My first attempt at reusing leftovers was in college. I made “grain casserole” using all the leftovers I could find: rice a roni, pasta, rice, and stovetop stuffing. Some things shouldn’t be saved.
Doug’s granny was gifted at making the most of leftovers. When she was young she worked picking cotton. Since she was a hard worker she made as much as the men: a silver dime a day. Most of that money was used to buy beans and cornmeal for the family, and nothing was wasted. Whatever was for Sunday lunch ended up in Monday’s stew, and it always tasted good.
Saving food has become somewhat of a lost art due to abundance and convenience, but it’s essential to save money on groceries. Here are twenty tips to make the most of your food and minimize food waste.
Use the Freezer
1. When you cook a meal that’s big enough to have leftovers, go ahead and freeze them right away. The food will taste better, and you won’t have to eat the same thing three nights in a row.
2. When you freeze sauces or soups in plastic freezer bags, squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Stack them flat so they won’t take up much space in your freezer.
3. Preserve an abundance of lemons and limes by squeezing the juice into ice cube trays and saving the frozen juice for later.
4. Fruits like grapes, bananas, and strawberries can be frozen. Spread out berries on a cookie sheet to freeze so they won’t be stuck together, before you wrap them up.
5. Leftover wine can be frozen in ice cube trays, and then later added to simmering meat dishes or spaghetti sauce.
Make the Most of Older Food
6. What do you do with old bread? Cut the bread into squares and toast on low heat to make croutons. Toast and then crumble bread in a food processor to make bread crumbs. Make french toast or stuffing.
7. Fried rice is better when made with day old rice instead of fresh-cooked rice.
8. Brown bananas taste sweet in smoothies and banana bread.
9. Old vegetables can be added into stews or stocks.
10. Tomatoes can be pureed into tomato sauce or salsa.
Save the Smaller Things
11. A small portion of leftovers might not be enough for a meal, but it could make a good snack. Check the fridge for small servings before pulling out a bag of chips.
12. Leftover roasted chicken can be added to a stock.
13. Rinds of hard cheeses such as parmesan can be frozen and later added to soups for richer flavor.
14. When your little one runs off without finishing a glass of milk, don’t pour it down the sink and wash the glass. Put it back in the fridge for the next time they want something to drink.
Prevention is Best
15. Know what’s in your freezer or fridge. Keep foods in the freezer labeled well, and review your inventory every few days, or at least before you go to the grocery store.
16. Package foods properly. Don’t toss something into the fridge uncovered, or leave something sitting on the counter. Wrap it up or place a plate over a bowl of food to cover it up.
17. Be realistic about what your family will eat, and keep that in mind before you stock up on a good sale at the grocery store.
18. Have wooden clothes pins accessible in the kitchen to seal bags closed in the pantry and freezer.
19. Mason jars are an easy and inexpensive way to store bulk pantry foods. While you don’t want to reuse a lid for canning, it’s fine to wash and reuse them for storing dry goods.
20. One bad apple… Check your large bags of potatoes, onions, apples, and cartons of berries before you store them away. You wouldn’t want to let one funky potato cause the rest of them to go bad before you eat them.
July is No Spend Month, and our family is spending less than $250 for all food, gas, and personal expenses for the entire month. Find out more…