Tips for cutting down on food waste while keeping food safety in mind

Staying safe while you economize your food use is critical.

Did you know that May is Older Americans Month? Time to think about cutting down on food waste and to remembering food safety while we’re at it.

When I had family at home, I always made enough food for six or more. Any leftovers were kept for lunches, ingredients for the next meal(s) and/or snacks. Now, I make way too much for one and have to plan what to do next with anything left over.

Vegetables are about the easiest foods to find other uses for. I always have a freezer container available to put leftover cooked vegetables. When making soup or stew, it is so easy to add my “mixed vegetables.” Things like mashed potatoes can even be added to the mix. Although freezing potatoes isn’t recommended, it is fine to put in a soup. No soup will ever taste like the last one you made, but the added nutrition is worth it, along with the savings by using leftovers.

Leftover meat and main dishes can also be salvaged. Meat can be sliced for sandwiches, or save meat with gravy for another meal. I often grind cooked meat into a sandwich spread as well, mixing with salad dressing, onion, celery and/or pickle. It will only be good for a few days in the refrigerator, so don’t make enough for an army. Many of my lunches consist of main dishes (casseroles) put into freezer containers. For organizational purposes, I date, label and freeze to use within three months. Depending on the size, they can be used for one or more people.

If you’re one to make your own soup stock, save any bones from chicken, pork or beef in a freezer bag until you have enough to boil up a batch. After removing the bones form the broth, you can take the meat off and put back into the broth for soup. This makes a hearty broth, and something to add your leftover frozen vegetables you’ve been saving. Add rice, noodles or dumplings for a great meal.

It’s pretty difficult to purchase bread when living by yourself and not have it get moldy by the end of the loaf. An easy way to keep it fresh is to freeze the loaf and take out one or two slices as needed. It takes very little time to thaw, and can be put right into the toaster if you’re in a hurry.

Do not store your bread in the refrigerator; it doesn’t last as long. It you do have bread that dries out, make bread crumbs for toppings on casseroles or cut into cubes for stuffing.

Seniors need to be concerned about food safety, as we are considered more susceptible to the bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Taking care of leftovers in a safe way is a good start at keeping bacteria at bay. There is an app called FoodKeeper that gives guidance on how long to keep food. Using your leftovers can help save money, but stay safe while doing so.

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