How many times have you peered into the refrigerator and discovered, way in the back, a container that has been overlooked and forgotten for days? Weeks? Who knows?
The worst is when I forget my beans in the fridge. Sometimes I wished I had just thrown out the whole container and not bothered to open it and dump the rotten beans out to save the container.
Somewhere along the way of too many bad bean experiences and seeing a real visual of how much food goes to waste in the United States (roughly 414 pounds per person per year!), I decided I needed to get really serious about my leftovers.
There are many reasons to get smarter about how you use the food you purchase. Not only will you save money and help the planet, but you’ll learn to use your leftovers to re-purpose your food in creative ways.
Here are 4 easy ways to use your leftovers
1. Create Leftovers on Purpose
When planning your meals think about what extras you will have. If you prepare twice the vegetables you’ll need for tonight’s dinner, you’ll have the starting point for a soup or pasta dish later in the week. Plan on using leftover roast chicken on sandwiches or salads for lunch the next day or cook twice as much rice and freeze the extra for later use. Add cooked vegetables to your morning omelet or turn leftover pasta into side dish for a dinner later in the week. Blend cooked vegetables with a can of whole tomatoes and create a veggie-packed sauce for pasta. Create burritos with leftover cooked rice, meat and vegetables, and top with avocado and salsa.
2. Use the Right Leftover Storage
Store your leftovers in glass storagecontainers or Mason jars (not only because they are reusable and sustainable) but they allow you to see what’s inside. This way you are less likely to lose track of leftovers. Also, store leftovers as small meals that you can take and re-heat for lunch later in the week. You can also freeze leftovers in zip-top gallon bags (which can be washed and re-used), and label and date the contents on a piece of tape.
3. Have a Weekly Leftovers Night
My kids love leftover night! Pick a night of the week (maybe the day before trash day?) Take all of the leftovers out of your refrigerator and lay them on the counter. Then let your family have a smorgasbord for dinner! This is a great way to get the last use from your leftovers, pack your lunch for the next day, and if any food has spoiled throw it in the garbage, your compost pile (plant based foods only) or a stock bag (see tip 4).
4. Freeze Vegetable Scraps
As an alternative to composting, keep vegetable scraps to make stock. Keep a gallon zip-top bag in the freezer and add vegetable scraps like the root of carrot, celery and onion, stems of herbs and greens, etc. When the bag is full, defrost the contents, dump into a pot and add water to cover. Simmer for 2 hours, strain — and you’ll have better-than-store-bought veggie stock (which can be frozen in that same gallon bag).
How do you use your leftovers?
Do you want to get inspired about nourishing your body with delicious healthy food before your summer vacation? Join me for my Summer Cooking Class on Thursday, June 8th or plunge into my 7 Day Pre-Vacation Summer Detox from June 19-25th!
Here’s to your good health!