Cooking Fresh Food
Using leftovers no longer means extra waste on our waists!

‘Use By’ dates and leftovers mean that our bins are suffering from overload. Follow my top tips here for ensuring that the amount of food we waste is down to a minimum.

The Art of Using Leftovers

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Food Waste Diary

Keep a ‘Food Waste Diary’ for a week to identify what you tend to throw out and then use it to work out where you can limit waste through more effective shopping and storage.

Freeze Bread and Rolls

If you often have to throw out sliced bread, rolls or pittas, freeze fresh loaves or packs immediately after buying them. Sliced bread and pittas can go straight into the toaster; rolls will need a little longer to defrost.

Leftover Bread is Still Usable

Use crusts or stale (but not mouldy) bread to make breadcrumbs by whizzing in a food processor and then freezing.

Then use the breadcrumbs to top dishes like lasagne, fish pie or vegetable bakes.

Weigh Your Food

Always follow the recommended portion sizes given on packs for ingredients like rice, pasta and couscous – adding an extra handful ‘just in case’ means you’ll end up overindulging or throwing it away.

Alternatively, use the portion planner on to calculate how much food you need to cook for the number of people who will be eating.

Cook Your Own Take Away Rice

If you order a takeaway, skip the rice from the restaurant and cook your own while you’re waiting for it to arrive – you’ll be able to prepare a much smaller amount, helping you to control calories and avoid the need to throw loads away.

Freeze Cooked Leftovers

Freeze leftovers rather than leaving them in a bowl at the back of the fridge where they get forgotten about.

Simply divide leftover meals like lasagne, chilli, pasta dishes, curries and stews into individual portions and place in separate containers.

Leave to cool, cover, label and then freeze. You’ll have homemade ready meals for times when you can’t be bothered to cook.

Veg Gone Soft = Tasty Soup

Rather than throwing out vegetables that need to be consumed, use them to make a vegetable soup or stew.

If you can’t eat it that day, freeze it in individual portions.

Squishy Tomatoes Can Be Saved!

Use squishy tomatoes to make your own tomato sauce – simply fry a finely chopped onion and a little crushed garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil.

When soft, add chopped fresh tomatoes, black pepper and mixed herbs, then leave to simmer for 10 minutes.

Mix with cooked wholewheat pasta, add a little Parmesan and serve with salad for a delicious meal.

Store in a Cool Dark Place

Keep potatoes for longer by storing them in a cool, dark place, preferably in a brown paper bag.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to use all of them before they go off, boil and mash them, then freeze when cool.

It’s a good solution for when you don’t have much time to cook – and certainly a tastier and cheaper option than instant mash!

Freeze Your Own Veg

Have a go at freezing your own veg if you don’t think you’ll get around to eating it all.

Simply plunge fresh veg such as asparagus, beans, broccoli, sprouts, carrots, cauliflower or peas, into boiling water for a few minutes, then transfer to iced water to stop the cooking process. Drain, place in containers, label and freeze.

Fresh Herbs Cubed

If you frequently throw away fresh herbs because they’ve gone off, buy frozen ones in cubes. Simply pop one cube into your savoury dishes for a fresh, herby taste.

Consider Canned Fruit

If you constantly find yourself throwing out fresh fruit, consider opting for canned fruit. It still counts towards your 5-a-day but choose fruits canned in juice rather than syrup to keep the calories down.

One Bad Apple

Keep an eye on your fruit bowl. One rotten apple can turn all your other fruit mouldy.

Fruit Juice Makes Healthy Ice Lollies

If you have fruit juice that’s heading towards its ‘Use by’ date and you know you won’t drink it, freeze it in ice lolly moulds for an instant sweet – but healthy – treat on hot days.

Eat Me Keep Me

Buy fruit that will ripen as the week goes on.

There’s no point choosing seven ripe bananas or peaches if you only eat one a day. By the end of the week, they’ll be so mushy, they’ll be inedible.

Make Your Own Smoothies

Rather than wasting yogurt that’s coming up to its ‘Use By’ date, use it to make smoothies or have it as a topping for breakfast cereal instead of milk.

Tzatziki and Salsa Instead of Spread

Use dips that are coming up to their ‘Use By’ date as a spread in sandwiches rather than butter, marg or mayo. Better still, dips like salsa or tzatziki contain fewer calories than classic high-fat spreads but add just as much moisture and more flavour.

Alternatively, mix dips with tuna or prawns instead of mayo for jacket potato toppings.

Dregs of Wine

Don’t ditch dregs of wine – freeze them in ice cube trays and then add to stews, casseroles and Italian sauces. It will save you opening a new bottle of wine for your Bolognese – and then being tempted to drink the leftovers!

Do Not Eat

No matter how much you might not want to waste food, don’t be tempted to eat products that are past their ‘Use By’ date, even if they look and smell fine.

According to the Food Standards Agency, eating food that’s past its ‘Use By’ date could cause food poisoning.

‘Use By’ dates are usually on foods that go off quickly such as milk, soft cheese, salad and fish – basically foods that need to be kept in the fridge.

Best Before

Most foods can be eaten after the ‘Best Before’ date, except for eggs.

The ‘Best Before’ date, which is usually found on foods that last longer such as frozen, dried and canned foods, is for guidance and means that food should still be safe to eat but it may no longer be at its best in terms of flavour or texture.

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