You can achieve brilliant and natural-colored Easter eggs by using common vegetable material as dye. CONNIE POST/STAFF
Photo: Connie Post
Photo: Connie Post

7 ways to save money, waste less food

I just found a handy resource to help me save money in the kitchen: “Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money by Wasting Less Food” by Dana Gunders, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The book’s full of insights and helpful strategies and tips. Here are seven takeaways that will help me do a better job:

1. Practice mindful cooking. Here are some ways:

  • Use the older food first.
  • Revive food that’s beyond peak quality (toast stale crackers, crisp wilted vegetables in cold water, etc.).
  • Use all parts of food (cook the tops of beets as you would greens, use vegetable scraps for dying Easter eggs naturally, etc.).
  • Keep track of what you throw out to identify patterns of wastefulness.
  • Freeze what you can.


>>RELATED: Easter Egg Hunt and other activities<<

2. Come up with a weekly meal plan, create a shopping list and stick to it. A whopping 55 percent of the average American’s grocery purchases are unplanned. By sticking to a list, you may be able to cut your grocery bill in half or more.

3. Say no to the large shopping cart. Use a basket instead (I like the mini shopping carts).

4. Set up the refrigerator properly. Microbes grow best between 41 and 135 degrees — the ideal temperature setting is 40 degrees. Use top shelves for beverages, leftovers, sauces and dips. Store meats in trays on the colder, lower shelves, so they can’t drip on other foods. Use the humidity drawers properly — set one on high humidity for storing vegetables that wilt easily (spinach, herbs, broccoli, etc.) and set the other on low humidity for storing produce that breaks down faster (fruits, peppers, mushrooms, avocados, etc.). Don’t overfill the fridge — air needs to circulate to be effective.

5. Know what expiration dates really mean. Whether they say “sell by,” “use by” or “best before,” these dates are determined by the manufacture for enjoying food at its peak quality. There is no standard for these dates, and Gunders writes, “Anything goes here.” What’s important, she maintains, is to heed expiration dates for food that poses a risk for Listeria — deli meats, smoked seafood, unpasteurized cheese and premade sandwiches.

6. Do the math. Forty percent of food in the United States is uneaten because of waste. For the average American family of four, that means $120 of food is wasted each month. That’s $30 for every man, woman and child.

7. Consider the ecological consequences. Wasting food puts a burden on the environment. The total amount of water needed to produce one 8-ounce beer is equivalent to 4 minutes in the shower; a pound of tomatoes, 5 shower minutes; a pound of potatoes, 7 shower minutes; one egg, 11 shower minutes; 4 ounces of chocolate, 90 shower minutes; one pound of beef, 370 shower minutes.


Some suggested materials

1 cup red onion skins

1 bag Red Zinger tea

1 cup red beets, shredded

2 tablespoons turmeric, ground

1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil with your vegetable matter of choice.

2. Simmer, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes.

3. Strain the liquid and add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.

4. Dunk your eggs (hard boiled) and leave them there for 30 minutes.

I cooked the vegetable matter for 30 minutes to get rich colors. Red onion skins yielded a rich chocolate brown; Raspberry Zinger, orange; red beets, pink; and turmeric, bright yellow. I strained and poured the liquid into small mason jars and dunked the eggs. If they aren’t as vibrant as you want them to be after 30 minutes, try dunking them a little while longer. When you remove the egg from the jar, pat it very gently with a paper towel— rubbing it will remove a lot of the color.

From the book: “Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money by Wasting Less Food” by Dana Gunders; 200 pages, $18.95. Published by Chronicle, 2015.

What you get: With lots of easy-to-understand diagrams, this handbook offers strategies for shopping and using food in smarter ways. Plus, it includes recipes for using up food, such as Sour Milk Pancakes, Free-For-All Frittata, Anything Goes Soup, Sauteed Lettuce, Banana Sorbet and Buried Avocado Chocolate Mousse.

In her own words: “Food is simply too good to waste. Together we can make a major dent in what’s currently getting tossed — and put a little cash back in our wallets at the same time.”

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