According to a study by Foodwise, Australian consumers waste 20% of the food they buy. That’s like throwing away one bag of food scraps in every five bags of groceries.
So why is this happening?
It may be largely due to the fact that leftovers aren’t very exciting. In fact, food scraps have a pretty bad rap. They’re not as appealing as freshly cooked food and they never seem to go together. This perspective leads to endless questionable containers sitting at the back of our fridges. They’re basically waste before they’re even plopped into their container.
The average Australian household ends up throwing away $1,036 of food each year. But we’ve got food scraps all wrong. Leftovers don’t have to be boring, we just need to change the way we think about them.
Not only are leftovers wallet-friendly, but they’re also environment-friendly. All of that rotting food gives off a greenhouse gas called methane, a gas that’s 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car! If you’re interested in wasting less and saving more than a thousand dollars a year on your groceries, read on to see how you can reduce food waste and reuse food scraps.
1. Change Your Mindset About Leftovers
The first and most important step is to change the way you think about any food you have left over. Try to imagine them as ingredients instead. This will help you think more creatively.
It’s easy to overlook all those extra containers in your fridge. Instead, think of them as menu items. How can you combine things to make a new dish? Your leftovers are actually just like any other food in your fridge or pantry. Do you have leftover pasta? This is the perfect side for your favorite chicken dish. Extra rice? Add it to your dinner salad the next night.
Leftovers aren’t food waste. They’re more food. Everyone likes more food, so don’t let yours go to waste. Mastering the art of leftovers comes down to understanding that all food is valuable and worth repurposing.
2. Plan Your Meals Ahead
Planning is key to making good use of your leftovers. When you’re preparing for your weekly food shop, think about what you can transform your leftovers into.
For example, cooked veggies can become soup, mashed potatoes can go on the top of a cottage pie, and pasta can turn into a pasta salad or bake. Picking a theme for the week such as Mexican or Asian can be helpful too as you’ll utilise the same core ingredients for each dish. Woolworth’s leftovers to makeovers has some great suggestions on how to transform last night’s meal into something completely different.
3. Get Smart About Storage
How are you storing your food scraps? If you’re like most people, they’re stuffed in a random container and pushed to the back of your fridge. It’s time for a leftover makeover.
Store food in glass or plastic containers at the front of your fridge. The key here is visibility. If you can easily see your food, you’re more likely to use it before it goes bad. Nothing is worse than forgetting about leftovers and having them go bad in your fridge! For food scraps stored in the freezer, use freezer bags. Be sure to label them with the freeze date and contents.
4. Have a Weekly Leftover Night
Lots of households have a takeout night. Skipping the stress of preparing a new meal from scratch is a weekly highlight for many families. Instead, why not have a weekly leftover night?
Your cue comes when the fridge starts to fill up. It’s a perfect excuse to eat up extra food and make some much-needed room in your fridge. It can also be great fun to explore all of your leftovers in one big feast!
5. Eat Your Dinner for Lunch
This is an old stand by for savvy cookers that cuts down on your kitchen time. When cooking your nightly dinner, make double the amount of food for the night. That’s it! You’ve got yourself a home-cooked lunch for the next day.
Again, this is when it pays to plan in advance. If you’re able to meal plan, you can easily prepare for weekly lunches and dinner all at once. Reducing food waste has never been simpler.
6. Make Your Own Stock
When was the last time you purchased veggie stock? This is actually something you can easily make on your own at home, no cooking experience necessary.
Rather than throw away your veggie scraps, pop them into a freezer bag as you go. Items you would traditionally throw away like carrot and zucchini tops, ends of onions and produce past its prime can all go in the bag.
To turn your scraps into stock, simply bring the contents to a boil and simmer for two hours. There you go! You’ve got yourself a delicious homemade stock.
7. Freeze Fresh Food
Be smart about your fresh food to avoid unwanted food waste. If you purchase food in bulk, be mindful of how much you’ll use right away. Portion off and freeze items you know you won’t get through immediately like bread, meat, cheese, and tortillas. You don’t want to risk these things going to waste.
You can also do this with leftover or pre-cooked meals. Preparing food in advance is a huge timesaver, and it cuts down on the cost of eating out. If you’re freezing leftover meals, make sure to cool food completely before storing in the freezer; the same goes for any items you’re placing in the fridge. Getting in the habit of freezing fresh food will save you money over time.
8. Understand Food Safety
Finally, make sure you know a few things about food safety. Eating your leftovers is an effective way to save money and the environment, but you need to be safe. If you’re not careful, your food scraps could get you sick or ruin your other fresh food. Follow these food safety tips when handling leftovers:
- Clean utensils and containers – Bacteria is always around us. Do your best to avoid contaminating cooked food by using clean utensils and clean containers. Avoid using your hands when portioning food to limit any bacteria.
- Airtight containers – Make sure your containers are food-safe and airtight. Over time, containers can develop scratches or cracks that are no longer safe. Replace any containers you’re not sure about.
- Pay attention to the temperature – Foods need to be kept cold to stay safe. Don’t eat anything that’s been left out too long or exposed to germs.
- Date your leftovers – Finally, label your leftovers or keep a list in your kitchen. You don’t want to leave anything in your fridge for too long or accidentally leave something to spoil.
Reuse Food Scraps to Stretch Your Money
With just a little bit of planning and creativity, you can master your leftovers. It’s a satisfying way to save without cutting corners. You just need to use what you already have. As the climate becomes a bigger concern, we can all stand to learn a few ways to reduce food waste and use our food scraps any way we can.
If you’re finding it hard to save right now and you’re falling behind on your finances, talk to us today. We’ve helped thousands of Australians get back on track and we can help you too. Call 1300 368 322 now or simply fill out the contact form below.