Sarah Wilson's time- and waste-saving hacks for surviving isolation

Raid the pantry, fridge and freezer to ride out the storm.
Raid the pantry, fridge and freezer to ride out the storm. Photo: Rob Palmer

As we continue to face time in semi-isolation, knowing how to not waste a skerrick of food is a life skill you want under your belt. We still need to reduce trips to the shops, save money and work with what we've got. So I've pulled together a bunch of hacks that you can implement from today. I hope they inspire your anti-food waste creativity during These Difficult Times.

Use up the oldest thing in your pantry
Don't wait until your dried goods breed weevils. Use up the older box of rice before buying a new box of pasta. This is an easy way to use what's on hand, reduce waste and trips to the shops, as well as save money. 

I Quit Sugar: Simplicious Flow by a Sarah Wilson.
I Quit Sugar: Simplicious Flow by a Sarah Wilson. Photo: Supplied

Ditto with your fridge
Sweep through and use the odds and ends from your last shop that might be about to turn. I chop shrivelled herbs, place them in an ice-cube tray, cover with olive oil and freeze; they're perfect to deglaze pans for a flavour boost.

Make your leafy greens last up to two weeks
This one works, promise. Wash your leafy greens and herbs, then roll them up in a damp tea towel or pillowcase and keep them in the fridge.

Use up your jar dregs
This is a fun sport – finding ways to extract the stuck bits of a spread or condiment from the awkward angles of a jar or bottle. Here's a good one: in your almost finished mustard jar, add ¼ cup of olive oil and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Shake the jar vigorously for a great salad dressing. 

Freeze your nuts
It's true that oils in tree nuts (and seeds) go rancid very quickly when exposed to heat, light and air, but there's a simple solution. As soon as you get home, store them in the fridge or freezer. They'll last four to six months in the fridge and six to 12 months in the freezer. They also taste better – crispier and sweeter – direct from the freezer (no need to thaw). 

Never chuck a banana again
If they're ripening too fast, store them in the fridge. The skins will go dark and brown, but the flesh will be perfect for a good few days. Or peel them, snap into chunks and store in yoghurt punnets or old zip-locks in the freezer to make smoothies.

Ignore the best-before date
The use-by date tells you when a food must be eaten for health and safety reasons. The best-before date gives a rough indication of when it tastes the best. Many countries have removed best- before dates. I personally ignore them. You should, too.

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Save your bacon rind
Preheat an oven up to 220C, place leftover bacon rinds on a wire rack over an oven tray and bake for five minutes until puffed and crispy. Enjoy as they are or crush them up and use in salads, wraps, or as a topping for soups. Or you can freeze the rinds to use in a stock. 

Don't buy coconut milk
Buy coconut cream, which is the same price per can, and dilute with water 50:50. It will give you twice as much! 

Keep your coffee grounds
Use them to make a face scrub. Just mix three teaspoons of cold coffee grounds with two teaspoons of coconut oil. Apply in a gentle circular motion, then rinse with warm water and pat dry. 

Whole Pumpkin Soup recipe from Sarah Wilson in her cookbook Simplicious Flow.

Nada wasted with this recipe. Photo: Supplied

Whole pumpkin soup recipe

The fun and the nutrition in cooking is often found in the scraps we toss. Never more so than when you're talking to me about pumpkins. We cook a whole pumpkin – skin, flesh and seeds – in one hit and eat it all in the one meal. Nada wasted. In fact, we cook the whole meal in one hit on a baking tray, caramelising everything (which creates the lushest flavour and texture) with less effort than bog-standard pumpkin soup and in the process, we don't have to peel and mince the garlic, onion and ginger. Yee-hah!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5kg butternut pumpkin, roughly chopped, skin and seeds reserved
  • 1 pear, quartered
  • 2 onions, ends trimmed, skin left on, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, broken into cloves, skin left on
  • 4 cm knob of ginger, unpeeled
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked, plus 3 extra sprigs
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 200g sliced prosciutto or pancetta
  • 1 litre chicken stock

METHOD

  1. Preheat an oven to 160C. Place the pumpkin, pear, onion, garlic and ginger on a large baking tray and sprinkle the thyme leaves over. Drizzle with the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes or until the vegies are tender and slightly charred.
  2. Meanwhile, arrange the pumpkin skin on another large baking tray, ensuring none of the pieces overlap. Remove the larger stringy bits from the pumpkin seeds and place on the tray. Sprinkle over the spices and add the extra sprigs of thyme. Drizzle with a little olive oil (you want them barely coated to help make them crispy and not soggy) and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bake on the top rack over the pumpkin and onion for 15 minutes. Add the prosciutto or pancetta to the tray and bake for a further five to 10 minutes, until everything is well toasted and crisp.
  3. Once the vegies are tender, allow them to cool slightly. Remove the skins from the onion and garlic (just squeeze the cloves to pop them out). Transfer the whole tray of roast vegetables to a large saucepan (just tip the lot in). Add the stock and 1 cup (250 ml) water. Blitz with a stick blender until smooth, adding a little more water if you want to thin it out. Heat the soup over medium–high heat until warmed through.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with the roasted pumpkin seeds and crumbled prosciutto or pancetta. Serve with the crispy pumpkin skin and a creamy dip on the side. 

Recipe and tips from Sarah Wilson's Simplicious Flow. Macmillan Australia, $40.