Every year in the UK, we’re throwing out £13 billion worth of food, and 4.4 million tonnes of that is avoidable waste, which means it was edible.
We’re all guilty of throwing edible food in the bin, but we could actually save ourselves time and money if we put this food to good use.
With a little creativity, we can turn leftovers into something nutritious and delicious, simply by cooking them up with other bits and bobs from our kitchen. You’d be surprised at what you can do with surplus meat/veg/grains!
Why not dedicate a night of the week to ‘leftovers night’? That way, your fridge gets a clearout and you make sure nothing ends up pushed to the back and wasted.
How to be a leftover king/queen
They key to being a leftover genius is ensuring your store cupboard is stocked with all the essentials, like tinned tomatoes, pasta and dried herbs.
That way, you’ve always got great things to mix with your leftover perishables.
Pantry looking a little bare? Pop to your local Costcutter to stock up – they’ve always got a fab range of great value essentials, as well as some more exciting things to jazz those leftovers up with, like olives, sundried tomatoes and pickled red cabbage.
1. Think outside the box
Looking in your cupboard and can’t quite figure out what to make for tea? Maybe you need to look with a different perspective.
How about adding any spare squares of chocolate to a chilli? Try this delicious chilli con carne recipe that you can batch cook for the week ahead.
And why not marmalade to glaze a ham? Serve with potatoes and salad for a healthy, hearty dinner.
2. Blitz them into soup
Soup is a great way to use up leftovers that might otherwise be a bit past their prime – especially veg.
Use this chicken soup recipe as a base if you have leftover chicken or chicken carcass- you can of course omit the chicken, use a different meat, and add in any veggies you have.
If you like a smooth soup, blend the mixture, or blend half and stir back into the unblended mixture.
You can cram an amazing amount of veg into one serving of soup, so this is a great meal if you’re trying to get discerning (aka: veg shy) little ones or you’re just trying to be healthier in 2018
Even if you don’t feel like chowing down on your left overs right away, you can whizz them into a soup and freeze it in single serving containers, ready for when you can’t be bothered to cook?
3. Turn leftover pizza into lasagne
If you’re ever fortunate enough to find yourself with leftover pizza, then have a go at the ultimate hangover-buster; pizza lasagne.
Just use pizza instead of pasta sheets – yum!
4. Make your own salad bar
Ever noticed that most things can be tossed with a salad? Leftover burger patties? Chop up and mix with crisp lettuce leaves, tomato, cucumber and chopped up gherkins.
Leftover chicken can be shredded and tossed with pasta, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and your fave dressing.
Got surplus roasted veg? Add some olives, mix with salad leaves and cous cous, and drizzle on olive oil and lemon juice.
Why not have a fun salad bar night by putting all your leftover items into bowls, and seeing who can create the tastiest salad? The kids will love it, plus it makes a great packed lunch for the next day.
5. Keep vegetable scraps to make stock
Don’t throw away those vegetable peelings – use them to make stock.
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6. Turn old bananas into ice cream
Old bananas are just perfect for this healthy alternative to ice cream – slice them up and freeze them in containers or freezer bags. Once frozen, add them to a blender with a splash of milk or dairy-free milk, and whizz them up until they reach ice cream consistency.
Experiment with different flavours – try adding peanut butter, cacao, strawberries or chunks of dark chocolate with cherries.
Then add your fave toppings, like chocolate chips, raspberry coulis or blueberries.
7. Turn stale bread into a tasty topping
Dry bread? Turn it into breadcrumbs and use them to top casseroles and pasta dishes, bulk out soups, or crumb homemade bean burger patties.
Simply preheat your oven to 130 degrees Celsius, bake your bread slices for 10-15 minutes, then whizz them into crumbs in a food processor.
8. Make ‘surplus sandwiches’
One of the best bits of Christmas is the Boxing Day leftovers sandwich – and you can do this the rest of the year too.
Here are a few ideas to start you off – try toasted or eat cold:
- Roast chicken, mozzarella and pesto
- Tofu, sundried tomatoes, crunchy salad and mayo
- Beef, mustard, tomato and onion
- Falafel, pickled red cabbage, houmous, salad, garlic mayo and jalapeños
- Roast pork with mushroom, caramelised onions and cheddar
- Onion bhaji with salad and tahini sauce
9. Get chilli with it
It is scientifically impossible to cook the correct amount of chilli. Luckily it is one of the most versatile left over foods of all time (and it freezes really well).
As well as being a great easy dinner – simply re heat thoroughly and serve with rice and dollop of sour cream – it can form the basis of loads of other tasty meals.
10. Transform dull rice into fried rice
Boring old leftover rice can be transformed into tasty, fried rice. All you need is some cooked, chopped up meat (or a meat-free alternative like veggie sausage, pulled ‘pork’ or shredded ‘duck’) and fresh, frozen or tinned veg – frozen peas, tinned sweetcorn and grated carrot work a treat
Check out this Chinese pork fried rice recipe, and adapt to suit your needs.
11. Use leftovers as pizza toppings
Takeaway pizza is an outrageous price for what it is – and they’re often pretty stingy with the toppings. So, why not save money and make your own?
Either make your own pizza dough (super easy) or buy some bases from the store, then go to town with your toppings – the more creative the better.
Loads of savoury items work on a pizza – leftover Bolognese? Slop some on and sprinkle cheese over. How about spreading on some mac and cheese and adding spinach and bits of bacon? Brazilians put green peas on their pizza (yes, really) so why not give it a go with some spinach and goat’s cheese?
Why not arrange a pizza night with your mates? Perfect for hiding from the winter weather. Nip to Costcutter to get some more exciting things to add to your pizza, like olives, chargrilled peppers and your favourite cheese.
Why not grab a bottle of wine while you’re there?
12. Turn dinner into breakfast
Shakshuka AKA baked eggs is a fantastic dish to make if you find yourself with lots of eggs to use up, and makes a perfect lazy Sunday breakfast with a pot of coffee and the papers.
Or how about these breakfast muffins? Feel free to add in scraps of bacon or leftover sausages/veggie sausages.
For more ideas of what to do with leftovers, and lots of great recipes, make sure to follow Costcutter’s instagram.