Loving your leftovers is one of the easiest ways to reduce your food waste at home. And it can be fun and downright delicious too!
Only half of Victorians say they eat leftovers from last night's dinner (SV 2016).
That means a whole lot of lovingly-prepared, nutritious and tasty food ending up in the bin. And our leftovers really add up – to 51,000 tonnes of food a year in fact! – and end up in landfill where they can produce greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.
So get creative, make the most of your leftovers and show them the love they deserve!
5 Ways to Love Your Leftovers
1. Get creative with your leftovers
Reinvent leftover curries and casseroles into a pie with a simple layer of pastry. Use up leftover vegies in winter a soup and stews.
Pretty much any cooked meats can be popped in a pitta pocket or added to a salad to become lunch.
Or re-flavour leftovers to create a whole new meal – roast pork can become pulled pork tacos, steamed vegies can be diced and spiced into a healthy curry.
Check out some of our how-to videos to see how you can get creative with your leftovers.
2. Shop from the fridge and pantry
Got food that needs using up? Start planning dinner from what’s already in your fridge and go from there. It'll save you time, money and cut your food waste fast!
Start with the items that need to be use up soonest and see what leftovers you can include. Then go to the shops and top up with what you need.
See recipe ideas for using up common leftovers on our Recipes page.
3. Make friends with your freezer
If you’re trying to reduce your food waste, your freezer is your best friend! Everything from soup to fruit to leftover pasta can be frozen and used up later.
It’s worth having some good quality containers and, of course, some ice cube trays – which you can freeze practically anything in. Like banana puree, which you can drop into smoothies!
Freeze big batches of soup, stews and sauces in individual portion sizes for quick single meals. Cooked rice and pasta can also be frozen in single serves and reheated to piping hot when you need it.
If you have fruit that’s about to go off, dice or puree it and freeze it to add to smoothies or bake in crumbles and pies.
Most vegies can also be chopped and quickly blanched for 1-2 minutes and then frozen flat on a tray to keep them separated before being transferred into a container.
Remember to label foods with what it is and the date so you know what you need to use up. Find more tips to make the most of your freezer.
4. Have a weekly leftovers night
Waste Free Wednesday. Throw Together Thursday. Friday Free-For-All. Whatever you want to call it, setting a day in your house that is devoted to eating from the fridge and pantry is a great way to use up those odd bits and pieces from previous meals.
Saute or roast up any extra vegies and warm up leftover meats and sauces and lay it all out on the table for the family to pick from. Make it a challenge to not go to the shops at all and you’ll discover both some creative new meals and a few more bucks in your pocket!
5. Check your storage
To keep your food fresh and your leftovers safe, correct storage is crucial.
Is your fridge at 3-4 degrees Celcius? If not, your leftovers won’t last as long. Buy a cheap thermometer and leave on a shelf in the fridge and you’ll never need to wonder again.
Get hot food into the fridge straight after your meal. The old wives tale about leaving it to cool completely is a myth that could actually increase the growth of bacteria in your food, as it sits in the Temperature Danger Zone of between 5-60 degrees Celcius for much longer. Storing hot food in the fridge in shallow, small containers will allow them to cool down quicker.
For the full story on how to store and cook leftovers safely, visit the Better Health Channel website.
Or to get to know which foods should be stored in the fridge versus the pantry and which foods are friends and which are foes, check out our Storage Do's and Don'ts page.
Next: Get some inspiration from our collection of leftovers recipes!