Monday, February 1, 2010

Waste not, want not

"Anne's a good housekeeper," she said to Marilla in the spare room the night of their arrival. "I've looked into her breadbox and her scrap pail. I always judge a housekeeper by those, that's what. There's nothing in the pail that shouldn't have been thrown away, and no stale pieces in the bread-box. Of course, she was trained up with you, but then she went away to college afterward." [Anne's House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery]

Stop! Don't throw that away! That last bit of dinner not big enough for anything, the lone carrot in the crisper, the ends of your bread loaves, stale cracker crumbs. The sum is greater than the parts, and the savings do add up.

All of these odds and ends can be re-purposed if one has the foresight to freeze them before they spoil. Depending on the the size of your family and your freezer space, you will need freezer bags or containers. When I was single I used quart bags; a mixture of quart and gallon bags now better fits my needs.

Freezer Soup
"Have all the good bits of vegetables and meat collected after dinner and minced before they are set away; that they may be in readiness to make a little savoury for supper or breakfast."
[The American Frugal Housewife, 1829]

I've tweaked the Tightwad Gazette's Freezer Soup a bit. Instead of one container into which all scraps go willy-nilly, I have three themed bags. It takes a little longer to accumulate left-overs, but the results are far more palatable.

Get in touch with your inner Italian- make minestrone from leftovers. This bag is for your most robust vegetables, like zucchini, bell peppers, or tomatoes. Odd bits of beans, pasta, rice, and lentils find their home here. Don't let that half used can of tomato paste languish in the back of the fridge- scrape it in. I keep this bag meatless.

Bones (like thighs and drumsticks) get frozen for pot-au-feu broth. In separate bag go vegetables such as peas, carrots, or unseasoned potatoes to be stirred in the soup.

Ditto for beef. Save the bones for broth. The deeper flavor of beef means you can get away with saving vegetables or other bits cooked in a flavored sauce here. Root vegetables are a natural fit, and I usually add some barley to the finished soup.

"Above all, do not let crusts accumulate in such quantities that they cannot be used. With proper care, there is no need of losing a particle of bread, even in the hottest months." [The American Frugal Housewife, 1829]

You might be surprised how quickly all the loaf ends and stale bread add up. Just cube the old bread before putting it in the freezer. When you have enough to fill a terrine, toss it with a pinch of sage or tarragon, a little melted butter, some chopped onion, and enough stock to moisten it before baking it in the greased dish at 325 for 30 minutes, covering to start and finishing uncovered.

You can also crush stale bread for great bread crumbs.

Cracker crumbs
Excellent for breading chicken or fish. Substitute for bread crumbs in your favorite recipe.

Pork bones
Are saved for a top-secret Church Ladies' purpose!

Image source: Crespi, The Scullery Maid


Margaret Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret Mary said...

Last time we used up our frozen bread cubes, we made this delicious bread pudding. (I'd make rum sauce instead of whiskey sauce, but that's just me.)

If I'm boiling a chicken (or turkey bones) and have more liquid than I need, I freeze it for another use.

Margaret Mary said...

Oops, it ended up double posting there.
Anyway, if I need lemon juice but not the peel for some reason, I've also been known to grate the peel before I throw it away and freeze them for later use.