Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 4: Go Sturdy

zero food waste challenge 2015One month in and still going strong! I have more of a challenge as instead of a weekly shop, I have to make last Saturday’s last through next Tuesday, since I’m leaving for nearly a week then and it’s pointless to shop again this coming weekend for only a couple of days. That means stretching produce out over the course of nine days (Saturday morning through Monday evening.) So this week’s tip is about that, plus my normal grocery list, plus a flexible vegetarian dinner recipe.

No-Waste Food Tip #3: Substitute Sturdier Produce

A huge problem in terms of food waste for me has always been produce that doesn’t hold up — being a single person who can only eat so much doesn’t help there! Having a good fridge does actually help, as the kind of cheap fridges you often find in rentals seem to let things go bad sooner. But there are other things you can do to help and I’ll be covering some of them as the year goes on, especially “how to store stuff” tips. This is more of a shopping tip though. The original barley-bowl recipe below called for “arugula or bean sprouts” but I was worried that neither of those would hold up for a week. Instead, I bought kale, which is less delicate and ought to stretch out for a while.

Weekly Grocery Shopping

This week was on the expensive side; partly that was because I had to buy some household supplies, partly it’s because I did a little stocking up (butter was on sale, a pound for $3, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to get two), and partly it’s because the recipes I chose for this week feature some relatively expensive ingredients (bacon, cheese) and I also got a little indulgent with my dried fruit which I put in my oatmeal. Normally I buy raisins, which are cheap, but I just ran out and decided to get dried wild blueberries (mmmm). Then it turned out the store was out of the raisins I normally buy! Maybe the truck driver is trapped in a winter storm? So I picked up some dried cranberries instead which are also more expensive. But whatever, I think this is going to be a cheap month overall so I don’t mind spending a few extra dollars on this week’s shopping trip.

Meijer (regular grocery store)
1 lemon, $.79
1 lb dried pasta, $1.34
dish soap, $2.39
dried cranberries, $2.49
dried blueberries, $3.99
mushrooms, $4.00
avocadoes, $1.76
toilet paper, $5.99
butter, $6.00
yogurt, $3.00
almonds, $6.49
Total with tax: $39.28

Whole Foods
Parmegiano cheese, $7.24
baby kale, $3.99
feta cheese, $3.46
bacon, $4.75
milk, $2.39
apples, $2.50
blackberry oatmeal scone, $1.99 (it’s tradition at this point)
Total with tax, $26.22

Grand total: $65.50

California Barley Bowl
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks (which is a wonderful blog if you don’t know it)

This is a another really flexible “put in whatever you want” kind of recipe. You could start with another kind of sturdy cooked grain, use whatever vegetables you like, skip the dressing and stick a fried egg on top…. I got all the ingredients together on Sunday (cooked the barley, toasted the nuts, made the dressing) and then assembled bowls as needed every night, chopping up my avocados as I went. I got six servings out of it and it made me feel soooooooo healthy, I can’t even tell you.

6 cups of cooked barley
4 cups baby kale (or arugula, or bean sprouts, or some combination of other greens & sprouts)
1 cup combined toasted sliced almonds and pepitas (or whatever nuts you have on hand; I think pine nuts would be good as part of the mix here, maybe walnuts depending on what vegetables you use)
about 1/2 lb crumbled salty cheese (I used feta; original recipe suggested cotija which I’m sure would be wonderful but which I can’t find here. Use queso fresco or farmer’s cheese if you want a fresher, milder taste. I think a really young fresh goat cheese would also be a lovely choice although I’m not sure the yogurt dressing would work in that case and I might go with olive oil and lemon juice instead.)
salt (1/2 tsp or to taste, BE CAREFUL)
2 avocados

2 c plain yogurt
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
optionally, 1/4 c chopped chives or other herbs (I didn’t use anything)

Mix all the salad ingredients except the avocadoes; shake up the dressing ingredients (checking carefully on the salt/lemon juice levels); dress the salad, then top portions with avocadoes. Voila!

21 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 4: Go Sturdy

  1. Alicia says:

    Our current rental unit dies not have a proper crisper. It has this sort of mesh basket thing that would be do much better if it was crisper drawers. I’ve learned what is and what isn’t a sturdy vegetable quite quickly. Leafy greens are pretty much no’s all around. So I run to the grocery store semi frequently to deal with that, but it’s a huge pain in the arse. The quirks we live with for cheap rent, eh?

    The dressing sounds great, and versatile. 🙂

    1. Alicia says:

      does, not dies. That’s a whole other context regarding the fridge.

    2. thesingledollar says:

      Oh man, cheap rental fridges are so bad. In retrospect I can’t believe what I put up with in New York! One thing I found that worked with greens was washing them, wrapping them in a clean dishtowel or paper towels, and sealing them in a gallon ziploc. They lasted much longer that way. but what a pain!

  2. Jenna says:

    I love kale for that exact reason. It lasts ages. I also love frozen veggies that I can roast so they don’t go bad in the fridge before I even pay attention to them.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Ahah, you should call your sister up and give her kale recipes, she was asking about them in another comment 🙂

  3. ARBM says:

    I tend to have an issue with things going bad faster than I’d like too… that’s normally how I end up with a freezer filled… oh, that veggie looks like it’ll be going bad soon, just chop it up, stick it in the freezer. Now I just need to remember to look in the freezer.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Hee, right, then you have to remember to clean your freezer out! I have vegetables in there from last summer I really need to do something with 🙂

  4. Brooke says:

    Man, that is some impressive attention to detail! I bought kale this week for my grocery shop and as of yet are undecided on the best way to cook it. Trying to mix things up by trying new (to me) veggies. Got any good kale-centric recipes to recommend?

    1. thesingledollar says:

      So, I love kale, but try not to hate it if whatever you do doesn’t turn out well 🙂 I’ve found that in order for it to work for me it has to be pretty fresh. If I’m cooking it, I usually chop it up really small and stir it into a stir-fry or soup or stew, rather than eating it straight up. I also like it raw in salads — again, I chop it up pretty fine. Lots of people love it tossed with olive oil and salt and baked in the oven (kale chips) but I think it tastes like seaweed, which I don’t like 🙂 So basically YMMV. You should report on what you do!

  5. I cut up my veggies and sort them in freezer bags and they never go bad. I also use a small plastic tub that I lock and seal and keep in my fridge and my veggies that I keep down there stay fresh twice as long. ARBM is right about chopping up the veggies and keeping them in the freezer they last a long time and still taste great when you’re ready to cook them.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, the freezer is a great idea for a lot of things — it doesn’t work so well for greens, though, at least not as far as I know. Maybe if you were going to stir them into soup instead of on a salad? Thanks for the tip though!

  6. The Stoic says:

    Not sure if you’re already using one, but a slow cooker has become one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I started using one last winter and have really put the miles on it this winter. When vegies begin to look like they are going bad, I chop everything up and throw them in the slow cooker. There are usually plenty of servings of whatever is cooked, so I set aside a few in the fridge and the rest is frozen. After awhile you will have several meals already prepared ahead of time that only require thawing and heating, plus you will notice the amount of produce that gets wasted decreases substantially. A win-win. 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      That’s a great idea. I don’t own a slow cooker and I’m not going to get one now (I’ll be moving at least once and probably two or three times more in the next few years and I’m resisting large appliances!) but in the future I definitely would like to add one to my repetoire.

  7. Kristin says:

    They make crock pots for single people (sadly I know this), so they aren’t as big or heavy as the ones you usually see 🙂

    I’m a big fan of frozen veggies, but have trouble making bananas last thru the week. I’m always on the look out for the green ones that aren’t ripe, but it’s hit or miss.

    Congrats on doing well and sticking with it!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      oh boy, single person crockpots might be too sad to actually purchase though! 🙂 Bananas are hard, I agree. I usually only buy two or three at a time, when I do buy them. You can freeze them and turn them into banana bread later, but that doesn’t solve the problem of wanting a banana on Friday.

  8. I’ve never tried dried fruit (not a huge fan of the texture) in my oatmeal but I love any kind of fruit in my oatmeal. Wild blueberries and bananas are a particular favorite. Plus it helps me use really ripe bananas if they are starting to go bad instead of making banana bread, which I would eat all of in one sitting. 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      hee, banana bread is dangerous for me too! I make it with yogurt instead of oil these days to try to make it a little bit healthier, but still. I know you can buy canned wild blueberries, like for pancakes — I’m sure they’d be wonderful in oatmeal.

  9. Kale does seem to hold up longer than a lot of other greens–definitely a mark in its favor. We’ve been trying to scale back our dried fruit consumption because it is so very expensive (even at Costco where we buy it in bulk!). But it’s so tasty! And relatively healthy! Your barley bowl sounds scrumptious.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      The barley bowl is wonderful — I’m enjoying it so much. And it’s obviously going to be adaptable which is my favorite thing; add whatever you like, basically! But it’s mmmmm just as it is. // Is dried fruit really that expensive? I guess it depends on what kind. Blueberries, yes. But raisins seem really cheap to me — maybe because I just throw in a few handfuls to my pot of oatmeal a couple times a week. The last thing of raisins I had cost me I think $2.50 and lasted about two months! Cranberries aren’t bad either. But apples and peaches and pears do get pricey.

  10. Evan says:

    I get so frustrated with the amount of food waste in my household…however, I am terrified to say something to The Wife. It isn’t worth the inevitable “then you handle it” comment I would get in response. One of the positives of being single is you can effect change a lot easier

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Good point! I definitely know couples that have varying levels of ability to communicate about this stuff. With just me, if I say we’re stopping (and by we I mean me!) then we’re stopping.

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