Tips for Using Your Leftover Produce

I always buy tons of fresh produce with the best intentions. Giant salads! Huge soups! Smoothies every morning! Vitamin-drunk must be a thing, and I think I’m a lightweight. That, or I’m just deathly afraid of getting scurvy.

We eat a ton of vegetables and fruit, so I don’t limit my produce-buying much. Still, dig into my fridge and you’ll often find a few sad-looking stalks of kale, a Tupperware of wimpy celery, or half a wrapped-up cucumber that’s lost its crunch a little.

So, what do we do with all the forgotten nutrients? There are so many reasons to reduce the amount of food waste we create, and high up on the list is cost - throwing away food physically pains me right in the wallet. We buy local and organic; wasting food is wasting money. As a result, I’ve had to get creative with last-day vegetables and fruits. Here are some of my favourite ways to use up fridge odds and ends.

 

Soup it

This is kind of a no-brainer. This potato and kale soup is delicious, and perfect for add-ins like leftover spinach, chards, celery, mushrooms, or carrots. Produce that wouldn’t hold its own in a salad will still add great flavour to a nice broth.

 

Juice it

Okay, literally any produce is good in juice. Beets? Yes. Cucumbers, celery, cucumbers, spinach, parsley? Yes. Apples, lemons, oranges, limes… You get the picture.

As a general rule, pair your veggies with at least one fruit to make everything palatable. One of my favourites is pear, spinach, cucumber, celery, and mint. Very nice. Or, try apple, orange, lemon, fresh ginger, and turmeric. (Yes, I’ve given in to the turmeric craze.)

Pro tip - if you don’t have produce that’s about to go bad, check out the discount section in your market or grocery store. I’ll often find pineapples, melons, or berries that are just a little too ripe to be called “fresh” at half price. Those are at their sweetest, and work great in a juice.

Another pro tip - you don’t need a juicer. You do need a decent blender and a strainer or cheesecloth. I’ve also saved the pulp from these juices and used them in smoothies or later juices. Reuse and recycle, all day.  

 

Roast it

Drizzle coconut, olive, or avocado oil over your veggies and toss with paprika, sea salt, ground pepper, and fresh garlic. Then roast into submission in a hot oven - around 400 degrees. This is my go-to for elderly broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, eggplant, you name it.  

Roasted veggies are delicious, nutritious, and keep well; pair with an easy protein like chicken and you’ll have lunch for the next day ready, too.

 

Use Pantry Staples

Make use of all the other staples you have in your fridge and cupboards. A wild rice salad with a vinegar and citrus dressing will mask any lacking crisp in your grapes. Or, make a little broccoli and feta pasta with feta and kalamata olives (I’ve used leftover frozen edamame, green beans, and zucchini, too). Get creative with whatever else you have in your kitchen to bolster your veggies and fruit.

With a little attention and originality, you can make sure every piece of vegetation in your fridge gets used up instead of thrown out. You’ll save money and reduce waste - plus, you can shop the grocery sales freely without worrying what you’ll do with all those veggies. After all, the possibilities are endless.

 

 

 

 

Extreme Grocery-List Makeover: Immune System Edition

 It’s happening. The days are getting shorter, the mornings chillier, and the PSL is back. It isn’t officially autumn yet - that happens on my birthday, September 22 - but it’s close.

Since Damien and I already battled one nasty cold in the last month (note my lack of posting recently), I’ve been thinking about how to best keep us healthy as the colder seasons roll around.

Luckily, I have the immune system of an ox (oxes don't get sick, right?) and rarely get ill. Damien, though, battles nearly chronic colds. As a personal trainer and CrossFit coach, he's at a disadvantage; between interacting with clients, handling equipment, and working out himself, his immune system is constantly under stress. 

I'm of the old-school camp that medication comes second to a smart, healthy diet and lifestyle. So I’m going to try and help out our natural defence systems a little more by healthifying our kitchen. That means shopping for ingredients that are focussed on overall wellness, incorporating disease-fighting fruits and vegetables wherever possible, and integrating immune-boosting supplements with our normal diet.  

 

Health-Boosting Grocery List

Berries: Full of antioxidants and Vitamin C, which triggers the production of antibodies.

Oranges & Grapefruits: Again, high levels of Vitamin C. Keeping your Vitamin C high will also help your body absorb iron; plus, any excess will be urinated out.  

Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes (and carrots) are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A. That helps keep your immune system strong and protect you from infectious disease.

Carrots: Vitamin A also strengthens your mucosal lining and your skin, preventing bacteria and viruses from taking hold. 

Kale & Red Pepper: Vitamins A and C.

Spinach, Arugula, & Swiss Chard: Spinach, especially, provides all the fibre. Plus, leafy greens may boost your body’s white blood cell count, which helps prevent disease. They’re also full of zinc, which helps prevent inflammation and stops the growth of bacteria and viruses.

Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitakes contain lentinan, which may have anticancer properties. All mushrooms contain potassium, B vitamins, and fibre.

Fennel: This liquorice-like veggie (wait, fruit?) can help clear congestion and soothe a cough. It’s best as a tea, but can be eaten raw or roasted, as well.

Onions & Garlic: Both have antiviral effects. Garlic contains allicin, which has antioxidant effects when it breaks down. It’s best eaten raw to prevent colds… But luckily, retains many beneficial qualities when cooked.

Lean Ground Beef: We don’t eat much beef, but we may start. It’s stocked with zinc, iron, and B-12. Iron keeps your red blood cells healthy by providing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your cells. B-12 also helps with hemoglobin creation, neurological function, and fat and protein synthesis.

Salmon, Tuna, & Mackerel: Omega-3s, which can help reduce chronic inflammation by helping your immune system get back up to speed.

Beans & Lentils: Lots of zinc, and added proteins.

Flaxseed: Especially ground flaxseed, to help get enough omega-3s.

Almonds: Full of Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.

Almond & Peanut Butter: Both offer magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin E.  

Kefir: Probiotic that helps with gut health by replenishing strains of healthy bacteria, promoting stomach health but also lowering the risk of respiratory tract infection.

Oats: High in beta-glucan, which helps reduce cholesterol and boost white blood cell count.

 

This is by no means exclusive; there are tons are other foods that are also packed with superhero qualities. Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, coconut oil, the list goes on…. And you should include them all. I chose these because their benefits are conducive to long-term health, and they’re easily accessible and affordable.

Keep in mind, normal grocery trips will also still include things like almond milk, lots of eggs and egg whites, apples, cooking vegetables like eggplant/zucchini/broccoli, chicken, wild rice, whole grain pasta, herbs, etc.

 

Recipe Plan

  • Chili with lean ground beef, beans, dark leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potato

  • Fish coconut milk curry with red peppers, chopped kale, mushrooms, onions, and garlic

  • Salad with braised kale, raw shaved fennel, orange segments, almond slivers, and diluted apple cider vinegar dressing

  • Smoothies with apples, almond butter, flaxseed, cinnamon, kefir, and protein powder for sweetness

  • Overnight oats with berries, kefir, almond butter, chia seeds, and chopped nuts as a topping

  • Baked sweet potatoes filled with tuna, avocado-oil mayo, chopped veggies, onions, and garlic

  • Homemade nut-based granola bars, without added sugar.

 

Yes, I already make variations of these recipes… And we still get sick. However, the goal is to consciously combine immunity-boosting foods, and provide backup for our natural protective systems.

Plus, those combinations just sound delicious. I’m all about the smoothies. Yes.

Don’t worry, details will be on the blog as soon as this goes into effect (starting with the weekly grocery shop on Saturday). I’ll keep you updated!


In the meantime, are there any habits or tricks you guys use to stay healthy during flu season?