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Waste Not, Want Not: 10 Tips for Repurposing Leftovers

Saving leftover food is one of the easiest ways to combat food waste at home. The average American family can utilize leftovers in creative ways, from food scrap vegetable stock to a hearty soup. Saving leftovers is not only an environmentally-friendly solution to food waste, but it is also a delicious way to reduce your grocery bill.

An estimated 40 percent of the U.S food supply is wasted. But repurposing meals for leftovers can be a quick and easy solution. From taking leftover ingredients to concoct brand new meals to making your own vegetable stock, here are ten tips to reduce waste and maximize your food budget.

1. Food Scrap Recipes

Many ingredients that we usually throw out can be repurposed into new recipes. Watermelon rinds, onion skins and cheese rinds are just a few examples of food to use in creative and delicious ways. Leftover veggies like carrot peelings and wilted celery can be added to vegetable stock for added flavor.

2. Soup

When dealing with leftovers, making soup might be the best solution for most ingredients. Add leftover veggies or meat to a simple broth with select seasonings and you have a whole new meal. 

3. Save Grilled Food

Many families enjoy dinner on the grill or barbecue during these summer months. While pulled pork might be especially delicious right off the grill, leftover barbecue can be repurposed into countless dishes like wraps, mac & cheese, and even chop suey.

4. Bowl Meals

Bowl meals are a popular way to eat clean, protein-dense food. Combine leftover protein, veggies and spices to create a whole new meal that takes no time to prepare. For example, use leftover chicken scraps to make a southwestern power bowl, complete with canned black beans and avocado.

5. Casserole Dishes

Not only are casserole dishes incredibly versatile, but they are also a great way to stretch food into a whole week of meals. Casserole dishes are great for leftover ingredients that should be re-cooked before eating. With a variety of recipes to choose from, it’s possible to find a casserole that suits your dietary preferences, and makes a great way to utilize leftover rice and grain from other meals. 

6. Compost

Say you’ve just thrown a huge birthday party or holiday event and cannot possibly save all of the leftover food. If you are unable to utilize leftovers for eating, composting is a great way to save and reuse nutrients. Online resources are available if you are attempting to compost while dealing with limited outdoor space, making the process surprisingly painless.

7. Add An Egg

If you have a bunch of mismatched leftovers that don’t quite make enough food for a wholesome meal, just add an egg. Eggs are a great source of protein and other nutrients. They are also an easy addition to most dishes by adding your favorite seasoning! 

8. Make Tacos

There’s nothing wrong with having taco night more than once a week. Tacos are a great way to reuse leftover food, and it’s easy to come up with creative flavor combinations! Keep it traditional by adding chili powder and cumin to leftover veggies or protein, or mix it with unique ingredients—the possibilities are endless.

9. Put Greens in Ice Water

It’s bound to happen at some point – you buy way more spinach than you can eat while it’s still fresh, or discover another bag of iceberg lettuce hiding in the back of the fridge. Greens are one of the most perishable foods, and often the hardest to utilize as leftovers. If you find wilted greens that are still fresh enough to consume, try soaking them in ice-cold water to perk them up. This method may also work for fresh herbs, like cilantro and dill.

10. Freeze Meals

Perhaps the most sensible decision, freezing food, is one of the best ways you can save leftover food for later. Make sure to organize your freezer efficiently, and check items regularly to ensure that everything stored is still good to eat. 

Waste No More

1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Whether dealing with leftovers after meal prep on Sunday or finding enough containers after a family barbecue, repurposing food into new recipes is a simple and efficient way to combat food waste. If leftover food is no longer fit for consumption, composting is a great way to save organic nutrients. 

The next time you find yourself struggling to come up with a creative way to use those containers in your fridge, try making tacos or a power bowl. Reducing food waste can be as easy as freezing meals for future use or making soup with leftover veggie scraps.

Photos by Diana Oborska on Unsplash (top); Fotolia (bottom)

Published on Jul 23, 2020

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