Sandwich of leftovers

What to do with leftovers? Tips to handle leftover food

Pasta from a few nights ago or a side of broccoli you cooked yesterday packed away in a plastic container is peering at you from the fridge. You made too much and now you don’t feel like finishing it, or maybe the portion you have left is not enough to count as a whole meal. What do you do with that leftover food?

There are good reasons not to throw it away. Whether it’s because your budget is tight and you are looking for smart ways to use your resources or you are cognizant that up to 40% of food produced in the US ends up in the landfills. Whatever your reasons, there is a number of both straightforward and ingenious ways to reduce waste.

Scheduled meal plan

How to avoid creating leftovers in the first place

  1. Plan your meals for the week and shop accordingly. Impulsive buying while hungry often causes people to grab too many ingredients they will not use.
  2. Buy the right amounts. Big pre-sorted bags may seem cheap and convenient, but if your dinner only calls for 2 carrots you should look into loose produce.
  3. Keep an eye on expiration dates and move older products to the front of the fridge after you’ve gone grocery shopping. This way you are less likely to forget about something in the back of the fridge.
  4. Set a day when you use up all the leftovers instead of cooking up an entirely new dish or buying extra groceries.
  5. Take advantage of meal kits that deliver pre-measured ingredients to your doorstep, down to single garlic cloves, fresh herbs and spice mixes.

Now, you have followed this advice, but there is still leftover food in your fridge: the meal kit portions were too generous, you made too much pasta (again) and a few lonesome vegetables didn’t end up in the main course. What can you do now?

Dealing with leftovers: storing and (re)using

The first thing you need to do in case you have processed leftovers is store them properly. Let cool and transfer your dish to an airtight container. Most things can stay in the fridge for up to 3-4 days and in the freezer for about a month. Keep a market and removable tape around for labeling with cooking dates. This way, you don’t need to try to guess how old your food is and whether it is still ok to eat it.

When you are ready to process them, create new meals out of your scraps. Depending on your ingredients, you can use them to fill a sandwich or as topping of a pizza, make fried rice or an omelet, or even bake a potpie.

Or you can enjoy this easy-peasy leftover soup: start with an aromatic base and gently sauté onions, carrots and leeks. Next, gather any wilting vegetables and soften them in the pan as well. Cooked veggies can be added at the end too. Then, top with your favorite vegetable or meat stock and let simmer for a few minutes. All that’s left to do is season, blend and serve!


Photos by Eaters Collective & Jesse Watters

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