Let's talk about fresh herbs, people: everyone should be growing lots of them at home. Apartment people, stop creeping backwards away from this conversation, you too can grow herbs in pots indoors and they look and smell great. Just be careful not to keep mint too close to other herbs because it will invade and take over everything. But for goodness sake please grow mint, especially in the summer because I want that shit on everything. When you're cooking a dish and you are using fresh herbs, remember that fresh leafy herbs can only withstand about twenty minutes of heat and they bruise badly, so chop your parsley, cilantro, etc. at the last minute and simply finish your dish with it, don't cook with it. Dry herbs in your pantry actually taste better the more time you let them cook and it especially helps to toast your dry herbs in the pan in some oil or butter a little bit to open up the flavor. If you're buying fresh herbs from the supermarket, fill a glass halfway with water and put the herbs in the glass and keep it in the fridge, you'll get a lot more mileage out of it. Herbs make everything taste fresher than the Prince of Bel-Air, so remember that the herb is the word.
Have you ever heard of FIFO? Ask any restaurant chef and they'll tell you. It's an acronym: first in, first out. This is a way of life in a kitchen for restocking and organizing pantries and walk-ins and it can be applied to your own home to minimize food waste due to spoilage or dumbness. Here's how it works in a restaurant: when food is delivered, it is labelled with a date and placed behind its counterpart that is already in stock. For example, think about how your grocery store stocks the milk and dairy products from the back so that the rotation of milk, as customers are taking it, is maximizing its potential to not spoil. This works for anything that you have a lot of in your refrigerator or pantry. Keep a Sharpie handy in your kitchen and label items that you don't want to get confused and make sure you are utilizing the older products first. This is also great for labelling leftovers so stick a post-it note or write the day that it was made and use good judgement when you're lazy eating and reaching for the two week old globular remains of what had formerly been a veggie stir fry. Be better than that. Everything in a restaurant has a labelled date because it keeps everyone organized and when the health inspector comes they will throw out prepared food without a date-prepared label. It cuts costs in your budget and makes you more aware of what you're using the most and how often you're using it. It may seem anal-retentive at first but give it a try and start treating your kitchen like a restaurant kitchen and the effects will seep into other areas of your organization. GO FIFO!
Meat is expensive and quality matters, so unless you're a vegetarian you owe it you yourself to be informed. There are countless resources to get educated about your meat but most people don't utilize their best and most obvious resource: your local butcher! Want to know why Boston Butt isn't butt meat? Want to know why sirloin and ribeye taste/are priced differently? Is your meat grass or corn fed? Where does it come from? Just ask your butcher! Know her/his name and remember it, greet them kindly and become someone they look forward to seeing and talking to. Most friendly people like to share what they are good at with others, so if your butcher is being a hard-ass find a new one. My butcher is the greatest, he gives me free fat back when I'm making sausages, he even told me where to find the best hog casings in town. Butchers can be a font of information, you just need to start asking questions. What looks good today? How would you season and cook it? Something to keep in mind, however, is that the price of your protein goes up every time your butcher touches it with a knife so if you don't know how to fabricate it yourself, ask them to show you the first time and start trying it on your own at home. Information is power, so start getting answers from the source and get butch, people!