About 40% of the food in the US is wasted– That is from the fields to your fridge. Pretty sad, right? 40% seems like a lot, and it is- if you break that down, on average, the typical American family throws away over 25 lbs of food per family member each year! Throwing food away is throwing money away.
Here are some simple, frugal recipes that can help you curb the food waste in your home.
To curtail my family’s food waste, I cook mostly from scratch. When it looks like fruit or veggies are about to go bad, I turn them into something. Recently, I made spicy Pomodoro sauce when the tomatoes at my parents’ house were starting to look squiffy (we were house-sitting for them).
Mom had left 6 tomatoes in the fruit basket and they were starting to get soft. I took them home and pulled the tomatoes and half of a sweet onion I had put in the freezer just a few days ago. The sauce was easy to make!
Spicy Pomodoro Sauce
Makes about 4 cups of sauce
11 fresh, whole ripe tomatoes (they can be frozen)
1/2 chopped large sweet onion (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon butter (or olive oil if you are vegan)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1T. Basil (dried)
1 T. Oregano (dried)
1/4 Teaspoon (a pinch) of crushed red pepper flakes.
Saute onions in butter until clear, about 10-15 minutes.
Add garlic and cook on low, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
Add whole tomatoes (it’s ok if they are frozen), cover pot and simmer on medium for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes start to fall apart. Stir every 10 minutes or so.
Simmer for 1-2 more hours. Sauce will be chunky. Break up tomatoes as much as you’d like with a potato masher or a stick blender. Add Red pepper flakes about 30 minutes prior to serving.
Serve sauce on pasta of your choice or on a bed of lightly sauteed spinach. If you don’t like your sauce spicy, omit the red pepper flakes.
Another recent “from scratch” dish I made was strawberry syrup. We’ve been getting a lot of strawberries lately, but last week, we didn’t get around to eating them all before they became a little squishy.
I hulled and chopped them up and tossed them into the freezer, in a bag with other chopped up hulled strawberries that were dead ripe. The bag was getting full, so Saturday evening, I decided to make strawberry syrup for our Sunday morning pancakes.
I used my mom’s recipe for homemade pectin free jam and just didn’t cook it as long. You can substitute in any other fruit you prefer, except pineapple, kiwi, mangoes, bananas, or coconut (those fruits lack natural pectin and the mixture won’t thicken). This is best with berries.
Strawberry pancake syrup
Makes about 2 cups
3 cups chopped ripe fruit (can be frozen)
1 1/2 cups of white sugar (do not use Splenda or honey)
1/4 cup of water
Add all of the ingredients together in a pot, cook on medium, and stir every 5-10 minutes to keep the sugar from burning.
Once it has boiled and the fruit has thawed (if working with frozen fruit), mash up the fruit with a potato masher.
Turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture looks glassy.
Remove from heat, pour into a container with a lid. Once cooled, you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
The mixture will be slightly chunky, and not as firm as jam, but a little more substantial than pancake syrup. This is also good on ice cream or pour a few tablespoons into plain Greek yogurt.
There are a lot of great dishes you can make from scratch anytime- you don’t need to wait for the veggies or fruit to start to turn!
We make applesauce from scratch at least 3 times a month.
Applesauce in the Crockpot
It’s Simple! Peel and chop apples (whatever quantity and variety you have on hand), toss them into the crockpot with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water and let it cook for 4-6 hours. Hot applesauce is the BEST!
I’d love to hear about how your family combats food waste. If you are looking for additional ideas, check out my post about food waste in 30 minutes here.
The big kid LOVES banana bread, so I am always looking out for new recipes, especially those that are higher in protein or lower in added sugar.
Recently we found ourselves with an overabundance of oatmeal, so I looked online for recipes to use it up and I discovered Oat Flour. You basically grind up oatmeal in your blender or food processor. Because it doesn’t contain any natural gluten, you have to use another flour with it otherwise your bread just… falls apart. It also doesn’t rise, so you will need to add leavening (baking soda in this recipe).
I also had received 30 bananas the next day, so I knew the time had come… TO MAKE BANANA BREAD!!
After looking through several recipes, I cobbled together a recipe that incorporated what I had on hand, and had all of the appropriate chemicals via ingredients to form quick bread. If you are interested in learning about baking and cooking ratios to form new recipes, check out Ratio by Michael Ruhlman– It’s great!
1 c. Oat Flour
1 3/4 c. AP Flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 c. melted butter or melted coconut oil
1/2 c. brown sugar, not packed
2 ripe banans, mashed up
5 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 T. Vanilla
1/2c chopped nuts (I like pecans, but walnuts work too) OPTIONAL
Grease a loaf pan and set aside Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl mix flours, soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar until well mixed.
Add bananas and continue to mix until incorporated.
Add eggs one at a time. Once they are blended, add yogurt and vanilla.
Combine dry ingredients into wet, and add nuts (if desired). This batter is very wet!!
Pour into greased pan and bake for 45-55 minutes.
Once the bread is cooled, remove from loaf pan and serve with butter or cream cheese.
To make the recipe Gluten-free, use gluten-free oats, and a 1 for 1 Gluten-free flour.
To make the recipe vegan, use coconut oil in place of butter, substitute a flax egg, and use dairy-free Greek-style yogurt.
Chatting with a friend via Insta yesterday, we were lamenting the “OMG DO THEY EVER STOP EATING!!” of summer vacation.
I’ve never begrudged my kids snackies when they are hungry, but seriously, on days when we are at home, building Legos and watching movies- THEY EAT ALL DAY. I can’t let them rummage through the cupboard and eat whatever, so I started the snack box (for the pantry) and snack drawer (in the fridge).
We’ve had “The snack box” and the “snack drawer” in our kitchen for about 2 years now. In the cupboard, I’ve got a basket like this one. It’s full of various types of treats and snacks. Instead of buying individually bagged treats, I often buy a box of whatever (in the photo below it’s animal crackers) and divide the large box into snack-sized Ziploc bags). It just depends on what is available at Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only on my weekly shopping trip. Those are my go-to snack stores.
The Pantry Snack Box contains shelf-stable stuff: Juice boxes, crackers, chips, dried fruit, fruit snacks, individual Peanut/nut butter cups. I usually tuck a couple bags of microwave popcorn too. Sadly, we have none left. I was informed that I *must* rectify that matter tomorrow.
The Fridge Snack Drawer contains some of the following: Cheese sticks, yogurt, Ziploc bags of fruit or veggies (watermelon wedges, strawberries, grapes, carrots, celery, and jicama are just a few favorites), little cups of hummus, guac, ranch dip (homemade with greek yogurt and ranch dip mix).
The snacks vary by week, and I took these pics today- It’s midweek and they are pretty picked over- I did refill the Pantry Snack Box with stuff from the cupboard. That’s my secret- don’t put it all out at once. I stash the extras in the back of the pantry, where tiny arms can’t reach.
For those who read my blog regularly, you know that my weekly family grocery budget is $80. I spend about $25 of my weekly budget on stuff for the snack box/drawer. Sometimes more, sometimes less. During the school year, the function of these becomes for packing lunches in the morning. The Big Kid doesn’t really like sandwiches, and as he’s a vegetarian he gets most of his protein from nuts/seed butter and dairy sources.
I also keep Go-gurt style tube yogurts in the freezer- Those are mostly for Bitty, Big Kid doesn’t care for yogurt too often.
For the grown-ups, there is a basket in the pantry full of protein and fiber snack bars (Along with other more “grownup” snacks- which are sometimes new snacks that the kids veto after sampling). I get those at Grocery Outlet or 99 Cents Only. Grocery Outlet locations in my area always have a great variety of protein bars, snack bars, and protein cookie (Like these, which are also a hit with the Big Kid, so I have to dole them out) for a lot less than grocery or club stores.
This is how my family keeps everyone fed at home and on budget. I’d love to hear about your family’s ideas to solve this issue.
It’s a pretty common complaint that kids eat A LOT during the summer. There are lots of causes: Increased activity, change in schedules, and let’s face it- kids just eat a lot. This can increase a families grocery budget at a time when they are already spending extra money on activities for their kiddos.
Distributions take place in our nonprofit partners’ parking lots. The majority of the food distributed consists of fresh fruits and vegetables which is part of the Food Bank’s Nutrition Initiative to provide healthy, nutrient-rich food to our clients.
Neighborhood Distribution Program sites welcome anyone in need of food assistance. I.D. and documentation ARE NOT required, and there are no income or asset restrictions for this program.”
White onions, red potatoes, watermelons, honeydew melons, oranges and Washington apples were available today. And it’s not just a few of each. Each person who came through got a bag of white onion, a bag of red potatoes, 1 large watermelon, as many honeydew melons as they wanted, a bag of oranges, and a dozen apples.
This produce is often “ugly” or considered an “allowable second” (a production term used in several industries for an item that is functional but may not be perfect looking), but it’s always tasty and nutritious.
If you’ve got hungry faces that need food this summer, I recommend stopping by your local distribution at least once this summer. If you aren’t in the San Diego County area, check with your local food bank for Neighborhood Distribution Program.
Don’t forget that there are tons of free summer lunch locations all over the state of CA (for more info on San Diego locations, check out this post). Text FOOD (Or COMIDA for a list in Spanish) to 877-877, or call 211 and you can find a list of free summer lunch locations near you.
And if you need further help, here is a post with food resources in San Diego County. If you are outside San Diego County, Feeding America has a really great Food Bank Locator.
Talk Back: What is your kids favorite summer snack?