I hate waste. I hate seeing leftovers or unused food – either rotten or well past the expiry – go in the bin. It’s an easy way to squander money, especially if food is just plainly and simply forgotten about in the bottom of the fridge. That goes for out-of-date items that have been sitting in the doldrums of the pantry since 2013. Eww.
Leftover meat can be used for an easy slow-cooked meal.
Since starting my journey into motherhood, I do admit, I’m not the well-drilled, organised machine that I used to be. Things do get forgotten and fiddly meals do get abandoned after a long, difficult day.
But there are ways and means to reduce the amount of food that goes in the bin each week. I’ve found that having a weekly or fortnightly meal plan can drastically reduce waste. Make a list of all the ingredients you need and this will mean you only buy what you need for the week. If you need to buy a particular ingredient for one dish, such as fish sauce, perhaps find a couple of other dishes using this as a base so that you can use it up over the next few weeks, rather than leave two-thirds of an opened bottle in the fridge for months (and let me tell you, opened fish sauce will stink out your fridge eventually.)
Some leftovers can be recycled into other meals – for example, leftover potatoes and vegetables can easily be made into Bubble and Squeak patties. Roasted lamb or beef leftovers will make a great curry for the next night, while pork can be chucked in the slow cooker, with pulled pork tacos a favourite in our household.
If you have a chicken carcass and bits of chicken hanging around, you can boil the carcass in a pot and use it to make homemade chicken stock – a great alternative to the salt-enriched stock you find on the supermarket shelves when you make a warming homemade chicken soup.
Dairy products and fruit can be frozen
Dairy products that are approaching their use-by date can be frozen, including milk, sour cream and thickened cream. You can also freeze grapes, kiwi fruit and berries, whereas mushrooms can be cooked prior to being frozen. Just chop them up, cook if needed and pop them in a zip lock bag.
Vegetables make a great soup
Alternatively, unused fruit that is looking a bit worse for wear can be used to make delicious, healthy smoothies, while unused vegetables are a great staple to chuck into a pot for a lovely winter soup or a casserole or lasagne or bolognaise with hidden vegetables]. I make a vegetable soup in which no part of the vegetable is spared – not even the onion skin or celery leaves. Well, maybe not the onion skin.
Don't forget to label food before it goes in the freezer.
Leaving leftovers in the freezer is a bad habit in our house. Before you know it, three months has passed and we’re eating freezer food for a week just so it doesn’t go to waste, a practice my husband gets a bit annoyed with when he starts missing his steak. A good habit to get into is to label the date onto each container or bag – this will reduce any ambiguity about how long food has been in the freezer and will reduce the likelihood of it going to waste.