When I make a meal, I make a meal. (AKA I cook for a family of four even when I’m one person.) Judge away, but in my opinion, it’s just easier to cook something I can portion out for the week, and if I get sick of it, I can always freeze it for later 😛.
Regardless of how efficient I try to be, though, sometimes I just run into the problem of having extra produce lying around. And if you’re like me in that way, you need a solution for what to do with it.
Here are six ways to use up that extra produce and make sure nothing goes to waste.
1. Make a meat-based salad.
This is my favorite, especially when I have leftover lemon pepper chicken and greens; however, you can literally do this for anything from chicken to steak to even carne asada (which yes, I’ve done). Chop up your greens + meat (into bite sized pieces) and put aside in smaller tupperwares. (Use glass for meat! If you’re someone who likes the meat warmed before added to a salad, this gives you the option to throw on the stove or microwave. If you’re indifferent, still keep the meat separate so it won’t wilt your greens!) Toss and enjoy!
2. Make vegetable stock.
According to Clean Plates, here’s how you can make veggie stock out of your leftovers:
“Thoroughly wash and dry 4 to 5 cups of leek greens, fennel stalks, carrots (and their tops), celery leaves and inner ribs, beet greens and any other strays. (Pro tip: These items can be quite dirty, so make sure to thoroughly wash off grit and sand.)
Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet along with a sliced onion, a few peeled, whole cloves of garlic, drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes, stir and finish for another 10 minutes until vegetables are soft and golden. Scrape it all into a pot, cover with an inch or two of water and add a bay leaf and a teaspoon of whole peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve to remove solids, let broth cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Use it as a base in soups or instead of water when cooking rice or quinoa.”
3. Make veggie fritters.
This is super easy and a great way to save your produce. Chop your extra pieces, drizzle with avocado oil, garlic salt, pepper, etc. and toss in the oven, make a bowl with a fried egg and other veggies, or freeze (Pro Tip: wrap them in plastic wrap first!) for later.
4. Blend together a pesto.
This is a great way to savor the veggie flavor + grab all the nutrients from some of the produce you may normally cast aside. According to Clean Plates, here’s how you can make veggie pesto:
“In a food processor, combine 2 to 3 packed cups of well-washed and dried greens (this can include beet greens, mustard greens, radish greens, carrot tops, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, arugula, and/or herbs such as basil, mint, parsley or oregano), ¼ cup nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, or a combo), ¼ cup olive or avocado oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Blend until a thick paste forms. If it’s too thick, blend in more oil by the teaspoon until it reaches the consistency you like. Also try blending in the juice and zest from ½ lemon and/or ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes to give it zing. (Pro tip: Carrot tops can be bitter when raw, so keep them to ½ cup or less total.)
Transfer the pesto to a small container, drizzle a thin layer of oil over the top (to inhibit browning), cover and refrigerate, or freeze in ice cube trays.”
5. Donate it.
If you’re just in excess from your garden, or just buying too much and not using enough, research places where you can donate: food pantry, homeless shelter, family in need, or even local fire department. You can also use sites like FreeCycle or Craigslist to do a free pickup post.
6. Compost it.
If you’re left with just scraps, or have exhausted all your options, consider composting, a sustainable option where you can recycle these food items back into the earth.
Featured Image Credit: Lou Liebau