and implement many more.

And waste in the kitchen is one of my worst habits. I love creative cooking, but prioritize variety, sometimes to the detriment of my time, and of our budget. I have tried to reign it in a little, and I think I am much a little better than I used to be, but I still have a long way to go.

So I have started to research and implement a number of methods to decrease waste, or at the very least, make the most of all of the food in our fridge so I am at least not chucking away things that could still have been used up!

Over the next few weeks, my plan is to share a number of recipes and tips/tricks in order for me (and you if you wish!) to make the most of what we have.

This week, I wanted to share one of my most underused and yet most effective methods to waste neither food nor money: eating from the pantry.

Occasionally you might see this phrase crop up on blogs throughout the web. I myself tried it out a few times. And it always surprises me what you can create with a little imagination and very few products, most or all of which are probably sitting in your cupboards, fridge or freezer right now!

Now the thing about eating from the pantry is that sharing recipes for it is relatively ineffective, as what is sitting in my cupboards and what is sitting in yours might be quite different.

But the premise is always the same:

Onion TartStep 1Keep a pantry and freezer inventory. I use the free printables you can get here (freezer) and here (pantry), but you can make your own or just use a sheet of paper! The reason for this is that it is the easiest way to keep track of what you already have on hand for when you are meal planning or just searching the cupboards moaning that you have nothing to eat even though they are half-full…

Step 2Use your imagination. If you like to use recipes, use websites like this one or this one, scour books that contain “pantry staples” sections, or use Pinterest, to search for recipes based on one or two of the ingredients you have on hand, then find a recipe you have at least most of the ingredients for already, and play around with the others to see what works (for example, do you really need to buy fresh chives if you have some parsley wilting in a corner of the fridge?). If you are more of a creative cook, then you don’t even necessarily need a recipe, just grab a few items you think will work well together and try it out!

Minestrone SoupStep 3Buy only what you need. This is a general rule, but particularly true when eating from the pantry. Whether you are doing it just for one night a week, or trying to empty the entire contents of your cupboards over a month or so, buy simply the items that you 100% need to add to the recipes you are using that are based on pantry ingredients, or to top up with things like milk or fresh veg as and when you run out.

Step 4Repeat often. If you are anything like me, you might try eating from the pantry for a week or so and see a great effect on your wallet, diet, and lack of waste, and then within a month or two, your cupboards are back to being half-full even as you write out a meal plan that doesn’t use any of it! Adding into your meal plan an eating from the pantry day/week/month on a regular basis is so essential to keeping these positives going…

I hope you will join me in eating from the pantry and generally curbing waste and overspending over the coming weeks! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Waste Not, Want Not: How to Make the Most of Your Food

  1. I think cooking from the pantry is a great idea. One I should adopt more frequently.
    I’m also trying to introduce “freecipes” – like recipes but more freehand, as a way to encourage people to start with a basic premise or ide, and then throw in what they have in the amounts that they have them.

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