“Waste Not, Want Not” is a saying that dates back to the 1700s, but is especially relevant to the times we’re living in now.

I’ll tell you what: I never realized I had some wasteful habits until, well, until going to the grocery store became an event that had the potential to literally make a person ill.

I love to cook. We have the best Wegmans less than a mile from our front door. Weekly meal planning was never my thing. I would simply decide what I felt like cooking based on any number of factors: my work schedule, my mood, the weather, perhaps a late-in-the-day meeting or evening plans. I would typically buy fresh produce, dairy or meat as needed during any one of my 4-5 weekly trips to the store. Throw in a once-a-month trip to Trader Joes and Aldi, and you can easily see that I spent (wasted?) a fair amount of time shopping for food and sundries. Add in wear and tear on the car and the cost of gas every trip, and it doesn’t paint a very “green” picture, does it?

I readily admit that, due to the frequency of my shopping trips, I didn’t think twice about throwing away wilting salad greens, wrinkly tomatoes or bell peppers, mushrooms past their prime or any other spoilable items that were less than perfect. Even dairy products that had reached their, “best by” dates were tossed without a second thought. “No biggie diggie, I’ll just get more,” was my cavalier attitude.

Thanks to COVID-19, those bad habits have been kicked to the curb. I’ve learned to create my shopping list in two-week increments. I use a shopper via dumpling – check it out if you’re weary of waiting for instacart sessions to open up at your local grocer. I place an order and Emily (that’s my gal) shops and delivers it the next day. She texts me with any replacement questions. I wave at her through the window when she leaves the order on our porch. She gets a nice tip, and it’s all paid for via the dumpling app.

Lo and behold, I’ve also discovered the practically magical ease of freezing fresh veggies! For example, I now get the biggest container of sliced mushrooms. I put some in the refrigerator for daily use. Then I line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, fill it with a single layer of mushrooms, and freeze them for a few hours. Then I simply divvy them up into freezer bags or containers to store in the freezer until needed. I do the same with the pack of red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, cutting a chunk of each to keep in the fridge, slicing the rest and following the same drill: cookie sheet, parchment paper, yada yada yada. Same with baby spinach and kale. Easy breezy and ZERO waste! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS BEFORE?!

Salad greens no longer get tossed just because the date says they’re done. I take the time to pick out the slimy bits and continue to use the still good pieces.

I used to dump out half the carton of milk every few weeks. I could’ve bought a quart instead of a half gallon, but the quart cost more! What the… Now we’ve switched to almond milk. Oh, I hear you, I was skeptical, too, but it’s delicious! And it has at least triple the refrigerator lifespan of cow’s milk. I’ll tell you what else: when I add it to eggs for scrambling, it makes them really fluffy. Who doesn’t love fluffy scrambled eggs?!

Here’s one of my best meal extender tips: I add at least a cup or two of fresh or frozen chopped veggies to all kinds of stuff. This increases the volume AND the nutritional value. Plus, if you chop them fine enough (I use my 3-cup mini food chopper) picky eaters can’t pick out the veggies. I put them in tuna, scrambled eggs, sauces, etc. Typically, it’s a combination of bell peppers, celery, scallions, mushrooms, greens, and sometimes carrots.

Oh, and I’ve started a mini garden from kitchen scraps and seeds! I planted the end of a sweet onion and some scallions, the base of celery hearts, and seeds from red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. It sits under a kitchen window and gets early day sun. So far, so good!

I hope you’re all staying safe and feeling healthy, wearing masks and looking out for the most vulnerable among us. If you’d like to get future blog posts delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for my monthly newsletter titled, “Organized Thoughts.

I don’t know how holiday meals work at your house, but around here we do NOT mess with tradition!pumpkin-pie_thumb.jpg

It actually makes things easier because I know exactly what we’ll be eating – no new recipes to learn, no new ingredients to buy – therefore, I computerize my shopping list for each holiday meal.

My lists are simple Word documents, nothing fancy. I keep notes about the size of the turkey/tenderloin/ham I need depending on the number of guests, and what time to put the pies in the oven.

My Thanksgiving list, in part, looks like this:

Stuffing:

  • ___ 1 bag seasoned croutons
  • ___ 1 carton chicken stock
  • ___ Celery
  • ___ Onion
  • ___ Butter
  • ___ Salt
  • ___ Pepper
  • ___ Sage

Squash:

  • ___ 2 medium-sized butternut squash
  • ___ Butter
  • ___ Brown sugar
  • ___ Nutmeg, cinnamon

Whipped ­­­­­­Cream:

  • ___ 2 cups heaving whipping cream
  • ___ Sugar
  • ___ Vanilla

You get the picture, right? Before I go shopping, I look in the pantry and refrigerator, putting a check mark next to items I already have. As I shop, I check things off the list since I usually spread the shopping out over a few trips.

It might seem silly, but it saves me time AND money. How?

  • I, don’t forget anything, so there are no frantic, last minute trips to the store.
  • I don’t buy items I already have. Spices are expensive, and I don’t need multiple containers of sage.

Speaking of spices, here’s a helpful chart regarding their shelf life.

I’m in favor of anything that makes life easier as we head into the busy holiday season, how about you?