Four things I always used to end up throwing out but felt I had to have on hand for my weekly cooking-- Celery, Onions, Garlic and Carrots.
Currently it isn't such an issue for me since we have an extra fridge and I can store potatoes and onions in there.. but chances are -- if you were anything like me you spent a lot of time tossing nasty bags of onions, carrots, celery and even fresh garlic. If you cook at all from scratch you need these things on hand in the kitchen. Maybe not every week -- but most of the time you will find you need them. And -- they go bad before you can use them if you are anything like me. Here is what I started doing with them instead of tossing them to the garbage man every month.
Celery -- store it wrapped in aluminum foil. It lasts much longer than in the bag-- much, much longer. Menu plans help here -- know ahead of time what you will be cooking when you do your weekly shopping. Some things only fresh celery will work for -- like say in chicken salad, or as celery sticks, but if those aren't things you use a lot of why not considering buying only as you need it in small amounts for those items -- one rib of celery can be purchased from the grocery store the week you need it for chicken salad-- instead of a whole big package. If I do buy a large package of celery -- I use every bit of it, I take out what I will be using that week-- and leave that in the fridge drawer wrapped in foil-- then I chop the rest --reserving the ends and the leaves for my soup bag in the freezer. Then I either dehydrate or freeze the rest of the chopped celery in a Ziploc bag. Anytime I need it to cook with -- (the base of almost any good soup is started with onion and celery) I just pull it out of the freezer pre-chopped and toss in the right amount! And the best part is -- I save on time too. I don't have to pull out the cutting board, knives, etc, I don't have to wash the cutting board, knives, etc, and honestly it doesn't take more than one more minute to chop the whole thing up --than it does to just chop two ribs. Each time I want to cook from scratch it's ready and it doesn't go to the garbage man-- I'm saving money and time!! ** Once celery is frozen it will get limp and isn't good for things where you want that celery crunch-- but ... it's great for casseroles, soups, and sauteed.
Onions -- store them out of the plastic bag in the fridge if you have space. I buy the bigger bags when they are on sale cheap -- never more than $1 a pound. $1 a pound for onions is not a sale! Then I take them home -- take out the Cuisinart or my KA food slicer or even a regular mandolin or a knife and chop them all up at once. I save the skins and ends for my soup bag in the freezer. Then I package them in quart sized Ziploc bags and freeze them flat on cookie sheets-- label them of course and I keep one in my inside freezer all the time! I never have to pull out a cutting board to make anything with onions!! It's all done ahead of time. Sometimes I like to have fresh red onions for a dish or on top of burgers or something -- so those I buy one the week I need it and I have a couple of recipes that also use them in them sauteed, so I use the slices or whatever for burgers that week--then slice the rest of the onion and put it in a baggy in the freezer for later. I use freezer bags for onions or my vacuum sealer to keep the odors in a bit better.
Fresh Garlic -- It freezes well too!! I peel all the cloves at once -- or actually put a kid to work doing that-- then I freeze the cloves in a baggy kept in the door of the fridge--then all I have to do is mince it and put it in whatever dish I'm making. It just turns to a nice fine mush when you run it through a garlic press frozen! If you want -- you can buy a big package from Sam's of just the cloves and freeze those. I'd recommend freezing them in smaller containers --vacuum sealed and keeping them that way to avoid freezer burn.
Carrots -- the whole carrots are cheaper than the baby carrots usually -- but if you won't take the time to make carrot sticks or cut them up then don't waste your money on them. When I take stock of my fridge and move leftovers every week -- I pay careful attention to the condition of the carrots-- if they look like they are getting old--either drying up or looking more moist-- the precursor to the slimy carrots, then I plan for a carrot salad for the menu in the next few days or start putting them out for lunches, setting them out at dinnertime on the table with ranch dressing. Shredded Carrots are wonderful alone in a vinaigrette dressing as a side dish, they can be cooked up as a fresh side dish--with a bit of butter, orange juice and honey is my favorite way, or I often times make a carrot salad with shredded carrots, raisins, and apple or pineapple chunks--then a dressing of mayo-- a little bit and orange juice or even lemon juice-- you could add honey or sugar to that too, but I don't. There are tons of recipes for this salad out there -- just google and you will find them and the possibilities of what you can add to it are endless. Salads and side dishes extend out your meals and make it possible to feed your family for less. I've also frozen and dehydrated shredded carrots -- this way they don't need blanching before you freeze them! And they can be used for carrot cake, tossed into meatloaves, or muffins or even cookies, spaghetti sauce and pancakes. Just be sure to label them before putting them away in the freezer. ** oh and if you have kids they love to grate things like say, carrots!