Sometimes you have enough, and sometimes you’ve got to make to do with just enough.
In times of surplus, it’s great to use what we have on hand to plan ahead and prepare for next week. Think like the squirrel; only make sure you remember where you’re burying your nuts! We can apply this idea of planning ahead not only to resources like food, water, paper but to intangible things like time, energy and compassion.
If you find yourself with a larger than usual amount of food it can be overwhelming. But fear not! There’s plenty that can be done with a saggy cucumber, brown banana, or dilapidated pumpkin.
You might find that the week has simply run away from you, and those plans you had for various ingredients just haven’t seemed to come to fruition. Plans well laid diverted by unforeseen circumstances leave you with a whole pumpkin that really does feel like quite the commitment when all you signed up for was a one-night-stand.
We’ve compiled a quick reference guide to provide some inspiration for the next time your pull out the veggie draw and think: gee-whizz, I’d better sort this out!
When fruit and veggies are in season, they’re often cheaper! Supply and demand necessitate a rapid flow of goods through the grower/farmer or store and through to the consumer – when things are in season there’s high supply! Making the most of these more affordable times is good, provided we make the most of the opportunity. If you’re anything like me you have been known to over-commit by a kilogram or two of seductively affordable Brussel sprouts…or maybe that’s just me! No seriously – have you tried them baked?
Whether you’re dealing with a garden surplus, or you were over-enthusiastic with purchasing some delicious looking goodies, remember that variety is key. Batch cooking can be great, sharing and donating also has huge benefits – emotionally, socially and for community spirit.
Here are hot tips to make sure the food you buy ends up being useful!
Tips and Tactics
Dry Goods Storage – Flour, Pasta, rice and beans as well and other dried goods – did you know you can freeze some of these items, and remove after 48 hours, which ensures that you’ve eliminated the risk of weevils and other tiny insect larvae from hatching later and ruining a whole bag or jar of yummy carbohydrates.
Storage environments are key – lots of supermarkets offer storage advice for your fruit and veg. Here’s a great reference chart to help your product last longer.
Here’s a great guide on how to store food for longer
If you’re not a huge green thumb with a whole drawer of your mental filing cabinet dedicated to gardening and growing seasons there are lots of charts you can print out and attached to your kitchen cupboards for meal planning, and you might even find your local produce store has a copy you can check when in-store.
Another way to notice seasonal shifts is to start to take notice of the price per kilogram for various items, this is great if your brain is more hard-wired for numbers.
Keep in touch with your food– literally.
Remove the contents of your veggie drawer out of the fridge every now and then, at least once a week, give those guys the once-over and remove any that are looking sad, dilapidated, off-color, saggy, moldy, too wet, etc. It’s great to give the drawer a wipe down too, lemon and vinegar together are enough to keep it fresh. Pop those sad looking guys somewhere obvious for no more than a day, keep reading below, and prioritize doing something with them as quickly as you can!
Pickle, Ferment & Preserve
This is the age-old method that involves storing pieces of fruit, veg and other foods in a liquid that’s bursting with one of three things: acid, salt, oil. A good pickle motto is: When you’ve got a good thing goin’ you stop things growing! By this, we mean the unwelcome microorganisms and enzymes that act on your food when they’re stored open-air resulting in browning, mold-growth and rotting.
To successfully dry foods you need to remove moisture out of it to extend their life. You can use your oven on a low temperature for a long time [i.e. 60 – 100 degrees Celsius] for 30 – 180 minutes, or use a purpose-built dehydrator – find one to borrow for a few days or consider buying one you can share with your community – we’re a fan of shared resources!
Sauce, Dip or Spread
Blitz, blend or juice an enormous variety of foods to make some awesome pantry fundamentals bursting with flavor such as pesto, hummus, passata,
Cook into a meal – batch cooking is a great way to chew through a large volume of particular ingredients
With a little preparation, you can freeze a huge variety of produce – it’s worth thinking this through as some veggies and fruit don’t revive so well, or their use will be limited depending on how you’ve frozen it. For example, some veggies need to be blanched [cooked briefly] to help them survive in the freezer. We don’t want to discover disgruntled pumpkin chunks after 3 months in the freezer because we didn’t blanch them first!
Plants are amazing, we know this one already! But did you know that some plants you’re eating will continue to sprout, offering their delicious leaves for months and months? Better yet, they’re undemanding in return!
Benchtop givers; you just need a shallow dish and some water: lettuce, Celery, Lemongrass, Bean Sprouts, can all be regrown using this method. If you’ve purchased leafy greens with the root still attached they’ll probably do well if you pop them in a small pot, with suitable potting mix, plenty of drainages and regular watering.
Donate / Share
If you’re contemplating eating zucchini for literally every meal for the next 2 months, or you’re searching gumtree for a third chest-freezer it might be time to think about sharing your bounty! Community groups, school groups, Food Bank, neighbors, family, and friends are sure to be gracious beneficiaries of any surplus you may have. We recommend checking any guidelines in place for the first few listed, and some don’t have the capacity to accept fresh food, and some may only accept fresh food.
You may have heard of the model for gardening and environmental interaction called Permaculture and amongst their guiding principles is return surplus. This beautiful notion has lots of ways it can be employed including putting old veggies and offcuts into a compost bin, using spare time one might find in their week to contribute to someone who finds themself short of time, collecting small loose change for a few months in a jar and sending the total sum to a charity if you didn’t really notice its absence in your life while collecting in the jar.
These approaches may not be available to everyone. Or you may find your self with one, but not the others.
In times of need by speaking out, you increase your chances of finding someone who can complement with a surplus.
Sharing, donating and contributing in ways that are available to you, today, are super ways to feel connected to the community, feel valuable and connect with people. There’s the added feel-good chemical component – science abounds with reports of the individual, neurochemical benefits of generosity.