Whether managing a large multifamily property or quarantining in a compact apartment, utilizing our money, time and resources well in such unpredictable circumstances is of utmost importance to many of us right now. From a property owning perspective, more people at home means more maintenance calls and trash volume in the dumpsters. From an apartment living perspective, staying home means more home-cooked meals and coordinating food and product deliveries.
The Future of Food
As food supply chains suffer due to recent restaurant shutdowns and drastic decreases in production, meat-packing plant outbreaks and closures, farms overproducing and underselling product and many more challenges faced from farm to table, it’s crucial to think ahead to a time when food may not be as plentiful and accessible as it is now. We’re fortunate in this day and age to have the technology of refrigeration and freezing to maintain food longer and keep it from reaching vulnerable spoiling temperatures, and now is a better time than any to take food storage seriously. The majority of apartments today include basic or upgraded appliances like a stove and oven, refrigerator and freezer. It’s a time for residents to take full advantage of these included amenities, and for property management to increase their focus on keeping these items in working order.
This article applies to anyone and everyone trying to isolate and stay safe at home, preparing meals for themselves or their families. Limiting trips to the stores keeps employees, families and communities safer as we try to control exposure and avoid outbreaks. This is a perfect time to try new recipes and to employ full-use cooking techniques, as cooking is an activity the whole family can safely enjoy. Full-use cuts down on the volume of trash per household, which in turn saves property dumpsters from being overloaded or dangerously full. “TRUE”, a zero-waste program as part of the Green Business Certification Incorporation, is used by facilities to “define, pursue and achieve their zero waste goals, cutting their carbon footprint and supporting public health.” Being TRUE Certified adds value to a company and community by saving money, managing risk, reducing litter and pollution and creating jobs. Cutting down on personal and household waste is a great jumping off point for individuals and businesses to start evaluating how they contribute to a greener future.
We asked Top Chef and Top Chef All-Star contestant Chef Tiffany Derry, local to us here in Plano, TX, for tips on what we can do to save time, money, and groceries. For the last two years, Derry has been involved in an ongoing campaign with the James Beard Foundation called “Waste Not”, teaching households how to use all the food they buy and avoid food waste.
Why is Food Preservation Important?
Food Waste & The Environment
Small scale household tossing and grander scale mass-production food loss and waste both add up to major environmental implications which may become irreversible. To even begin to learn the basics of food waste impact on the environment is to understand this: Methane gas from rotting food damages the air we rely on to breathe, and production of food products plays a part in polluting the water we rely on to drink and live day-to-day. Without proper air and water, how can humanity and nature survive?
The Economic Cost of Food Waste
According to recent data, the average American household throws away more than $1,500 worth of food every year. The American Journal of Agricultural Economics estimates the total annual cost of the wasted food in the U.S. to be close to $240 billion.
At the agricultural production level, “dumping” happens when farmers are producing more of a product than people or companies are willing to buy, or when demand unexpectedly falls. COVID-19 caused closures of restaurants, school lunchrooms, and the shutdown of other major commercial-scale food buyers for which farmers anticipated a majority of their income and offloading of inventory. They had little choice but to make the painful decision to plow over edible crops and dump up to 3.7 million gallons of milk per day* onto fields rather than incur the additional cost of harvesting and processing products that couldn’t sell. Even the costly logistics of donating unused products is hardly feasible for farmers dangerously close to shutting down their operations. Without farmers, our agricultural and economic infrastructure is sure to collapse.
3 Pro Tips for Preserving Your Food
Fresh, in-season fruit is a perfectly freezable food that can be used for smoothies, jams, and baked goods. Wash, chop, and freeze delicious ready-to-blend mixtures for when you’re in a time crunch. Derry never gets bored with the many different combos of fruits and veggies that can be blended into cool, satisfying, healthy smoothies on the go.
If done right, fresh vegetables can also be frozen for periods of three months to a year depending on the type. Derry recommends blanching and shocking certain types of veggies, like carrots, which means briefly boil then immediately put into an ice bath before ultimately packing it up and stowing it in a deep freeze. When in doubt, do your research on best practices in order to get the best quality and bang for your buck. Some foods can go right into the freezer raw, while others may need some minimal prep. Frozen veggie combos for future juicing and blending is another time-saving tip Derry swears by.
One of Derry’s favorite things to freeze for later is cooked rice. Cooking a large portion doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating it for five or six consecutive days, the average refrigerated life of cooked rice. Simply bag up the extra and freeze it for up to eight months down the road. Pro tip: Label everything you freeze! You’ll need to see how long it’s been kept in waiting before using.
Know a family in need? Prepare and freeze meals or leftovers for drop-offs to your neighbors. Inspire those around you to use more and waste less, and help feed the hungry when resources are scarce. Just remember to use airtight sealed containers and freezer bags for frozen snacks.
The ultimate time for leftovers and surpluses of food is around the holidays. Turkey dinner for a week straight after Thanksgiving can bore some to tears, but Derry sees leftovers as an golden opportunity to get creative and enjoy delicious ingredients all week long. Year-round, leftovers can save time on cooking and clean up. Leave leftovers for the kids to grab as a nutritious after-school snack, or for a night coming home late from work with just enough energy to use a microwave. For cooking with leftovers, take scraps of meat and turn them into breakfast tacos with eggs, or throw veggies and rice in the pan with a tangy teriyaki sauce for some stir-fry. Leftovers don’t have to be the same exact meal over and over - get creative!
Perhaps you bought spinach after being inspired by fresh summer salad recipes, but time is working against you as you start to see signs of wilt on the leaves of your greens. Fear not, and toss not - Derry recommends putting them in a pan for a quick sautee with garlic and olive oil for a delicious, nutrient-rich side to your main course. “Be open-minded and adjust,” says Derry when ingredients start to look lackluster. Less-than-perfect produce is still good and edible, and a “sell-by” date does equal expiration date.
Flip through some cookbooks or search reputable recipe websites to learn how to use your fading-fast ingredients in soups, sauces, sides, entrees and even desserts. You’d be surprised how easily nutritious ingredients can add flavor and texture without piling on calories.
The Future You Will Thank You
Ultimately, it’s best to reduce waste for the sake of the environment and your wallet. It takes little effort to freeze food, and ensures you’ll have something to eat even when your pantry stock or funds run low. In terms of managing a property, promoting a greener way of living adds value to the residents and the outward community as a whole.