By Gillian Ramirez, Alliance Intern from the University of California, San Diego
For most people, especially those of us in college, kitchen space is limited. Pantry, fridge and freezer space is split amongst one’s roommates. For someone like myself living with three other girls in a one bedroom apartment, any form of personal or individual space is maximized. Learning how to buy food that can be effectively stored and used given kitchen constraints is a critical skill to reduce unnecessary food waste, ease weekday stress and save money.
Knowing your meal preferences and tracking what you have in the kitchen are crucial to reducing food waste. Personally, I like to keep a list of recipes I love and hate so I can look back on them when deciding what to make for the week. If I am up to the challenge, I might prepare a meal I previously did not enjoy to expand my palate. If I again do not enjoy the recipe, I offer my meal to my housemates, easily reducing potential food waste and effortlessly doing an act of kindness.
Apps like Pantry Check are very handy to input the food you already have so you can easily write a grocery list each week. To prevent impulse buying, try to avoid shopping when you are hungry.
Some may find leftovers unappetizing and dull so learning how to deconstruct leftovers and repurpose them into new meals will significantly decrease wasted food. To help reduce the 40% of American’s food waste, consider having a small compost bin or participating in an organics waste collection program.
1. Pantry storage is your best friend as it is likely the largest amount of space in the kitchen, able to extend beyond the kitchen to under the bed in storage containers. Identifying dried foods that can be bought in bulk is key, such as: grains, cereals, nuts, seeds, spices, pastas, beans, and canned products. These items tend to last upwards of a year and are generally inexpensive, making them a great base to any meal. Canned beans and other products are quick and easy to incorporate into any meal for extra protein, fiber or vegetable servings.
2. Counter space, while seemingly obvious, should be maximized and has great potential. A shared fruit bowl can be used to communally store non-refrigerated produce like stone fruits, bananas, potatoes, and lemons. Cool water is refreshing, but leaving the Brita pitchers out on the counter frees up valuable space in the fridge. Thanks to modern technology, any water can be made cold with only a few ice cubes that can be stored in the freezer.
3. Fridge space requires creativity and persistence to make the most out of the limited space given. Keep this for your favorite fresh produce and other items and store properly. Choosing varyingly sized, stackable storage containers or sealable food storage bags allows for only the necessary amount of space to be taken up. Making the most of a fridge is comparable to a game of Tetris, reconfiguring piece placements enables the player to get the highest score.
4. The freezer tends to be the most cluttered and jam-packed space because of its ability to store essential perishable foods for a long period of time: complementary produce which pairs well with many meals, out of season produce, and easy to prepare meals. Broccoli, corn and spinach are versatile because they are easy to incorporate into meals and cook quickly. Frozen produce is as nutrient dense and flavorful as fresh because it is picked when ripe. We all need safe back-up meals that take little time to prepare after a failed recipe attempt or a long day.
Planning and managing food storage while avoiding waste can be done quickly and easily. They are also helpful steps to sustainability. Food is an integral part of our lives so becoming more comfortable with the kitchen is important. Creative food storage can free you from the overwhelm of space limitations.