Tips and Tricks

Because I’m usually just cooking for myself, it’s hard to purchase supplies sometimes without having too much and having things go to waste. Here are some things that I’ve done that I’ve referenced in the blog or just random helpful stuff I’ve learned that has helped me reduce on wasting food (and wasting money!).

Individual produce | Sometimes you just don’t want to buy a bag of whatever because you just wanted to make this one thing. My suggestion–buy loose produce whenever possible. I know it’s tempting to purchase a giant $5 box of greens from Safeway sometimes because it seems so much cheaper than buying the handful you actually need for so many dollars per pound. Realistically, it’s not cheaper if you’re spending an extra $2-3 to purchase a large amount but end up wasting it anyway. If you need just a couple mushrooms, buy a couple from the loose bin for $1-2 or so rather than buying a whole box for $3-4. Best places for individual/loose produce? Farmers’ markets. Great place to buy things by the pound AND you get fresher produce. Win-win!

Spices | Buy “in bulk”! If you have spice jars already, refill by buying by weight if possible. At some Whole Foods and Safeways, you can buy spices in bulk, which is much cheaper than buying another bottle. Also, I also buy by weight whenever I just need a little bit of a spice that I don’t think I’ll ever use again. Another tip–ethnic supermarkets often offer cheaper (and sometimes better) spices than your conventional supermarket. Mexican markets will have a great selection of chiles and spices like cumin, cinnamon, and coriander, while Asian markets’ selections will include spices like star anise, cloves, and bay leaves. They’ll usually sell them in little pre-packaged bags, but some markets will offer the spices in bulk as well.

Tomato paste! | Often time, you only need one tablespoon or less in a recipe, so what is one to do with the rest of that 6 oz can? Freeze it! When you have a new can of tomato paste, take what you need, then put the rest in a ziplock bag. Spread it out into a “sheet”, then use a straightedge to create a grid. Carefully place it flat in the freezer for your tomato paste “sheet” to freeze up. Now you have little blocks of tomato paste that you can break off and throw into future recipes. I generally eyeball my grid, since it’s not the end of the world if you have a little less or a little more tomato paste.

Vegetable scraps | Whenever you’ve chopped off some carrot tops or removed some mushroom stems, don’t toss them! Save them in a ziplock and toss them in the freezer. You can use these scraps on their own to make a vegetable stock or with bones to make a hearty meaty stock. Things that I usually save include green tops of leeks, ends of carrots, mushroom stems, ends of onions, and celery stalks.