How to shop less, cook what you have, waste less and eat well

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How to shop less, cook what you have, waste less and eat well


Engage your kids, partners and roommates to make versatile cooking a fun and creative challenge. In our house, the nights when we take everything out of the fridge for a “buffet” are called “meal” or “recovery,” depending on whether we’re feeling fancy or playful. Laura Kumin, my friend and cookbook author, calls such dinners a “mitzvah meal.” If you’re serving children, consider a muffin tin dinner, in which small amounts of whatever needs to be eaten fill each cup. (Maybe this should be my next move for brinkmanship granola bars.)

Buying less food is liberating. This saves store time, unloading time, throwing away time and transport time to the curb. Of course, this also saves money and can help cultivate clarity in the kitchen. When the shelves in your refrigerator are clearer and your mind is free from the blinding glare of everything you could possibly want at the supermarket, you start to see things. A bunch of parsley, raisins and lemon juice mix together in a quick and bright salad. English muffins are taking on new identities in sandwiches. Whole grain mustard left by a guest turns into an unexpected sauce. A splash of pickle juice is just the dose of acid, flavor and moisture a bland, dry dish needs.

Of course, I’m sharing what I’ve found that works for me and others, but I don’t know your cooking and habits. Maybe you’re a precise meal planner and never need an evening to empty the fridge; maybe you expertly deployed an “eat me first” box and that’s all you needed to wear out the stragglers before they get slimy or fuzzy. If you’ve solved your personal food waste problem, or even just have a great anti-waste recipe that you can’t wait to share, tell me – tell everyone – because there’s literally millions of pounds of food stuck in our homes.

We really, really, just need to eat it.

O
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