Looking at leftovers

One of the easiest ways to cut shopping bills and prevent food waste is to take a good, long look at what you’re throwing out. Leftovers can be magical, wonderful things, if used properly.

First off, it’s probably best to learn a bit more about portion sizes. Before I found Pat’s group, I was a sucker for cooking too much pasta, rice or potatoes, but by measuring how much I need for a serving I find I throw out much less. In my opinion, the best resource for this is BUPAs website, but Tesco have a fairly clear guide too. For the above-mentioned starchy foods, a good serving size for a woman would be between 50-75g of rice, dried pasta or noodles (prior to cooking), or 125g fresh pasta/microwavable rice. So now you know. 🙂

If you still find yourself with leftovers there are numerous ways you can reuse what would otherwise go in the bin – no matter how small a portion you think you’ve got. Last night, when I was chatting to others on the facebook group, I was sent all manner of amazing suggestions for what to do with food which might otherwise be chucked.

When it comes to leftovers, my own line of thinking goes something along the lines of: is there enough there to feed another person – even if I need to add a salad or some bread? It sounds obvious, but chucking said extra portion into a container and then freezing it can come in very handy on nights when you might otherwise reach for the take-away menu. It also saves on electric – reheating these in a microwave (if you’ve got one) uses far less power than cooking for scratch.
The next question is: can I put it on toast/a baked potato/a homemade pizza base/a crepe? Things like stew are wonderful as leftovers – they can be eked out with a few more vegetables or pulses, you can add a can of tomatoes and some spices for a quick curry, you can add a little more liquid and blend them into a wholesome soup…

Amanda's Pie
Amanda’s Pie

Or would it suit pastry? Curry, bolognese and stew are all great, wrapped up in pastry and called a pasty. Or add a few more veg and a crust, then call it a pie. Amanda used leftovers from a roast chicken dinner to make her awesome-looking pie.

With rice and pasta, can you add some other bits and turn it into a salad? Kidney bean and sweetcorn salad is a good base to add leftovers to. And as my Nan would say, ‘drop an egg on it’ for a really quick and satisfying meal.

If you’ve got leftover soup, can you add some spices and a few chopped vegetables and use it as a sauce for a pasta bake? If you can work in some leftover pasta, you’ve got yourself the bones of a free meal there.

Even the tiniest morsels can be useful – a few extra potato wedges can be chopped up and used in an omlette, or blended into mash for potato scones. All you need to do is add plain flour until you’ve made a dough and then fry off in pancake shapes on a good griddle pan. These freeze well and can be toasted as you need them. I like them with marmalade and smoked mackerel (more on that epic flavour combination another day), but they’re equally great in place of toast, regular pancakes or hash browns.

Maureen had the following advice, “Slice leftover meat & make sandwiches, pop in a sandwich bag, wrap in cling film – once frozen, pop them in a freezer bag. Cheese works well also. Great for packed lunches as they only take a few hours to defrost – so take them out of the freezer in the morning.

Open freeze roast potatoes & parsnips – once frozen put in freezer bags. Can be cooked from frozen (I pop mine in the microwave for a couple of minutes to ‘start them off’ – less time in the oven).

Freeze leftover ‘gravy’ from stews to have with sausages or pies – you can always thicken it with gravy granules. Or you can just add it when you’re making a cottage pie.

Chop up & freeze over ripe bananas Whiz them in a blender to make banana ice cream.

If you think you’re not going to get through all your yogurts – pop a ‘lolly-pop’ stick through the lid & freeze the yogurt. Lolly-pop ‘ice creams’!

Grate leftover cheese, pop in a freezer bag, shake every hour or so until frozen, then seal. Free-flow cheese that can be added to sauces, beans on toast etc.” 

Helen's cottage pie
Helen’s cottage pie

And don’t forget old favourites. Bubble and Squeak, cottage pie and shepards pie have all been popular for generations with good cause. The picture to the left is Helen’s (again from the facebook group).

And what about food ‘on its way out’? Veg can become soup – frozen until needed – fruit can be blended and used in cake whilst juice and yogurt can be frozen in ice-lolly moulds for super-cheap deserts. Another staple here is ‘real’ stock – you use any bones left from meat and stew them for a good few hours (8 in our house, using the slow cooker). The cooked-down bones from a chicken make a particularly delicious base for paella.

Finally, Aleksandra’s advice rings very true, “Think sideways… sauces can become soups or toppings/marinades. Just about anything can be added to an omelette or quiche. Don’t be restricted by the time of day; breakfast can be more than cereal or toast etc!”

How do you use your leftovers?

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