Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 11: Spring Cleaning

zero food waste challenge 2015So, it’s a bummer, but I had some actual wasted food this week: I threw away the heel of a loaf of bread that had been sitting in the fridge too long, some shredded zucchini that had been in the freezer since last summer, and half a lemon that I never got around to juicing. In this week’s post, I explain why taking stock of your food stores seasonally is important, give you this week’s grocery list, and copy a recipe for the Green Soup that’s making me feel like spring.


No-Waste Food Tip #7: Spring (and Summer, Fall, and Winter) Clean

The bread and half-lemon were casualties of all the traveling I’ve done recently, but the zucchini’s another matter. It came from a giant zucchini I got from someone’s garden last summer — it was too huge to cook (they’re too watery when they’re that big) so I shredded it and used some for zucchini bread and froze the rest. Maybe it would have been ok to un-freeze it now, but I thought at nine months it was probably too far gone. This decision was part of a seasonal stock-taking — but I should have done the same thing at the end of the fall, at which point I should have determined that I needed to use the zucchini! Part of not wasting food from now on is going to be regular (every three months) stock-taking, where I go through the freezer and cupboards and make a plan to use everything that was there the last time I took stock. I don’t want anything to last more than six months! This time, my hunt around the freezer and pantry turned up more frozen sour cherries (which granted are more than six months old, but I think they’re ok; I plan to turn them into another batch of jam, and into a pie or two); two bags of pumpkin and sunflower seeds (I’ve been toasting them and putting them in oatmeal and salad in lieu of nuts, and am determined to eat through them before I buy more walnuts/almonds/etc); some dried pinto beans (still need a plan for these); and some buckwheat flour (ditto. Pancakes?)

Grocery List

I did all my shopping at Whole Foods this week, since I didn’t need too much and most of it I wanted to get from there anyway (having missed the farmer’s market day since I worked Saturday, I did my shopping on Sunday.)

Celery, $2.97
Shallot, $.28
Spinach, $2.49
Chard, $2.00
Apple, $.42
Onions, $3.69
Sweet potatoes, $7.10
Milk, $2.39
Scone, $1.99
Goat cheese, $3.99
Total with tax, $27.22

Green Soup
(adapted from Kitchen Konfidence)

Do any of you have trouble making the cooking transition from winter to spring? I find there’s always a long period when I’m not ready to make my summer recipes yet, but I really want something that’s not “wintry.” This week I decided to make this blended soup recipe, which is kind of like a savory smoothie 🙂 I’ve been eating it for dinner with my homemade bread and it makes me feel healthy and light and spring-like. If it’s not enough food for you, you could spread some goat cheese on the bread, or stir some cooked grains into the soup.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
Kosher salt, to taste
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, but I think the chicken stock works better)
1 large bunch swiss chard, stems removed and reserved for another use, leaves roughly chopped
1 large bunch spinach (8-12 oz) roughly chopped
Cayenne pepper, to taste (I used about 1/4 tsp)
1 tbsp lemon juice (I used Meyer lemon juice and it was wonderful)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then add the onions, sugar, and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes or until they start to brown. Then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for another 30-40 minutes until the onions are a beautiful deep brown. (The sugar helps them caramelize; you can leave it out, but everything will take longer and the color will be less deep.)

Add the chicken stock and bring the heat back up; when the stock comes to a low boil, lower it again and add the chard and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cayenne, cover and cook for 5 minutes. [If you’re nervous about the cayenne, just add half — or 1/8 tsp — here, then you can add more to taste at the end.]

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it’s totally smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, then adjust salt, cayenne, and lemon juice to taste. This reheats well, although the gorgeous bright green will be duller after it sits in the fridge for a while so if you’re serving it to guests you might want to do it at the last minute.

15 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 11: Spring Cleaning

  1. I learned this really nifty trick on i am a food blog that are great for pureed vegetable soups: grilled cheese croutons. Make a grilled cheese sandwich (I prefer swiss for subtle flavor complementary to spinach soups) and cut into bite sized portions. Use as croutons, enjoy life.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      That is an awesome idea. Will put into practice ASAP 🙂

  2. Alicia says:

    Re: the zucchini, it should have been fine. My grandfather has an amazing garden so there’s a lot of sharing of (basically organic) produce when the harvest is done. Fresh everything from potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, pumpkins, cucumbers for pickling, annnnnnnd zucchini. So much zucchini that you’d never want it again. And they’re the big suckers, not the yummy ones for stiry fry. So we grate it up, and put it away in 1-2 cup servings, for baking in the wintertime. I know there are freezer guides on lengths of times for stuff, but I’ve never gotten sick from zucchini sitting in there for a year using my guidelines, until another batch of fresh omes around.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh dear! Maybe I threw it away too soon, then! Next time I’ll know….

  3. Kirsten says:

    sounds delicious and easy to veganize! I’m in!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Totally veganizable! You might have to up the salt if you’re using vegetable stock, just keep an eye on it.

  4. ARBM says:

    Ha! I have frozen zucchini in my freezer from last summer too… I’ll probably try and do some muffins with it this weekend. I don’t think it’s bad…

    1. thesingledollar says:

      LOL, apparently I should’ve posted here before tossing them — would have felt more confident in using them!

  5. I probably would’ve done the same thing with the zucchini, but after reading some of the other comments, I guess it can last a pretty long time! I love growing zucchini, but definitely tire of it after a couple of weeks of it coming out of my ears!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      The other comments are a goldmine 🙂 I like zucchini too, but a single plant goes a looooooooooooong way.

  6. Jessica says:

    I really need to be more regular about taking stock of what I have. I know I also have some random dried beans, sunflower seeds, pecans and other sundries. I to actually come up with a plan for using those items!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, I keep those seeds and whatnot in the freezer so they can stay there a LONG time if I don’t make a plan. I find that toasting them and throwing them in other things (cookies, salads, oatmeal) works out well, I just have to remember they’re there!

  7. I love fresh zucchini from the garden. I also love it cooked in every form. I love green soap but have never tried to make it. I can’t wait to have the time to spend more time in the kitchen. Thanks for the tips, for I also hate to waste food.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I’m looking forward to you having more time in the kitchen too! Retirement is coming really soon for you! Glad you’re enjoying the tips.

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