Food waste is a hot topic, especially as billions of dollars worth of edibles disappear into the world’s landfills each year. Some food is wasted because restaurants and caterers over-order; some is thrown into big bins by supermarkets as ‘best-by’ dates reach their deadlines. But a vast amount of food is wasted in our own homes. In fact, it’s estimated, in New Zealand homes alone, almost 160,000 tonnes of food is thrown away each year! Let’s see if we can change that with these simple solutions for managing and using leftovers.
1. Smart storage
Leftovers look fresher and last longer when stored in sealed containers. Keep a supply of these handy, in a range of sizes. Once you’re leftovers are contained, pop them in the fridge at the front of a shelf where you are sure to see them.
2. Use sooner, not later
Leftovers are best enjoyed the very next day. If you don’t think you’ll be ready for them by then, label and date them, and store them in the freezer in a dedicated box or compartment where they won’t be forgotten. Aim to use them by the end of the week at the latest.
3. Naked salads
Dressed salads don’t store. To avoid leftover salads becoming slimy and unappetising, serve them first time round with the dressing on the side. Pack away the undressed leftovers in an airtight container and store in the vegetable crisper compartment of your fridge.
4. Leftover companions
Leftovers are made for using in wraps and rice papers, on pizza bases and with pasta. Keep a supply of these items in your pantry and freezer and you’ll have turned your leftovers into a delicious, easy meal in minutes.
5. Bring on the blender!
A blender is your best friend when it comes to using up leftovers. Turn leftover cooked vegetables into instant soups by blending them with stock. Puree raw root vegetables and leafy greens with ice, a pinch of ginger, and a squeeze of lemon to make delicious anytime smoothies.
6. Fab fritters
Who doesn’t love fritters! And they can be made with almost any leftover ingredients. Chop up leftover meat, fish or veges, break an egg over the top, and whisk everything together with a splash of milk and a few tablespoons of self raising flour. Fry until golden and serve with leftover salad. Alternatively, assemble the same ingredients and use as the basis for an oven-baked frittata with a grated cheese topping.
Before the last few slices of bread turn mouldy, pop them into the oven with your next bake until they are crisp and golden. When cool, place them in a bag, seal and roll with a rolling pin to turn them into crumbs (or pop them in the food processor). Store in an air-tight jar or the freezer for your next crispy topping.
8. Stock up!
Finely chop or dice leftover pieces of carrot, onion, celery (and celery leaf), parsley and mushroom. Place in the dehydrator (or in an oven on lowest power), and dry until crisp. Blend to a fine powder, and store in a sealed jar along with a sachet of food-grade silica gel desiccant. Use as stock in soups.
9. Yes – they freeze!
If there’re two food items that deteriorate before your very eyes, it’s bananas and avocados. One minute they’re just right for eating, the next they’re soft and about to go brown. But both avocados and bananas freeze well. Frozen avocados are perfect for using in dips and creamy dressings. Frozen bananas are a delicious base for all-fruit ice-cream and fruit smoothies.
Learn to love leftovers and you’ll not only be fighting food waste, you’ll be enjoying a whole new way of eating!