Using Ingredients Wisely
May 20, 2008, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Tips

When cooking for 1 or 2 people, it’s easy to let food go to waste, especially if you buy ingredients for a recipe and end up with extra of the individual ingredients and you don’t have plans for them, or they go bad before you can use them up. I don’t like wasting food because that’s wasting money.

I made a fabulous pasta dish this week, and the only ingredients were basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella. The recipe called for “8 leaves” of basil. I always get frustrated that herbs and seasonings always come in big bunches even though recipes call for very little, so I always try to use them strategically. That’s why I put pesto pizza on the menu for later in the week. I’ll use the rest of the basil to make pesto, use a few tablespoons of it for pizza, and freeze the remaining pesto for another time. If I were making a cooked or baked dish, I might have used dried basil instead, but for a dish that’s supposed to be simple and fresh, real basil was required.

I generally do this for ingredients that I know won’t get used up in one recipe. I was in a similar situation with the fresh mozzarella cheese. It was only sold in 8 and 16 oz containers, so I split it up between the pasta and the pizza. Sour cream is another example of an ingredient I try to reuse.

Weighing and buying from bulk bins also helps eliminate waste. Some Whole Foods have a “Mediterranean bar” (like the salad bar) that has all sorts of olives and a few kinds of mozzarella cheese, so that if you needed 4 oz of mozzarella, you could just scoop up what you need. Ours doesn’t have such a bar, so I found other ways to use up the cheese.

I could have done the same for pine nuts, but I knew that I can get exactly the amount I needed from the bulk section. Pine nuts are really expensive if you buy them prepackaged in a container; I think the tubs of pine nuts start at like $5?  Also, nuts are full of oil so they can go rancid when left in your cupboard for too long. I definitely wouldn’t use them fast enough. My pesto recipe calls for 1/4 cup of nuts, so before I went shopping I took a long look at my 1/4 measuring cup and only scooped up that amount from the bulk bin. The total was 90 cents. Buying only the amounts I need in bulk is also nice because I have limited cabinet space and don’t have the room to stockpile too much food.


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