I’m a chronic over-buyer of produce. When walking the aisles of the grocery store or browsing the farmer’s market, the fresh veggies and ultra-ripe fruits practically beg me to add them to my basket. I can almost taste the amazing meals and snacks I could enjoy – if only I would buy the produce.
And so I give in. I buy all the fruits and veggies.
Make the Most of Fresh Produce
However, once we get home, I hit a snag. Inevitably, I’ve bought more than we can possibly eat – even with two very hungry kids, a Marine and an avid runner at home. Every single week, something goes to waste. This bothers me immensely.
As part of my big quest to be more eco-friendly, on a military budget, I’ve found tons of ways to make the most of fresh produce!
Eat Veggies at Every Meal
So, you’ve arrived home with all the veggies. Only, now, you’re not quite sure what to do with all of them. Great news: veggies are versatile and super easy to switch up into different meals.
Here are some of my favorite veggies + all the different ways I like to eat them to minimize waste.
- Avocado: mashed into guacamole or as a spread, straight from the peel, cubed for salads, tacos or sandwiches, smoothies
- Carrots: raw for dips and salads, steamed, baked into “fries,” baked with brown sugar and nuts, added to soups
- Asparagus: steamed, baked, grilled, chopped raw for salads, use leftovers as pizza toppings, mixed into pasta, added to soups
- Spinach: salad, sandwich toppings, sautéed, steamed or added to soups, smoothies
- Fennel: thin sliced and caramelized, used as a base for blended soups, sliced and grilled, sautéed, shaved raw for salads
- Eggplant: grilled, baked, made into baba ganoush, seasoned and baked, added to lasagna, added to soups
- Green Beans: eaten raw, sautéed, steamed, grilled, baked, added to soups, added to quiche, added to salads
- Zucchini: eaten raw, added to lasagna, in pasta dishes, sautéed, steamed, grilled, baked, added to salads, as part of a vegetarian sandwich, baked into bread
- Tomatoes: sliced raw with salt, for tomato soup, added to soups, added to salads, as a vegetarian sandwich, made into a sauce, added to pasta
What To Do With All Your Fruit
When peach season hits, I’m a full on sucker. Ditto for berry season and apple season. Again, what to do with all that beautiful fruit though?
Here are my favorite, sometimes surprising, ways I like to use all my sweet treats!
- Salads: add berries, pomegranates, apples, pears
- Sandwiches: thinly sliced apples or pears, chopped grapes, caramelized peaches or apricots
- Appetizers: add melon balls, sliced applies, firm stone fruit, grapes and berries to a meat, cheese and bread platter
- Salsa: mango, pineapple, peach
- Grilled: peaches and other stone fruit, pineapple, mangoes
- Dessert: blended into smoothie popsicles, in a pie, cake toppings, in sweet quick bread, with shortcake and whipped cream, drizzled with honey, with ice cream or even just plain
Another great way to use up fruits, and veggies, is in a yummy smoothie! Add a few of your favorite fruits – bananas, stone fruits, pineapple and berries work well. Then, splash in your liquid of choice, like milk, water, coconut water or fruit juice. If you’re trying to boost the health value, consider adding leafy greens, avocado or other veggies. To make it cold, add some ice. Blend and enjoy!
Learn How to Freeze Produce
When you can’t quite use it all up before your produce spoils, turn to your freezer!
With a little bit of work, you can freeze pretty much any type of produce. When freezing, you’re going to want to use freezer-safe storage options, like zipper-locking bags or reusable containers. Fill your container or bag to the top and remove as much air as possible. Remember to date your frozen produce!
Here’s my cheat sheet:
- Fruit: slice up bananas, pineapple, stone fruit; leave berries loose; place in a single layer on a wax paper lined cookie sheet; freeze until firm then transfer into a container
- Apples & Pears: slice and then dip into a lemon/water mix – 1qt water _ 1tbs lemon juice; dry then freeze
- Most Veggies: blanch or quickly drop into boiling water before transferring to ice cold water
- Tomato Sauce: cook according to the recipe, cool and then freeze
- Soup: cook according to the recipe, cool and then freeze
- Lasagna: cook according to the recipe, cool and then freeze
Make Friends with Meal Planning & Prepping
One easy way to make the most of your produce is to make a plan and stick to it when you shop. When I over-buy, it’s because I fell victim to impulse purchases.
Once I realized this pattern, I committed to meal planning. Every week, I map out exactly what we’ll be eating. I check the pantry and freezer for staples. Then, I make my shopping list – breaking down exactly how much of each ingredient I’ll need for every recipe.
Use Up Leftovers
Even with careful prepping and planning, I end up with leftovers. It’s either full-on leftover meals or cooked ingredients, like baked potatoes or chopped carrots.
For full meals, I’ll divvy them up into lunches or freeze them for reheating later.
Those individually cooked veggies can be added to pasta, soups, sauces, quiche, salads. My kids love using leftover potatoes as hash browns or as filler for a pot pie!