Love your leftovers!

Did you know that British families throw away on average £60 worth of food a month?

The most common foods to find their way into our bins are staples like potatoes, bread and milk. Households are not the only culprits; Tesco recently admitted that it threw away 30,000 tonnes of food in the first six months of 2013.

So what can you do to reduce the amount of food that ends up in your bin?

One answer is to not be persuaded by the multi-buys, BOGOFs and other offers in the supermarkets unless you are genuinely going to use the food before it goes off. Plan your meals before you go shopping so you know what to buy and go with a list - only 8-10% of us do (and stick to it). 

Never go to the supermarket hungry; your stomach will rule your head and you may end up with more in your trolley than you budgeted for.

But what if you’ve failed all of those tips and your fridge and vegetable rack is groaning under the weight of all that food?

Then get inventive with your cooking and learn to love your leftovers. Did you know we throw away 86 million chickens every year, when they could be turned into extra meals?

When you’ve finished your Sunday dinner of roast chicken and vegetables what do you do with the carcass – throw it in the bin?  Why not take off any remaining meat; you’ll be surprised how much is on there and use that to make a really tasty chicken and mushroom pie, but using left over mashed potato and carrots instead of pastry. That is Monday’s evening meal sorted. But wait don’t throw away the Chicken bones, add them to a large pan with some water and those carrots, onions and celery that are in the bottom of the fridge. Add a few chilli flakes and pepper. Put on a lid and let it cook gentle for 2-3 hours. Then strain all the liquid into another pan and you have a great stock that can be used to flavour a risotto, make into a soup or to flavour a coucous salad.

Soups are a great way to use leftovers. Put any or all of the following in a pan with some water or stock or tinned tomatoes; carrots, potatoes, onions, parsnips, leek, swede, cabbage, cauliflower etc. Don’t forget about seasoning, salt and pepper but also chilli, cumin, coriander, curry powder, lemon juice and mixed herbs. These can all be used to add different flavours. And if you have any fresh herbs that are looking a bit sad put them in as well.  Cook for about 40 minutes and you have a delicious homemade soup. Which can be eaten as it is or blended to make it thick and creamy. If you want to add some protein so it is more like a meal add some cooked chicken, ham or tinned beans like chickpeas or butter beans for a great low fat high fibre fix.

If you love your fresh vegetables don’t forget to use the stalks of the cauliflower and broccoli as well as the florets. As well as being tasty they are also very nutritious and contain lots of fibre and vitamins. Remember to use the green parts of leeks and spring onions, why throw them away when you have paid for them!

Another simple way to cut down on food waste is to understand the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ on the products you buy.

You will see 'use by' dates on food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads. Don't use any food or drink after the end of the 'use by' date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine. However many items can be frozen before the use by date and will be safe to eat once defrosted (but always read the instructions on the packet).

'Best before' dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods. The 'best before' dates are more about quality than safety, so when the date runs out it doesn't mean that the food will be harmful. It is then down to personal choice whether you use it or not. 

And if you want to use up two of the most commonly throw away ingredients why not make a hearty bread and butter pudding. If you have any over ripe bananas, they could also be used along with a few squares of crushed dark chocolate to make it really decadent.

Who said leftovers were boring!

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG2
Written by Susan Hart, Nutrition Coach, cook and food writer MFHT, MFNT
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG2

As a nutrition coach I believe in and practice healthy eating. But why should you, your family or your organisation be concerned about what you eat? Because eating healthily helps you look and feel better.Did you know that two out of three adults in England are overweight? This can impair well-being...

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