Last week, we talked about repurposing your holiday leftovers. However, let’s face it. Leftovers are simply a part of life, no matter the season.
I’m not just talking about last night’s leftover spaghetti bolognese either. No, today, we’ll be talking about those bits of produce at the bottom of your fridge. Specifically, those wilting spinach leaves or onion halves that you don’t quite know what to do with.
Given how 2020 practically steamrollered much of the world’s economies, we all want to keep a closer eye on our finances. And part of making those $$’s go farther is minimising waste.
Thus, with food costs rising, it’s more important than ever to make the most out of your fresh produce. Why fruits and vegetables, in particular? Well, it’s simply because they’re the ones that go bad the fastest. It’s all about priorities, people.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s a baker’s dozen of ways to prevent all those not-so-fresh fruits and vegetables from going to waste:
1. Citrus Water.
Got half a lemon you don’t have much use for? Slice it up and then toss into a pitcher of water! Chill for a couple of hours or so and enjoy a glass of cold citrusy water after! This is perfect for hot summer days or after an intense workout.
2. Veggie Stock.
If you’ve got more odds and ends rather than actual veggies, you can just turn them into stock. We’re talking celery sticks, carrot or bell pepper halves, and even leftover onion slices. Add enough water to cover, and don’t forget to season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to low and simmer for an hour.
So long as the vegetable doesn’t have a strong flavor (e.g., broccoli), feel free to throw it into the pot. You can either use the resulting stock immediately or freeze in bags for future use. Veggie stock is great for soups, cooking rice, or as a base for sauces.
3. Instant Pesto.
Did you know that you can turn spinach leaves into pesto? Me neither.
So, when they start to wilt, put them in a food processor with a generous glug of olive oil and some grated parmesan cheese. Process until it turns into a smooth paste and toss with freshly-cooked pasta.
4. Veggie Scrap Fritters.
This works for just about every vegetable out there except for perhaps soggy ones like lettuce or cucumber. But peas, carrots, broccoli, potato, corn, or bell peppers? Bring it on!
Simply chop them up, and then mix in beaten eggs and a few tablespoons of flour. Season to taste, form into patties, and fry till crisp. These taste great with ketchup and can get your kids to eat veggies!
5. Stovetop Jam.
Got some mushy, overripe fruits? Why not cook them down into jam? All you need is sugar and lemon juice!
Cut up the fruit and place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add about a half cup of sugar for every cup of fruit. Squeeze half a lemon over the mixture, and then bring to a simmer over low heat. Stir occasionally and cook until the fruit softens and its juices come out.
You can spread the resulting jam on toast, mix it into ice cream, or even swirl it into yogurt.
6. Fermented Pickles.
Cucumbers aren’t the only vegetables worth pickling. Just about every vegetable from beets to carrots would taste great pickled! (You may want to skip delicate veggies like lettuce, however.)
All you need are good vinegar, sea salt, and water. Make a brine out of those ingredients to your taste and then pour them into a jar. Add your sliced veggies of choice and then leave them to pickle for at least a month.
If you want more flavor, you can try adding herbs and spices like garlic, dill, ginger, or turmeric.
7. Fruit Popsicles.
Homemade popsicles don’t just taste great. They’re also a great way to keep added sugar at bay.
Need to clear out your fruit bowl? Blend them together, add a little honey if you like, and then pour into popsicle molds. Freeze overnight and enjoy.
The best part? Just about any fruit combination will taste good. Banana-blackberry-strawberry? Peach-strawberry-mango? Sounds delish!
And speaking of delicious fruit combinations….
8. Fruit Smoothies.
As with popsicles, you can use any fruit you have laying around. Bananas, strawberries, apples, oranges…a blender will make something yummy and nutritious out of them all.
You can even add other stuff like nut butters, chia seeds, or your favourite protein powder for a quick breakfast on the go.
9. Pureed Veggie Soup.
Think smoothies, but savory and served hot. (Though you can actually add veggies like kale to a fruit smoothie, and it’ll still taste good.)
If you’ve ever had pureed tomato or cauliflower soup, you know how good a pureed veggie soup tastes. They’re quite a cinch to make too! Just puree your veggie of choice in a blender, and then add chicken stock. Simmer for a few minutes over medium heat, and you’re done.
10. Souped-up Instant Ramen.
Chopped veggies won’t necessarily make instant noodles any less bad for you, but they don’t hurt. Adding some chopped carrots or sprouts would certainly enrich the noodles. Break an egg over the mixture while it’s boiling to really push the boat out.
11. Overripe Fruit Tart.
Nah, you won’t need to make anything from scratch. Just use some store-bought pastry dough and wrap your overripe fruits in them. Brush with some beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar before baking. That’ll give it a lovely golden brown crust.
Berries, peaches, and other relatively hardy fruits that have gone soft are ideal for this. Bananas and apples? Save them for a smoothie.
12. Roasted Leftover Garlic.
If you’ve got partial garlic heads or stray cloves, you can make a delicious spread out of them. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven for about ten minutes. The result will be a fragrant and flavorful spread that’ll taste great on toast or baguettes.
13. Instant Microwave Cleaner.
Yes, you can make use of unwanted fruit in non-edible ways. Take that shriveled-up lemon in your fridge, for instance.
Put half a cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Slice the lemon and squeeze the juice from both halves into the water. Microwave for three minutes, and then leave the bowl in for five minutes. Wipe your microwave clean. All that gunk stuck to the sides should come off easily.
As you can see, a little creativity can help you stretch your produce and thus, your food budget a bit further.
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