I don’t know what has been going on with my kids lately, but I feel like my house is constantly littered with half-eaten cheese sticks. And cheese sticks are, like, not cheap. Do you know what a package of organic cheese sticks cost these days? It’s about $5. And yet my kids — and even my babysitter — consider cheese sticks a core food group. There are some weeks where I spend upwards of $20 just on these overpriced, individually packaged mini-tubes of mozzarella.
My kids enjoy cheese sticks as part of their meals — breakfast can be fruit, toast, and a half-eaten cheese stick; lunch is sliced cucumber, noodles, and a bite or two of cheese stick. (The rest gets left on the table for me to clean up.) Then there are the remnants of cheese sticks that I find in my car and in between the couch cushions.
Finally, I got fed up with all the waste. I started collecting these cheese nubs in a plastic baggie in my fridge. Once I had a sizeable collection — and trust me, that didn’t take long — I made some mac & cheese. The girls devoured it for dinner.
Kids are basically just adorable money vacuums — and not just because they keep needing bigger clothes, or soccer lessons, or birthday presents for all their classmates. There are some weeks when, in addition to those $20 worth of cheese sticks, I consider mortgaging our house to pay for their obsession with berries.
Organic berries are especially expensive this time of year — we’re talking like $6 a box for a small pint of raspberries — and I like to buy organic because I keep hearing how berries are prone to absorb pesticides. And then what happens?? They return home from school with a container of those pricey little jewels barely touched in their backpacks! It sends me into a serious parent rage. So now I freeze all those leftover berries — and all the half-eaten bananas — to save for smoothies or berry coffee cake.
Bottom line: Kids waste a lot of food, but with a little creative thinking there are some great ways to use up all those leftovers and upcycle them into something delicious. Here are some of my suggestions:
For leftover cheesesticks:
Steamed Cauliflower with Pumpkin Cheese Sauce
For the leftover berries:
Berry Banana Smoothie from The Food Network
Blueberry Crumb Cake from Ina Garten
For leftover bananas:
Banana Bread from The James Beard Foundation
Banana Ice Cream from The Nosher
Banana Zucchini Bread from The Nosher
Banana Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
For bread ends and untouched toast:
Simple Bread Pudding from The New York Times
Baked French Toast from My Jewish Learning
For leftover carrot and celery sticks:
Vegetable Stock from The Kitchn