We've all been there - the rotting unknown produce at the bottom of the fridge drawer turns into a disgusting sludge. And then there is the guilt that follows the cleanup. How could we waste good food? Why did we buy too much?
With too many people in our city going without good, healthy food, we've made a commitment to curb the waste. It's a work in progress, but here's how we are trying to stop the fridge sludge and hopefully cut the grocery bill.
A little more planning goes a long way
Plan what the menus will be for the week. This is much easier said than done - especially on a Wednesday night after a long day, but it can help make nightly meal planning quicker. With the kids helping with the menu planning, hopefully we'll only buy what we need and the kids will eat the foods they suggested.
The kids can also help write out or illustrate the shopping list (keen preschoolers learning to read and write really enjoy this task).
Make a trek to the farmers market
Now is the time to go to your local markets.
There are more than 25 markets across the city. Visit Toronto Farmers Market Network at www.tfmn.ca for a listing of the ones closest to you. You'll find in-season, local produce at your farmers markets and a few extra bonuses, too. In-season and local means it will taste better and you will likely eat more of what you buy.
You'll meet the farmers who grow your food. You'll find out so much more about how your produce was grown, where the farm is, who picked it and when. You'll get tips on recipes, preparing, cooking and serving those delicious veggies and fruits. You'll also find out what the farmers are harvesting next (which can help you plan out next week's shopping list).
Every week, we see Audrey McDonald from The Greenhouse Eatery, an organic Brampton farm. She always tells us a friendly story of how and when she picked her produce. She prides herself on her work and often presents her leafy greens in lovely bouquets, making them all the more appealing.
The kids have eaten her baby carrots and loved them. It's pretty neat to say "who wants Audrey's carrots?".
We also chat with the crew from Highmark Farms, a small Cookstown family-run farm. Their gang is always happy to help us pick tasty veggies and have, on more than one occasion, slipped something extra in the bag as a kind surprise.
We walked home last week with some surprise garlic scapes and enjoyed them in garlic scape salsa chicken wraps.
Bizjak Farms runs a Local Food Plus (LFP) certified farm in Beamsville, where they grow tree-ripened fruit. We'll snack on their fruit while playing in the playground at the market, and often have to stock up on an extra basket of berries or apples on the way home. It's hard to resist an apple with an enticing name like Red Prince.
Hopefully the more connections we make to our food and where it comes from, who grew it and who sold it to us, the more likely we are to eat that food and the less likely we are to waste it.
It goes without saying we'll probably end up buying more than what's on our shopping lists (which could lead to waste), but if we're inspired at the markets with all the beautiful variety, what better way to get cooking? It's not a foolproof plan, but it's a start!
Strawberries and ice cream
This is a perfect way to use those wilting strawberries you wished you'd finished up a few days ago.
Slice up wilting strawberries.
Put strawberries in small pot with a little water and 1â?2 tsp of sugar or honey (you can easily omit the sugar. You can also easily omit this step and simply crush strawberries with a fork. Kids love this task).
Let strawberries reduce for five to 10 minutes).
Serve over ice cream.
Garnish with fresh cut strawberries and mint leaves.
Garlic scape salsa chicken wraps
This garlic scape recipe goes a long way. You don't need much to flavour any dish. Use it to spice up a chicken dish, as a garlic bread alternative, as a pesto sauce for pasta and more. The flavour is strong; you can soften it by adding greens like spinach or kale or by adding more cheese.
• 2 cups spinach or other greens such as kale or chard
• 1/2 cup garlic scapes, chopped
• 1/3 cup of olive oil
• 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (can also use Asiago, Romano, Piave)
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until blended. Add more oil or cheese if necessary. Use a few tablespoons of the mixture on cooked diced chicken. Place chicken and salsa mixture in a whole wheat wrap. Add chopped lettuce, peppers, grated purple cabbage or any other colourful vegetable. Wrap and enjoy. Freeze any leftover salsa in ice cube trays or mini muffin moulds for easy portion sizes.
~ Recipe adapted from LCBO Food and Drink Spring 2012
Moms Liz Lundy and Dee Holmes are teachers dedicated to incorporating food education into their classrooms. The school has an edible school garden and they use it to teach many food-related topics. To hear more about their food escapades in and out of the classroom visit them on Twitter @KidsFoodbook