Food waste is a serious social and environmental issue, whether in your own kitchen or on a national level. This week we tackle proteins. Tiffany Mayer shares six practical tips to help you avoid wasting meat, seafood and eggs.
Editor's note: this article contains affiliate links - full disclosure is at the end of the article.
Be sure to read part one in our food waste series: Tips To Avoid Wasting Fruits and Veggies.
Going whole hog is the best approach to reducing or eliminating food waste.
It’s especially true when it comes to sparing meat a trip to the compost heap (where municipal green bin programs allow it). We’ve all heard how reducing meat consumption is one of the biggest impacts a person can have on the planet, so it makes sense to be steadfast in getting the most from last Sunday’s roast chicken.
If you need further motivation to use what you’ve got, a recent report by the Commission for Environmental Co-operation determined Canada is among the worst in the world when it comes to wasting food. Canadians waste 396 kilograms of food per capita every year when adding up losses at all points on the supply chain. At home we toss 170 kilograms per capita annually. That's a LOT of food being wasted.
The good news is most meat leftovers can easily be frozen and saved for a day when making dinner seems like drudgery. But there are other ways to make the most of every meaty (or eggy) morsel — and live high off the hog in the process.
Six Practical Tips to Avoid Wasting Meat, Seafood and Eggs
1. It Starts with Storage
Store meat, seafood, and even dairy on the lower shelves of your fridge, which are the coldest. This not only slows spoilage, it reduces the risk of other foods being contaminated by meat juice that leaks from packages. Storing meat in vacuum packs and in a designated bin or drawer provides extra protection and makes it easy to see what’s on hand.
2. Get to Know Your Butcher And Ask for Off-Cuts
Reducing meat waste begins at the butcher shop by asking for lesser cuts of meats. Nose-to-tail cooking drew celebrity-like attention to cuts like pork belly and trotters, once viewed as undesirable and now known to be delicious — and inexpensive.
Pork hocks do wonders for sturdy greens, like collards, when simmered together. Ask your butcher for chicken feet and necks if you need chicken stock now but don’t have time or plans to roast a whole bird and use the bones. Pig tails offer some of the tenderest bites and add rich, porky flavour to stews. Braise them and you have a delicacy in the eyes of many from Ontario’s Waterloo region.
It’s estimated the average family spends $1,500 a year on food that just gets tossed, according to GRACE Communications Foundation. So buying lesser cuts and eating up every last morsel is further reprieve for your wallet.
3. Get Cracking - How To Stop Wasting Eggs
No need to walk on eggshells about food waste. It turns out there’s lots you can do to stretch your eggs.
When a recipe calls for yolks, freeze the remaining whites for a future pavlova, pudding or meringue pie. They’ll keep for up to three months.
Alternatively, when whites are needed, mix leftover yolks with a pinch of salt or sugar and freeze.
Eggshells are an excellent source of calcium so don’t be quick to chuck them in the green bin. In My Zero Waste Kitchen, author Kate Turner suggests baking properly cleaned eggshells at 350°F (176°C) for 10 minutes. Cool, then blitz in a food processor or crush to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. The powder, which is a great addition to smoothies, can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks.
Eggshells and eggshell powder can also be used in the garden to prevent blossom end rot in tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, squash and melon.
4. Loving Leftovers
Leftovers are made for reinvention and repurposing. Too much chili? How about burritos for lunch tomorrow?
Leftover roast chicken can pad out risotto, top salads, fit into tacos, fill sandwiches, and be put into pasta dishes. Stir-fries are also an easy way to use up any leftover meat.
Everyone seems to know what to do with leftover turkey. A curry or potpie will be welcome once those sandwiches and soup lose appeal. (here's some great recipe ideas for holiday leftovers)
Remnants of last night’s crab boil or smoked salmon feast can be turned into dips or added to a creamy pasta sauce today. And if you’re making red sauce with clams, save the clam juice to turn a Bloody Mary into a Caesar.
Worried about using up an entire can of anchovies? Mash what’s left and combine with butter to spread on toast.
Roast beef is also suited for reusing, especially with its accompaniments. Cube leftover roast and mix with gravy and vegetables from Sunday dinner, top with mashed potatoes — yes, the leftovers — and you’ve got shepherd’s pie. Beef stroganoff is another good option for excess roast.
Ham is a leftover fan’s best friend, too. Chop it in a food processor, mix with mayo, mustard and capers and spread on bread for a ham salad sandwich.
5. Boning Up on Broth
Bones of any kind are made for stock, which can be frozen for soups, sauces or any time broth is needed in a recipe.
If a whole fish is on the menu, save the head, fins and bones to make a soup base. The shells, tails and heads from raw shrimp can also be saved and cooked in water to make a seafood broth.
Just rinse under cold water, place in a stockpot with onion, carrots, celery, garlic, peppercorns, salt and water, and boil. Remember to skim foam and other bits off the top of any stock and strain before freezing or refrigerating.
6. Chewing the Fat
Bacon and duck are notorious for leaving a greasy mess behind in the pan. If you don’t want to clean it up, leave bacon, duck, and even goose fat to cool and solidify. Then scrape it into a container and use within a few days to cook potatoes or spread on a slice of rye bread as schmalz.
If you cut your own bacon, use the end pieces to flavour soups that need a smoky hit.
Here are some more resources that might help you reduce waste in your home:
This site is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for the site to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.
- 10 Tips to Prevent Food Waste: Wasted Fruit and Vegetables
- Creative Ways to Repurpose Holiday Leftovers
- Blogging for Good: Leveraging Your Site To Better Your Community
Tiffany Mayer is a freelance journalist and author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty (History Press, 2014). She blogs about food and farming at Time For Grub. You can also listen to her food podcast, Grub and read more of her work here on FBC.