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How to Reduce Food Waste on the Homestead

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Jenny Underwood
Stir fries use up small amounts of veggies!

Photo by Jenny Underwood

I would absolutely love to tell you that I’ve completely eliminated food waste on our homestead, but unfortunately, that wouldn’t be true. I have, however ,greatly reduced it and ultimately my goal is to continually do a better job. So how do you go about reducing it?

Eat Seasonally

I am not able to eat seasonally all the time yet but I strive more toward it each day. When my garden is producing, I substitute what I have for what I might ordinarily buy. This allows me to use my produce instead of it molding on my counter or in the refrigerator.

An example of this is we generally buy tomatoes for salads when my husband grocery shops. I didn’t put any on the list for an upcoming bimonthly trip to the store — even though our tomatoes hadn’t started producing yet, they were right on the cusp. I didn’t want to get a bag of tomatoes from the store and then start getting fresh ones a couple days later. One or the other would have gone to waste.

Cook Past-Their-Prime Vegetables in Stir Fry and Stews

This is one of the easiest and tastiest ways to use small bits or veggies that have gotten a bit soft. I also put things in a stir fry or stew that I might not prefer in large amounts but are delicious in moderation. Squash is that way for me. I do not care for it by itself but absolutely love it in stir fry or roasted veggies. Another easy way to use it up is on pizzas or in omelets.

Freeze It

If you’re anything like me during summer and fall harvests, you can get overwhelmed, because you have so much to preserve that some of your harvest can get left behind. It’s harder for me to preserve six tomatoes than 50 pounds simply because it’s impractical to use our vegetable processor for that small of an amount. So if I can’t use it fresh, then I can blanch and freeze it in quart- or gallon-sized bags. Then when I have enough or extra time, I can fully process them.

Pickle or Ferment

This is one of my favorite and easiest ways to use up fresh foods. To refrigerator pickle, all you need is a jar, lid, vinegar, and your vegetables. I did this with jalapenos this week, because I was only getting about four peppers a day. I sliced them and packed them into my jar each day, making sure their tops were covered in white vinegar. Then, when I need some to season my dish, I just remove a few. These keep for ages in the fridge.

Fermenting is another great way and requires a jar, weight, lid, veggies and salt. Basically you chop your vegetables (I personally use a food processor) and mix it with salt. Then you pack it tightly in a jar or crock. Make sure your liquid is above the veggies. Place a weight on the top and install an airlock or alternate lid.  These keep for months!

Donate or Sell Excess

If you simply can’t preserve or use up all your excess produce or products, then your best option may be to donate them to someone who would be blessed by the bounty. And if you have a super abundance, you may be able to sell it!

For example, if you have five extra cucumbers you can’t use and you have an elderly neighbor who can no longer garden, why not offer them to her or him? Your food won’t go to waste and they’ll be so appreciative.

Make a Compost Bin

Finally, after all your efforts, you most likely will still have leftovers that can’t be reused or scraps and trimmings. Make a compost bin and add all of these to it. Your worms will turn these “wastes” into a gardeners gold. It’s easy and very low maintenance.

I hope these ideas will help you feel less guilty this harvest season and put extra money in your pocket and extra veggies on your plate not the trashcan. Happy harvest!

Jenny Underwood is a homeschooling mom of four who lives on a fifth-generation homestead in the Missouri Ozarks, where she gardens, forages, hunts and preserves food for her family. Connect with Jenny at Our Inconvenient Family.

Updated on Aug 7, 2021  |  Originally Published on Jul 24, 2021

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