When I think about reducing food waste, what comes to my mind are mainly small choices you can take on a daily basis, because when you sum them up, they actually make the difference and this step by step process helps you to consciously create a series of habits. A “zero waste” life is a long journey made of small consistent actions: we can all do what suits best our lifestyle, daily schedule, budget, etc.
In a previous blog post, I’ve shared 5 simple ways to start having a “zero waste” kitchen: general strategies, creative hacks, and the importance of paying attention to your shopping list are some of the topics you’ll find over there. While here we will really dive into the topic of reducing food waste as it’s quite a big issue nowadays.
To reduce food waste in your home, one of the easiest ways to get started is getting creative with leftovers and discover new flavors and food combinations. It’s a pretty straight-forward step to take and it doesn’t require much planning or organisation.
Indeed, we can talk about 3 main points to focus on:
- understand better how much food gets thrown away in your home
- find out the main reasons behind food waste in your household
- make the use of leftovers a habit and not just a random practice
A large part of the food that gets wasted in a home comes from cooking too much and not storing those leftovers properly or not willing to eat again the same meal several times. From my personal experience, I can totally understand someone who doesn’t get excited by thinking about eating the same food for 3 meals in a row: when I was a college student, I had to organise my grocery shopping and cooking just for myself and I know how easy it is to cook more than 1 portion or have leftovers for days. But, instead of throwing away the leftovers, I’ve learned how to create new delicious meals using them, change up the flavors and textures, and actually turn what at the begin started as a mistake into a part of my weekly meal prep (when you spend your entire day between classes and laboratories, your meal prep skills definitely need to be on point!).
Here I’m sharing with you 5 simple and tasty ways to use leftovers. The recipes are not totally accurate in terms of measurements because we will all start with a different amount of leftovers. BUT there are 3 main lessons you can take from this post:
- your intuition should play a major role in your relationship with food, and any little chance you have to be more intuitive in choosing an ingredient, a flavor, a recipe, or a food combination… it’s also a wonderful chance to feel more connected with your food choices!
- getting creative in the kitchen is a great way to ask yourself a bit more often questions like “do I REALLY like this?” or “why do I assume I CAN’T mix these ingredients?” or “do I feel OK in eating this even if I can’t count the exact amount of calories?”, etc…
- reducing food waste and, from a general point of view, taking more conscious choices is not about doing everything PERFECT. Instead, it’s about doing your best in an imperfect but consistent way
5 EASY AND DELICIOUS WAYS TO USE LEFTOVERS
1) BREAD MADE WITH LEFTOVER PORRIDGE
To make this bread, I’ve used some leftover porridge (oats, almond drink, water) as a starting point. Below you’ll find the ratios between the ingredients (it’s all about a comparison between tablespoons). A mix of wholegrain wheat and rye flour helped me to balance the taste of oats, along with the black pepper.
- leftover porridge
- wholegrain flour (1:3 porridge/flour)
- plain unsweetened yogurt (1:1 porridge/yogurt)
- dry yeast (1 tsp for 5-6 tbsp of porridge)
- honey (1 tsp for 5-6 tbsp of porridge)
- extra virgin olive oil (3 tbsp for 5-6 tbsp of porridge)
- water (as needed)
- black pepper (1 tsp for 5-6 tbsp of porridge)
In a small cup, mix well the dry yeast with the honey and 2 tbsp of warm water: leave it to rest for 5 minutes before using it. In a large bowl, combine porridge, flour, yogurt, and pepper. Add the yeast to the other ingredients, mix well and add the water in small portions (you want to get a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands). When your dough is almost ready, add the olive oil and keep kneading it in the bowl with a spoon or your hands for a few minutes. Cover the bowl and wait until the dough doubled in size. Then knead the down for approx. 30 seconds using a bit of oil on your hands if needed, shape the bread and place it on a baking tray (with some oil or parchment paper or a reusable non-stick baking mat): cover the bread with a clean kitchen towel and leave it to rest for 20-30 minutes. Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C for approx. 20-25 minutes or until it’s golden brown and quite firm on the outside.
2) BAKED PASTA MADE WITH LEFTOVERS FROM LUNCH
To make this baked pasta, I’ve used some pasta left from lunch (pasta, tomato sauce, carrots, shallots, smoked paprika, black pepper, salt) and turned what was a quick and simple sauce into a delicious creamy alternative.
- leftover pasta and sauce
- carrots (2 medium-sized carrots for 2 people)
- sun-dried tomatoes (4-5 tomatoes for 2 people)
- aged cheese (a handful of shaved cheese to add on top)
- black pepper, cumin, black mustard seeds (to taste)
- extra virgin olive oil
Do your best to separate the pasta from the chopped carrots and add the latter in the blender with the fresh carrots and sun-dried tomatoes (both finely chopped). Use a small amount of water if needed to blend everything well. In a bowl, mix the sauce, the pasta, and the spices. Prepare a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil in the bottom, then spread the pasta to form an even layer, and top it with cheese. Bake for approx. 15 minutes at 180°C or until it starts to get crispy and golden.
3) CROQUETTES MADE WITH LEFTOVER BOILED POTATOES
- leftover boiled potatoes (mashed with a fork)
- turmeric, garam masala, cumin, salt (to taste)
- extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp for approx. 6-7 tbsp of potatoes)
- eggs (2 for approx. 6-7 tbsp of potatoes)
- breadcrumbs (4-5 tbsp for approx. 6-7 tbsp of potatoes)
Mix the potatoes with the spices, 1 egg, and the olive oil. Shape the croquettes and roll them in the second egg (beaten) and then in the breadcrumbs. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for approx. 15 minutes or until they will start to turn golden and crispy on the outside.
4) RICE PATTIES MADE WITH LEFTOVER RISOTTO
To make these patties, I’ve used some leftover risotto tossed with a creamy cauliflower sauce (the yellow comes from turmeric and saffron). Mix the risotto with eggs (2 eggs for approx. 6-7 tbsp of risotto) and extra spices if necessary. If your risotto is a bit watery you will need to add a couple of tablespoons of breadcrumbs to the mix. Shape the patties with your hands and place them on a baking tray prepared with some oil or parchment paper or a reusable non-stick baking mat. Add a small drizzle of olive oil on top of your patties and baked them in a preheated oven at 180°C for 20-25 minutes or until they turn golden and firm on the outside.
5) SOUP MADE WITH LEFTOVERS FROM 2 DINNERS AND A LUNCH
To make this soup, all started with a bunch of leftovers from the previous days (plain rice, roasted veggies, lentil soup). Blend all the leftovers together and warm them up for a few minutes in a pan. Just before serving, taste the soup and add some extra spices if necessary (based on the flavors of your leftovers). Here I’ve served my soup (spiced with turmeric, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, and black pepper) with avocado, plain yogurt, lemon, parsley, and olive oil.
Now it’s your turn: have a look at your cooking habits and check what you can start improving right now! You can also check out my product recommendations for a “zero waste” kitchen HERE
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