You’d be amazed at how much food gets thrown away in America every day simply because people don’t know how to use leftovers. One of our members recently posted a link that was all about using leftovers, and I couldn’t help but think what a great topic! So, I thought today I’d pass along some of my tips to avoid throwing away food.
- Plan a leftover night – This is my No.1 secret to not wasting leftovers. When you’re planning out your weekly meals, set aside one night that is just for leftovers. Don’t plan or purchase anything for that night, and instead use what you’ve already made!
- Make smaller meals – If you find that you’ve always got leftovers in the fridge, then try and half recipes or cut down on how much of something you cook to only make what you know you’ll eat. At the very least, you won’t have as many leftovers. While this sounds pretty common sense, it can be difficult and will take a bit of adjusting.
- Freeze meals – You can create your own ‘microwave dinners’ by taking leftovers and freezing them for a quick meal a few weeks down the road. Make sure you’re using a freezer-safe bag or container and label it clearly with contents and the date.
- Have hot lunches – Personally, I tend to make a little bit more than necessary so I have something hot to take for my lunches at work. Not only is it cheaper than buying a lunch, but a hot lunch beats sandwiches most days, especially in the winter!
- Account for leftovers in your menu – I tend to make a bi-weekly menu for meals and when I’m planning I will factor in using leftovers. Leftover mashed potatoes from Monday will become potato patties with Wednesday’s meal, or a yummy shepherd’s pie on Thursday. This is a great alternative for things that are hard to judge how much you’ll eat, or for things that are cheaper and easier to make in larger quantities (ever tried to make one serving of mashed potatoes or spaghetti? Impossible.).
- Know what doesn’t keep – There are some things that, no matter what you do, just do not reheat well. Fried zucchini comes to mind for me. While I love it freshly made, the next day it just comes out gross. For things like this try and make a little less than normal so you don’t have to throw it away.
- Reuse, don’t just reheat – No one wants to eat the same thing every day, and if the idea of simply reheating your food makes you cringe, why not reuse it to make something else? Leftover meat is especially easy to make into a casserole or other dish, but you can do it with just about anything.
- Compost what you can – So, sometimes you grossly over calculate. Don’t worry! A lot of things you can throw in the compost so that it is still useful. If it’s something that you can’t compost, perhaps it would make a good snack for a pet or livestock. Only throw it out as a last resort.
What tips do you have for making the best use of leftovers? Share with me in the comments, or join us in the forums!
when I was cooking for a family of 5 there were very few leftovers, period. But, when there were I would put most every little thing in a large bowl and place in the freezer. Some things were leftover green beans with their juice, pot roast with juice and little bits of onion, carrots, potatoes, celery, whatever was in the crockpot. Gravy, milk or cream, any veggies, etc. all went in the bowl. I would just add ’til the bowl was full (and it was a very large Tupperware bowl) then get it out one day, let it thaw, taste and season if need be. You get yourself a different pot of soup every time and it is always good. Very little seasoning is needed because everything you put in has already been seasoned to your liking the first time it was served. Really and truly most anything can go in your mix, Leftover taco meat or crumbled meatloaf, chicken, pork, all taste good and give a different twist to your soup. There is hardly any leftover soup, but if there is just make it the start of a new batch. Waste not , want not my mom always told me.