Like most people taking covid seriously, I have binged numerous times from the comfort of my home. None of said binges have been detrimental to my health, unless you believe watching Netflix for 4 straight hours causes brain rot. Bingeing shows, movies, and youtube videos has helped keep me sane during insane times. It has also been a great way to avoid 2020’s greatest temptation – socializing outside.
Who needs quality time with friends when you can watch “Last Week Tonight” re-runs? Not me. While going down that particular rabbit hole, I came across John Oliver’s discussion on food waste in America. In the episode, he revealed that Americans waste up to 40% of their food. 40%! I was shocked. That’s a lot of money being jettisoned into the garbage bin. How could people be that wasteful? However, the more I contemplated the figure, the more I believed it to be true. Why? I am embarrassed to admit that I, too, am a notorious food waster.
I promise I’m not throwing away almost half my food, but I would toss at least some spoiled groceries every week prior to coronavirus. Instead of making and eating the contents of my refrigerator, I would opt for cafeteria food, fast food, or cave when friends invited me to share a meal at a local restaurant after work. When meal planning, I never factored in the number of days I might eat out. That is why I always had groceries that never made it to the kitchen table.
Coronavirus has shed light on many societal issues, including food insecurity. People were rightly outraged after learning that farmers would rather let crops rot than redirect them to food banks when the supply chain was disrupted. It didn’t make economic sense for them even if the public was crying moral foul. Letters were sent to congressional members demanding the food supply chain be bolstered and modified to help the hungry and indigent. Food waste on a large scale is jarring and horrific, especially when many have lost jobs and are trying to stay afloat.
Although I was outrage by the farmers’ actions, it took John Oliver to make me realize that I was guilty too, albeit on a smaller scale. I wanted to do better. But how?
Step one, surf youtube for tips and tricks to elongate groceries’ shelf life. After perusing tips, I concluded the most helpful advice was to freeze food.
The freezer is probably the most underutilized appliance in a kitchen. Since my roommate is quarantining with her parents at home in Hawaii (lucky gal!), I make meals for one. It’s no fun to eat the same dish every day during the week. However, freezing some of the family pack chicken thighs, half of my homemade chili, and mirepoix has meant more variety of food during the week, prepared ingredients ready to turn into delicious meals, and great leftover options when the refrigerator is looking bare.
Another thing I discovered is baked goods generally freeze well. My first trial run was freezing half a loaf of banana bread and a few slices of lime cake. After a few weeks, I decided that a slice of banana bread would pair well with my morning coffee. I transferred a slice from the freezer to the refrigerator that evening. By morning, the serving tasted almost like it did the day it came out of the oven. God bless the freezer! I have even eaten a piece of lime cake straight from the freezer, relishing the cool treat on a hot summer day.
One of my favorite items to freeze is homemade biscuits. After making the NYTimes homemade biscuit dough (see previous post) and shaping them, I plopped them onto a parchment lined tray and freeze them for an hour. Once frozen, I transferred them into a ziplock bag and squeezed the air out before sealing the bag so they wouldn’t develop freezer burn over time. Whenever I feel like having a biscuit, I place one or two in the oven at 425 degrees for roughly 15 minutes until they’re golden brown. They still rise beautifully! They also taste heavenly, especially smothered in honey. Part of the reason why they taste so good is that I didn’t waste a single biscuit! Since I can no longer easily pass out my extra baked goods to colleagues and friends, the freezer has come in handy.
I am actively working towards being a reformed prodigal baker. If you have any tips about food storage, please share below. Also, have you tried freezing cakes, cookies or dough? I’d love to know which items store well in the freezer.