Tag Archives: zero-waste

This Clever Trick Will Prevent Freezer Burn for Good (And Major Food Waste)

Your freezer is your friend in the fight against food waste. But have you ever opened the freezer to retrieve a carefully prepared meal or frozen item only to discover ice crystals blanketing the container? Or meat that looked a little too “off” in colour? If you’re nodding in agreement, you’ve encountered a simple case of freezer burn.

Many people don’t realize that they can burn frozen food. It sounds wrong, doesn’t it? How can something that’s frozen burn? Freezer burn is damage to frozen food caused by moisture in the food evaporating, leaving dry “pockets” of air and/or ice crystals. The good news is that, while the food won’t taste all that great, it is still edible. The better news is that freezer burn is totally preventable!

Related: Stop Wasting the Most Tossed-Out Food in Canada with These Recipes

The One Thing You Should Always Do to Prevent Freezer Burn

The most important thing you can do to prevent freezer burn is to reduce the food’s exposure to air: make sure you have an airtight, moisture-proof barrier between the food and the container it’s in. Simple tricks like wrapping foods in double layers of wax paper or aluminum foil before storing them in freezer-safe containers or bags will go a long way to making sure your food doesn’t go to waste.

Note that no food will last indefinitely without developing freezer burn, so another way to make sure you’re avoiding those pesky ice crystals from developing is to rotate the food in your freezer so you’re eating the oldest items first, which are the most at-risk of catching freezer burn.

Related: How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

Top Tips for Avoiding Freezer Burn on Commonly Frozen Foods

1. If you’re serious about keeping frozen foods as fresh as possible, buy a vacuum sealer. This is a surefire way to make sure the packaging is completely airtight.

2. Buy too much bread? Slice loaves and store the slices in a large plastic freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. You’ll have fresh bread to toast for weeks to come! 

3. Found yourself with too much produce? It can be frozen, but most vegetables benefit from a quick blanch or steam prior to freezing. Once cooked, shock with cold water, then dry and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Related: Effortless Instant Pot Freezer Meals for Easy Weeknights

More Tips to Keep in Mind When Freezing Food

1. Never freeze hot food. Instead, allow it to come to room temperature before you freeze.

2. If you’re freezing liquid-heavy foods (think soups and stews), make sure you leave some room in the containers, as liquid expands when frozen. Place plastic wrap touching the liquid/food before you close the lid to avoiding potential freezer burn.

Related: The One Healthy Soup That Should Always Be in Your Freezer

3. Broth and stock are super useful things to have on hand, but how often does a recipe call for a small amount, leaving you with leftovers? Solution? Freeze it in ice-cube trays! As soon as it’s frozen, transfer to an airtight bag or container to ensure a constant supply that’s practical in size.

4. Do you have slightly past-their-prime produce lingering in your crisper? Put your freezer to work. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies, and frozen vegetables can be used in cooked dishes. No one will ever know they were anything other than fresh!

freezer-bag-of-pumpkin

5. Many people don’t think to freeze butter, but if you have a few sticks about to expire, pop them into the freezer to keep it fresh for longer. Note that it’s best to use quickly once thawed, making it perfect for baking!

Related: Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How to Make it Happen

6. Cookie dough is a perfect candidate for freezing, so you’ll never be far from a freshly-baked treat! Scoop dough and freeze directly on baking trays. Once frozen solid, place the dough in airtight bags, or wrap them tightly in plastic and just bake however many you need. The dough will last in the freezer for up to three months.

Related: Anna Olson Explains How to Properly Freeze Just About Everything

7. Portion items when you freeze them so you can easily select the right amount of food to thaw, avoiding unnecessary waste.

8. Label all foods with the date you froze them, and don’t forget to rotate items and use older foods up first.

Related: How to Prep Slow Cooker Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

While freezing items is a great way to avoid waste, there are some other foods that you should never freeze.

5 Foods That Never Belong in Your Freezer (And Why):

1. Open packages of coffee beans (and ground) will absorb freezer smells. Make sure it’s stored in an airtight container, not the bag you bought it in.

2. Cooked pasta, like spaghetti, will not hold its structure when frozen and thawed, it will turn to mush (baked pasta dishes like lasagna, however, are perfect candidates for freezing).

3. Raw potatoes turn black when frozen due to a chemical reaction, so make sure to quickly blanch chopped potatoes before you freeze them.

4. Melon will turn mushy when frozen and thawed due to its high water content, so while it’s fine to use frozen in drinks, for example, it won’t be any good for a fruit salad.

5. Raw eggs in their shell will explode when frozen. If you find yourself needing to freeze eggs, crack them and lightly beat them before freezing them in an ice cube tray or muffin tin. When completely frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag where they will keep for up to six months.

Want to make the most of your freezer? Watch this video on how to prep food for freezing.

Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How to Make it Happen

Whether you want to be more eco-friendly, save some cash or you simply like having a little organization in your life, there are plenty of reasons to move towards a waste-free kitchen. The good news: even if it sounds a little overwhelming at first, it’s a whole lot simpler to achieve than you’d think. Here’s how to make it happen.


Related: Recipes to Stop Wasting the Most Tossed-Out Food in Canada

10 Easy Steps to Creating a No-Waste Kitchen 

1. Invest in reusable containers, wraps and bags

One of the easiest ways to eliminate extra waste is to ditch the plastic wrap, single-use containers and plastic bags in favour of reusable containers, Mason jars and beeswax wraps. And, if you’re already taking tote bags or baskets with you to do your shopping, consider upping your game with produce-friendly mesh bags. It’s a pain-free start to making some pretty big changes, and it also sets you up for better long-term food storage and less waste at the grocery store.

2. Buy in bulk and buy whole

For basic goods that you use often, like oats, flour, beans and grains, head to the bulk food store and fill up your own containers. You’ll save money and even potentially extend the shelf life of some of those products by storing them in glass jars. Meanwhile, when it comes to meat, select whole chicken and fish rather than pre-cut trays, and in the produce aisle, don’t fall victim to pre-packed greens, cut beans, or other “handy” items that have already been prepared for you. When you take full items home, you can portion and use them how you wish, plus you can use the leftovers to whip up a nifty vegetable, fish or chicken stock.


Related: 18 Freezer-Friendly Vegan Dinner Ideas to Prep This Week

3. Use a meal plan

Is there anything more dangerous than doing your grocery shopping while hungry? That’s when you tend to fill the cart with wants, rather than needs. Fill up before you shop, but also make sure to put together a meal plan and a grocery list first. That way you can avoid overbuying and tossing food that goes bad before you have a chance to use it. Plus, you’re more likely to stick to healthy choices when you plan ahead. Double win.

Related: 10 Ways You’re Destroying the Planet From the Comfort of Your Own Home

4. Make things from scratch

We’ve covered stocks, but there’s a whole world of basic condiments you can also whip up with things you already have in the fridge or pantry. There are tons of recipes for everyday salad dressings out there, mayo is pretty simple to throw together, while ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce always taste better when they’re made in-house. Need some more inspiration? Check out these tasty condiments that are worth making from scratch.

5. Regrow your vegetable scraps

If your veggie scraps aren’t worth transforming into a stock, why not give them a whole new life by planting them and starting your own veggie garden? If you’ve never done this before, it’s actually shocking how many things you can plant and regrow in the kitchen, while eliminating how much waste you produce. Green onion roots turn into new shoots, pepper seeds will grow into the real deal, and even celery bases get a second life if you plant them. If you’re just starting to explore your green thumb or you need some more inspiration, here are 15 vegetables you can regrow in your kitchen.

6. Get creative with food scraps and compost when necessary

If you don’t compost, now is a good time to start — it’s a smarter alternative to recycling, and if your city doesn’t have a program already in place, then it’s something you can easily start doing at home. Meanwhile, reconsider the food scraps you may currently be tossing into the bin. Broccoli stems make for a delicious slaw, veggie pulp from a juicer can be tossed into a pasta sauce, and carrot tops transform into a surprisingly delicious pesto (more creative pesto ideas here!).


Related: 10 Tasty Uses for Leftover Food Scraps to Reduce Food Waste

7. Find a second use for your leftovers

Don’t just get creative with your food scraps — get creative with your leftovers before they go bad and you’re forced to toss them. While meal planning definitely helps eliminate unexpected leftovers, if you find yourself with extra food, don’t be discouraged. Your freezer is always your friend in terms of extending an item’s shelf life, or get inspired with some of our ideas for leftover chicken, leftover steak or leftover rice.

8. Ditch the coffee pods and tea bags

Coffee pods may be convenient and easy-to-use, but they’re also expensive and they create so much unnecessary waste. If you insist on a single-pod machine, invest in a reusable filter that gives you the further benefit of adjusting the amount of coffee per serving to individual tastes. And when it comes to tea, buy a diffuser and stock the pantry with loose-leaf tea to avoid extra staples, strings, and plastic-coated tea bags being tossed into the rubbish bin.

9. Clean your kitchen the smart way

As you’re ditching disposable kitchen-storage products, consider eliminating unnecessary one-time-use cleaning items like paper towels and sponges, too. Dish towels and clothes can be thrown into the laundry and used over and over again, which might feel like more work, but it also saves you more money in the long-run. And when it comes to cleaning products, consider making your own. A solution of vinegar, baking soda and water will clean most household items.

Related: 12 Ways You Can Organize Your Kitchen Like Marie Kondo

Related: 17 Kitchen Gadgets That’ll Be Extinct by 2025

10. Think quality, not quantity

If you get excited by new tools and gadgets, we feel you — it’s always fun to try out a new toy in the kitchen. But, if the goal is to create a waste-free kitchen then sometimes it’s better to ask yourself if you really need an item, or if it just sounds like a cool thing to have. Cast-iron pans will produce quality food for a longer period of time than a Teflon-coated one, for example, while most pressure cookers also double as a slow cooker these days. Garlic presses are handy, but sometimes it’s quicker to just mince a clove or two yourself. Take stock of needs versus wants, and then begin living your best minimalist life from there.

If you’re looking to take your zero-waste kitchen one step further, find out where to take your used appliances and cabinets (by province) or check out the best zero-waste restaurants and food stores across Canada.

Don’t Toss ‘Em! 5 Seriously Delicious Ways to Use Broccoli Stems

Food waste is a big issue here in Canada, yet there are plenty of easy, commonly overlooked things you can do at home to dramatically reduce your own waste footprint. For instance: finding creative (and tasty!) ways to eat the often discarded parts of fruits and veggies. Most people are quick to toss away leaves, peels, stems and stalks, when really, these are delicacies that can lend flavour, texture and vibrancy to so many dishes (proof: these delicious uses for leftover food scraps).

One of our favourite neglected ingredients is broccoli stems. Once peeled, they’re sweet and crunchy, and when cooked, they’re incredibly tender. Broccoli stems are also quite versatile: you can shred them into rice, spiralize them into noodles, blitz them into hummus or pesto, add them to broths, blend them into soups and even roast them into french fries! Read on to learn how it’s done.

1. Broccoli “Rice”

Broccoli rice can be used as a wonderful substitute for white rice, brown rice or cauliflower rice. Use it to make fried rice, add it to mac and cheese, bake it into a savoury casserole with other veggies, or simply add it to a salad.

Ingredients:
4 broccoli stems

Directions:
1. Using a paring knife or peeler, peel the tough skin of the stem.
2. Run the stems along a grater, or if using a food processor, install the grating blade and run the stems through the feeder tube.
3. Squeeze out any excess moisture.

2. Broccoli Slaw

You may have seen broccoli slaw in ready-to-go bags at the grocery store, but it’s so easy and quick to make at home. Broccoli stems hold up in a slaw, they’re hearty and retain dressing really well so they don’t get soggy. Like any slaw, you can add whichever veggies you love and make different style dressings to go along with it, like soy sesame, yogurt dill or citrus and honey.

Ingredients:

Slaw
2 broccoli stems, julienned
2 carrots, julienned
1 cup sliced purple cabbage
½ cup roughly chopped mixed herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, parsley)

Dressing
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
Pinch of sea salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Using a paring knife or peeler, peel the outer tough skin of the broccoli stem and then thinly julienne it. If using a food processor, install the grating blade and run stems through.
2. Julienne the carrots, thinly slice the purple cabbage and roughly chop the herbs. You can also grate the carrots with the grating blade on the food processor.
3. Toss everything together in a bowl.
4. Whisk the dressing in a separate dish, then pour over the slaw. The slaw can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.

3. Broccoli Noodles

If you’re looking for low-carb options, broccoli noodles can replace traditional pasta (read: 10 satisfying weeknight recipes where veggies replace carbs). The best broccoli noodles are made using a spiralizer, but if this isn’t a kitchen gadget you own, opt for a veggie peeler instead!

Ingredients:
2 broccoli stems

Directions:
1. Using a paring knife or peeler, peel the outer tough skin of the broccoli stem.
2. If using a spiralizer, run it through to create noodles, or use your peeler, and continue to peel until you have flat, long tagliatelle-style noodles.

4. Broccoli Hummus

When broccoli stems are lightly steamed, it takes the bitter edge off. The stems are also more mild in flavour than the florets, so the broccoli taste in this hummus recipe doesn’t overpower. Combining with other classic ingredients makes for a unique twist on an already fantastic snack staple. Smear it onto sandwiches, use it to dip fresh veggies and crackers, or have it act as dressing for pasta salad.

Ingredients:
3 broccoli stems
¼ cup tahini
½ lemon, juiced
1 garlic clove
¼ cup fresh parsley (optional)
¼ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
2-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Using a paring knife or peeler, peel the outer tough skin of the broccoli stem. Lightly steam until tender.
2. In a food processor, add all ingredients, except olive oil. Begin to blitz, then add 1 Tbsp of oil at a time through the feeder tube until creamy and perfectly blended. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a few spoonfuls of water as needed.

4. Broccoli Fries

This is one of our favourite ways to devour broccoli stems. They have a firm texture, which makes them perfect for roasting into a french fry. When roasted, the stems become slightly sweet, and soften on the outside, while the middle still retains its satisfying crunch. You can eat these as is or dip them into hummus, pesto or even ketchup.

Ingredients:
4 broccoli stems
1 to 2 Tbsp avocado oil
¼ tsp sea salt
Pinch of pepper
¼ tsp granulated garlic

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Using a paring knife or peeler, peel the outer tough skin of the broccoli stem, then slice into french fry shapes.
3. Place the “fries” on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic. Ensure the pieces are spread out so they have a chance to crisp.
4. Roast for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.

Don’t stop there. Here are 15 veggies to regrow in your kitchen, genius tips to make food last longer and the 10 most wasteful cooking habits to kick.