When you plan your meals right, you won’t have too much of it leftover. This is the smart way of cooking food and reducing waste. However, in some families, leftover night gives the cook in the family a much needed break. Leftover food is also ideal for elderly people or those living alone who prefer not to cook every day. So here are some tips, ideas and easy ways to use leftover food.
1. Storing leftovers
An easy way to use leftover food is to store it correctly in the first place.
- Keep your fridge below 40 F (5 deg C) to prevent bugs from growing in leftovers. If the food has a use-by date that is long past, throw it. Use your common sense-if anything looks or smells bad, throw it.
- Always wrap or cover the food when storing it for reuse.
- Clean your fridge out every 2-3 weeks or at least once in a month.
- Consume leftovers within 3 days. You can also freeze certain foods for up to 6 months.
- Never put hot food in the fridge-always cool it first.
- Do not overload or clutter the fridge. This prevents air circulation and can make your items spoil faster.
2. Important food storage tips in refrigerators
Did you know that there is method of storing food in refrigerators so it can last longer?
- Store yogurt, ready to eat foods etc at the topmost part (first shelf of the fridge)
- Cooked meals, cakes, butter, packaged foods, ketchup, sauces and jams go on the second shelf. You must keep these covered always.
- Cover and store raw meat, fish etc on the third shelf from top. Do not let raw meat touch other foods.
- Keep ready to eat fruits and vegetables covered in plastic bags or containers and store them in the vegetable tray at the bottom.
3. General ideas for leftovers
Most leftover food can be reused into a stir-fry, casserole or in a soup or broth. Leftover soup, sauces and broths can further be used in gravies and curries. Just be creative and you will know exactly what to do with leftover food at home.
4. Ideas for using leftover produce
Here are some top ideas for leftover vegetables and fruits:
- If you have cooked broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower in excess, you can use the leftovers in sauces, stir fry dishes, omelets, sandwiches, pastas, quiches, gratin, etc. You can also add vinegar and oil to them and toss them with fresh lettuce, tomatoes etc for a tasty salad. Cooked vegetables are also great for pureeing with milk and broth for a creamy sauce.
- Add cut up fruit to custard, ice creams, in smoothies, on pancakes, with cottage cheese, or just as a snack in between meals.
- Got overripe bananas? Use them in breads, muffins or freeze them for smoothies and shakes. To freeze excess bananas, always remove peel first and store them in Ziploc bags.
- Shopped for too much fruit? Make it into a jam, jelly, preserves, syrup, apple sauce, etc.
- Leftover vegetables (Stalks from all green vegetables – broccoli, spinach, silver beet, carrots, celery heads, pumpkin skin, squashy mushrooms, eggplant , tomato pieces end bits, onion bits and the skin , herbs like parsley stalks, rosemary sage, thyme etc) can be used to make a fantastic stock which you can then use for many dishes.
5. Ideas for leftover Bread
Leftover bread is best made into croutons and breadcrumbs. Croutons are especially a yummy accompaniment to salads, soups and casseroles. Breadcrumbs are ideal for frying and baking your chicken dishes. Leftover bread, English muffins and tortillas can also be used for making mini pizzas. Alternatively, use the following delicious recipe for leftover bread:
Ingredients: 6 slices of breads, 6 eggs, 2 slices of cheese slit into thin pieces, 3 slices of bacon, 4 mushrooms diced, seasoning, butter for greasing and parsley for garnishing.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove the edges of each bread slice-you can save these for making breadcrumbs.
- Flatten each slice with a rolling pin.
- Press down each slice into a muffin cup. Bake for 5 minutes until edges brown.
- Line each cup with mushroom bits, cheese and bacon.
- Crack an egg in each of the cup keeping the yolks intact.
- Season each cup.
- Bake for 5-8 minutes or until eggs are visibly cooked.
6. Ideas for leftover rice/pasta
Fried rice is the easiest way to use up cooked rice. Add meat, eggs vegetables etc for a tasty meal which kids will love. You can also make a delicious rice custard or pudding dessert with cooked rice by adding eggs, milk, sugar and raisins. Rice can also be made into rice cakes or cutlets and patties. Pasta is best made into a cold pasta salad.
7. Ideas for leftover meat
- Make a delicious meat sauce with some garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. You can use this on pastas and rice dishes.
- Ground beef is great for making chilli or casseroles.
- Bake excess meats like chicken and beef and reuse it in soups and stir fries.
- Chicken, tuna and egg make excellent additions to sandwiches.
- Leftover roasts can be used in shepherd’s pies.
- Salmon and leftover fish makes excellent fish cakes. You can also use salmon in pita pockets or taco shells with tomatoes and lettuce.
8. Ideas for leftover nuts
Use nuts like pecans and macadamia in your baked goods or simply crush them and add them on soups.
As stated above, it is very important to use leftover food carefully by heating it to 140 F. Boil liquids thoroughly before consuming. If produce is looking wilted or is giving off a bad smell, discard it immediately.