Attn: Panic Shoppers - Zero Waste Tips for ALL. THAT. FOOD.

On March 13th, I received a call from my sister, who urged me to buy toilet paper stat. I'm guilty of going overboard. Now I have enough toilet paper to cushion me against a parachute fail.

Unlike toilet paper, which lasts forever, those who purchased too many groceries are having to toss out expired food. In a world where we are all striving to be more sustainable, it can be guilt-inducing. Especially when we hear stories of food scarcity due to the pandemic. Below are some tips to help you use up every last morsel of your bounty.

  • Stale Tortilla Chips - Nothing works better as a bottom layer of a casserole. It soaks up juices while keeping its crunch and has a salty finish. Especially delicious on anything Mexican-themed or cheesy. Also, if you bake a tray of nachos, no one will know that the chips were ever stale!
  • Garlic - Are green sprouts bursting though? Plant these individual cloves in full sun (preferably a sandy, loamy soil), and each clove will produce an entire bulb! When the leaves start to whither and turn yellow, it's time to harvest.
  • Stale Potato Chips - I mean, I would eat these anyway, but if you're fancy, crumble them until they're fine and use as a substitute for breadcrumbs. Or use as a crispy top layer of a casserole. I like to saute them in Texas Pete Hot Sauce and make a toasty top layer of buffalo chicken dip. 
  • Wilting salad spinach - If they are getting droopy, saute them with garlic and olive oil in a pan. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Stale bread - Cube and bake into breadcrumbs. Have fun with seasonings. You can make cumin jalapeno croutons for Mexican salads, or a garlicky Parmesan batch for Caesar salads.
  • Fruit - Bananas turning black and strawberries getting mushy? Wash, peel and chop into cubes for a smoothie. Toss them into the freezer for later.
  • Wilting herbs - Fresh herbs at the grocery store don't come cheap. Wash them well, and spread them out on a towel in a sunny spot of your home.  Once dried, they can be stored and used like the dried spices in your collection. Only they'll be packing much more flavor.
  • Meat expiring - If your freezer has no room and you don't want to eat it at the moment, make jerky!
  • Vegetables - Chances are, you can find a good soup recipe for what you've got. Pull out your stock pot and get creative. One of the best things about soup is the way it freezes. Save up for a cold, rainy day by pouring into gallon freezer bags. Lay them flat in the freezer and they stack like playing cards - and the airtight nature of it keeps them relatively safe from freezer burn. 

    Remember, if it's too late for some of your bounty, you have options. Rotten produce can be composted, and moldy bread is still a treat for birds. Get outside, enjoy the sun and feed it to the ducks at your local park. I hope these tips make a little difference, and this shared experience that much easier. 

    Stay safe, my friends. 

    Packing the Ultimate Picnic

    It's August, but you wouldn't know it if you were out shopping. I ran into Halloween displays at Michael's on the last day of July. Blink, and it will be pumpkin spice everything. But I'm holding on while we still have August. Soak it up, or you'll think back on time wasted once January hits. And what better way to revel in summer than with a picnic? 

    A picnic forces us to slow down, be in the moment and delight our senses. Realistically, you'll only do it once, so you may as well make it amazing. 

    We need to talk about fried chicken. I love it like Garfield loves lasagna, but cannot understand why it's a picnic staple. By the time you drive to your destination, walk to a shady spot and unpack, the condensation turns the crispy skin soggy. Then there's the bones. Unlike compostable things such as banana peels and apple cores, chicken bones can be dangerous if found by dogs - even fatal. So I'd like to plead my case for sandwiches. They can be enjoyed at room temperature and don't leave behind a trace. Clearly I have an issue with sogginess,  so if it's plain bread be sure to toast it. But why not go for a crusty french roll, or baguette? No toasting needed, and heavenly. Some fun combos:

    • Roasted red pepper, goat cheese and roasted chicken
    • Smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, onion and tomato
    • Hummus, marinated artichokes, queso fresco and alfalfa sprouts
    • Pancetta, provolone, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes
    • Classic bologna, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise - it will take you right back to your childhood!

    As for fruit, enjoy seasonal treats that won't be here for long. Watermelon slices, bing cherries and cantaloupe. And no need to carry around the pits and rinds. Toss them into the woods (off the trail) to delight the bugs and feed the trees. 

    If you're feeling really festive, bring mason jars of homemade sangria loaded up with seasonal fruits. It beats a plain bottle of wine!

    You have to have a salty side, and I'd never scoff at good old fashioned potato chips. They're lightweight, don't require utensils and can add a crunch to your sandwiches! If you want to go healthier, there's always crudites and dip.

    And of course, you need a little something sweet. I'm a fan of avoiding utensils to keep the packing simple. If you want to go for the all-American slice of pie, make a batch of hand-held pies. Otherwise, chocolate-covered strawberries are decadent, and cookies are a cinch. Since this is the ultimate picnic though, go for something out of the ordinary, like chocolate orange whoopie pies, or oatmeal cookie pies!

    Make sure to keep things extra cozy with cloth napkins, an oversize blanket and real dishes. Keep things safe from summer heat with a sweat-free ice pack. If your picnic basket doesn't have something to secure your plates, stack cloth napkins between them or buy melamine plates. Gorgeous, and indestructible! This way, you create less waste while making this picnic feel extra decadent.

    Now, go enjoy the last of summer before the pumpkin spice takeover!