15 Ideas For Using Up Food

24 January 2011

Pays to live greenFood waste is the biggest battle in my house. I hate hate hate throwing out food. More so now than ever as food prices go through the roof. I asked around friends, family, and of course our PlayPennies community to ask:what simple, quick and easy tips do you have for cutting down on food waste?

1 Saucy

Empty sauce bottleThe first tip is an oldie but always worth keeping in mind. Thanks to mum Lesley for the reminder! Remember to keep sauce bottles upside down as they empty, so you can ensure you get that last little bit out of them.

2 Cereal Crumbs

Simon shakes out the bottom of his cereal packets into the muesli. "Shreddies, Weetabix and Cheerios all seem to have little crunchy bits at the bottom."

3 Stale Bread

Kirsty puts stale bread in her food processor and turns it into breadcrumbs. These can be frozen. She also puts crusts in the freezer until she's got enough to make bread and butter pudding. Terri keeps hers for taking the kids to feed the ducks, with the reminder that you need to "soak it first though, you shouldn't ever give birds dry bread".

4 Wine

I'm not a big wine drinker. I like a glass with good food, but I always end up with that bit left in the bottom of the bottle. So I freeze it in ice cube trays, to keep it for use in cooking.

5 Cream

whipped-creamCaitlin has a similar suggestion for cream. "Left over whipped cream, or when I see it on sale especially if it is reduced to clear because it is near its sell by date, gets frozen in our house. Then I've got it to hand for creamy mash potatoes, and my other half uses it for beef strogonoff."

This was a new one on me though - never thought of freezing cream. I wonder what other recipes it could be used in?

6 Fruit

"Smoothies!" was Frieda's one word reply when I asked about this at a dinner party. "Any soft fruit in our house goes straight in the blender. I drink them, and for the kids, I freeze them in ice lolly moulds." Universally it seems, bananas that are over ripe or too bruised to tempt the kids go into banana cakes and bread. There's a sugar free banana muffin recipe at Able & Cole well worth trying!

7 Candy

PlayPennies mum Christine found she had lots of candy canes left over after Christmas. This is a similar problem in my house too, and also with lollipops after Halloween. Not good for the teeth for the kids to be sucking on these every week.  Christine crushes the left over candy, and uses it as a topping for desserts and ice creams. Genius!

8 Nuts

MixedNutsThis might be another problem you're faced with after the holidays, left over nuts. Actually, I frequently buy mixed nuts for snacks when we have people over and never end up using the whole bag. Tanya freezes her nuts. She says they're good to eat from frozen too. Not a bad idea!

9 Refresh stale food

This applies to cakes and bread. Try zapping cake quickly in the microwave. If bread isn't too hard, you can try sprinkling it with water and heating it gently in the oven.

10 Pasta Pudding

Looking at doing things with left over bread, I thought about the amount of left over pasta I always end up with. At the moment I put it in the fridge and turn it into salad the next day. But if you can make bread and butter pudding, what about pasta. A quick Google found the Zero Waste Blog, where Mrs Green has come up with an interesting chocolate pasta pudding!

11 Coffee

iced coffeeAre you like me, and always have coffee left over in a cafetierre or pot?

I found this tip mentioned on a few US sites - pop it in the fridge (or at this time of the year, the freezer so you can use it in the summer) and use it to make iced coffee. I've never tried iced coffee, but the recipe looks yummy.

12 Coffee Grinds

While we're on coffee, you know that coffee grinds make great fertiliser for plants, including your indoor ones, right? You don't even need to stick them in the composter. Handy if you don't compost!

13 Bread bags

No not the bags themselves, although they are useful for sandwiches. This post is about food. Do you buy loaves of seeded breads? Then shake out the bag and save the sesame or poppy seeds. Again, you can keep them in a container in the freezer and the next time a recipe calls for a handful of sesame seeds you won't be caught short. Well, that's the theory. My problem will be remembering what I've put in the freezer!

14 Bits of cakes, biscuits, pastries

Got lots of bits of different things left over - cakes, pastries, biscuits, bread? How about trying this French version of bread and butter pudding. It sounds a bit indulgent!

15 Compost

Compost BinAnd when there's nothing else you can do with the food, then compost it. Be careful with cooked food as rats may be attracted to the bin. You can try your local council, if they haven't cut the programme that is. Many offer free compost bins to householders. Or you could get one of these wormeries.

And finally ...

As always use some common-sense. Remember the usual food hygiene rules don't go out the window when you're talking about scraps, leftovers, and crumbs.

TOPICS:   Money   Fitness and Diet


  • nicki
    Leftover wine? Huh?!? That concept is foreign to me :P
  • Donnie
    I do the same with stale bread, only I oven bake it until it's dry and golden brown, then I grate it using a cheese grater (I haven't got a food processor). I too freeze it - it's great for making your own chicken nuggets. Sometimes, when my carrots are a bit soft, I boil them, then puree them well. I split the puree into little portions of about 5 tablespoons each and place them in tiny plastic containers in the freezer. Then I use them for bolognese. My son refuses to eat cooked carrots - this way, he doesn't even know they're there. If I happen to have lots of vegetables in the fridge that are looking unhappy, I clean them up, chop them up and buy more to make minestrone. Then, I save portions in the freezer and I always have a hearty, healthy meal to hand. I save any leftover homemade chicken gravy made from roast dinner drippings. When the remainder congeals, scoop out the fat and freeze the rest. Then, if I'm making, say, grilled chicken fillet, I'll defrost the dripping and loosen it up with a bit of stock. This way, my son always has homemade gravy with his chicken - and it certainly beats making Bisto. I learned from my mother, who spent many years in an Italian orphanage in Rome, that no food should ever go to waste.
  • Lynley O.
    Ha ha! Well luckily supermarkets sell small bottles of wine to cook with so you don't have to waste the good stuff in the cooking :)
  • Lynley O.
    Brilliant idea about the bread. I don't have a food processor either. What do you use to puree the carrots? My son has just started to eat carrots hurrah! He decided at the beginning of this school term that in fact, carrots are now his favourite. So that is carrots and broccoli he'll happily eat. On hiding vegetables I have a fabulous friend who gave me this marvellous tip about yellow peas. I cook these up in patches and put them in the freezer. Then I chip some off and throw into foods like mashed potatoes. The flavour is really very mild, and kind of buttery, so he doesn't mind it. And I get some legumes into his diet! For nuggets, I use crushed cornflakes, and other occasions where breadcrumbs might used. Works a treat! That's heartbreaking for your mum.
  • Donnie
    I use a blender to puree most things. Funny you mention legumes because I use butter beans or yellow split peas in my son's homemade chicken soup. It gives the broth a velvety, creamy texture - you do have to blend everything well and then sieve it. The result is a thickish broth. I love the idea of using cornflakes to coat nuggets. I shall try it!
  • Lynley O.
    Oooh yes butter beans would be good. Those are yummy, I like them myself!
  • Sho
    My biggest tip for not wasting food is to never ever buy bagged salad. For us, all leftover veg is saved (sometimes frozen if we've been having a lot of "exotic" food or sandwiches) and made into bubble and squeak which is always a favourite. Leftover creamed spinach is made into some kind of Farmer's omlette or fritata type thing. Leftover pasta can be mixed with sauce and any leftover veg, puréed up tomatoes (tinned or leftover, or even some of your frozen minestrone ;) whatever you have to hand) and maybe a little bit of wine, all stirred together in an ovenproof dish, topped with grated cheese and breadcrumbs (or sesame seeds or crushed up nuts - it gives a lovely crunchy texture) and baked until it's ready to eat. Yum.
  • GateGipsy
    Ha ha I love bagged salads, and they never go to waste. I always eat them! But I buy them as treats mostly, I'll get myself one of those really nice fancy types. In the summer I love to make up a big bowl of salad, and I use a dressing that's part olive oil and part lemon juice. Keeps it fresh. Then I can just nibble at it all day. Usually I think it'll last me a couple of days but inevitably I've eaten it all within a few hours!

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