What if I told you I could save you some money – as much as £700 per year – just by helping you to love your leftovers? The delicious dessert above was made entirely with leftovers at The Love Your Leftovers Challenge – you can find out more about it, along with a great scheme to encourage recycling by clicking here.
The average UK family with children throws away over £700 worth of food which has either spoiled or reached its use by day before it can be eaten. Much of this is a result of over-buying, as well as a lack of knowledge about how to preserve food and also how to use up leftovers. This places pressure on local authorities, who spend millions disposing of waste, as well as on the environment.
Here are some ideas to help you avoid food waste, save money and help the environment.
Don’t over buy
Supermarkets encourage us to over buy by offering items ‘three for two’ or ‘buy one get one free’. This is actually a trick to help them increase their margins. Unless you will definitely use the item, it’s no saving to purchase more than you need. Perishable buy one get one free items can be frozen but if the item can’t be frozen or used in time, give it to a friend or if appropriate, donate it to the food bank on your way out of the supermarket.
Keep a tidy fridge
Keep an eye on fresh products and if you feel you won’t be able to eat them by the use by date, pop them in your freezer as soon as you can. Although many items have the wording ‘freeze on day of purchase’ on the packaging, this is not necessary. It’s better to do so if you know you won’t use the item, but unlike what many supermarkets would have you believe, food can be frozen safely up to the use by date unless it shows signs that it has spoiled.
Use your freezer
There are many things you can freeze, including:
Leftover lemons, oranges and limes – Simply slice citrus fruits and freeze flat. Once frozen, transfer to sealed containers. Use to make infused water, garnish soft drinks or perk up a gin and tonic.
Most hard cheeses – Grate the cheese and freeze in airtight containers. Use straight from frozen as a garnish on pasta, pasta bakes and baked potatoes. The cheese melts into hot dishes and tastes the same as fresh.
Bread – Freeze half a loaf of bread so that you have one half to eat now and the rest to toast for later. If fresh bread begins to go dry or stale, grate or process it to make bread crumbs which can then be frozen in airtight containers. You can also make croutons or use leftover bread in bread puddings and breakfast casseroles.
Roast vegetables – Aubergine (eggplant), courgettes, onions, and peppers can be roasted, cooled and frozen in serving size portions. Add to pasta sauces, couscous or rice.
Fresh herbs – There are many ways to safely freeze fresh herbs. Click here to find out how.
Use leftover fruit and vegetables in baking
All the cakes you see in the photograph above can be made with leftover fruits and vegetables. Use leftover butternut squash in my Butternut Pecan Loaf and leftover bananas in my Banana Rum Raisin Cake and my Chocolate Banana Bundt Cake. Leftover sweet potatoes work beautifully in quick bread as well. For more recipes to use up leftover bananas, click here.
Cool and chill leftover meat quickly
Leftover meat can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days and used in many delicious recipes like the ones pictured above. You can find them by clicking here.
Know the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’
A best before date is just that. In controlled conditions, it has been determined that the product will be best before this date. It’s not necessarily ‘rotten after’. You can generally tell if something is not good to eat just by looking at it and smelling it. Fruit and vegetables should not have best before dates. They should be used as soon as possible as they taste best and are most nutritious when they are fresh. However if fruit is mouldy or ‘off’, you will know just be looking at it!
‘Use by’ dates are generally used for meat, fish and other very perishable items. These should be adhered to as the products may be dangerous if consumed after that date. You can freeze items up to the use by date safely in most cases though.
Using these tips to help you love your leftovers will benefit the environment and help you save money. If you love your leftovers and have more great ideas, please share in the comments!