How to Handle Leftover Food and Wastage in Your Kitchen?

Food wastage is quite a common phenomenon in American kitchens. You may keep containers in the fridge and forget about them unless these suddenly pop up before your eyes at the time of shuffling other items. But it can be already too late by then. Almost 44% of people go through this experience every month. Of course, there is no harm in having plenty of supplies at home. But allowing your food to get wasted is not acceptable. It can be harmful financially, socially, and environmentally. That’s why it makes sense to be thoughtful about leftovers. Fully use the food that you buy. Here are some suggestions to manage this issue.

Plan your meals

When you decide your menu for the day or week, you must consider what you would do with the extras in advance. This simple exercise can save time, money, and effort. For example, if you cook more vegetables than required for tonight’s dinner, you can decide to use the remaining portion in soup or pasta later in the week. The leftovers can pair well with roast chicken sandwiches also. And if you cook rice, you can go for twice the quantity and freeze it for reuse. 

food and kitchen

The leftover items should go in glass storage containers, which you may have in plenty at home. If you design a cookroom with a gold plated faucet, you can think of transforming some of those containers into decorative items with your creative DIY skills for the sink area. But glass containers let you see the content from outside. Since these are also sustainable, you can preserve them for storing the items. For freezing, you can pick washable zip-top gallon bags. Make sure you label the storage solutions with dates on which you filled them to avoid any confusion.

Imagine them as ingredients

When you look at them as leftovers, it may end up being a mental block impairing your ability to explore different possibilities with them. For example, your cooked vegetable or pasta from last night can turn into a frittata dish. Or, you can put cooked veggies into a blender with whole tomatoes to prepare a pasta sauce. Meat and cooked rice can become burritos with salsa and cream as toppings. Some people took grilled, roasted, or steamed vegetables to make soup out of them the other day. Whether you add chicken broth or stick to a vegetarian diet, it is up to you. Make sure to season it well with salt and pepper for a delicious flavor. 

Similarly, most people don’t like to use bread after a day or two. It feels stale. You don’t have to get rid of it yet. Take inspiration from Italians, who cut the loaf into half, sprinkle some olive oil, and rub the half side of the ripe tomato on it. After adding salt and pepper, they wrap the loaf in foil to bake it.

Store vegetable scraps

Generally, vegetable and fruit skin goes into composting. But you can do something unique by using vegetable scraps for preparing stock. It can be a fantastic way to tackle wastage in the kitchen. The trimmings can be safe in a zip-top gallon bag. Whether you have carrot tops, ends of leeks, tomato cores, corn cobs, or anything else, you can stash them all for the same purpose. Something that has lost its freshness can also stay in the fridge. Once the bag is chockablock, you have to do defrosting. Pour the content into a pot and add water. After two hours of simmering, you can strain the matter. It will give you a better quality veggie stock than the stores. 

In this context, you can be careful about extra-large food products, which often prove an economical buy. Consider bread, for example. Most likely, you will not use all of them in one go. So it is better to create a portion you will consume, wrap the remaining one with waxed paper, and store it in the fridge. It can be a good practice with pita bread, tortillas, and other such items. You can follow the same procedure with meats.

A few things to consider

Some part of the food wastage is attributable to the expiration dates, which barely concerns food safety. Those sell by, use by, and best before dates can be pretty confusing for any regular consumer. Hence, people ultimately ditch them while it could still be good to eat. One of the studies shows that an average US household wastes almost 32% of the food, the cost of which can be $1,800 annually. So food waste is not just the only thing. It leads to a waste of money too. That’s why it is necessary to be conscious about what you do with your food.

If your fridge or freezer is full of leftovers, don’t look at it as trouble. Instead, please plan to have at least one of them once a night a week. The portion saved in the dinnertime can become your lunch the following day. Or, the best thing is to opt for no-waste meal preparations. Make stir-fries and omelets with fresh produce to get your daily dose of various nutrients. 

On closely observing the food wastage issue, you will realize that a large part of the problem is the habit. Generally, people bring everything to the table and serve more than what one can consume. Another challenge is ignoring leftovers for a long time unless it feels like a burden. Realizing these mistakes and working on them with awareness can be advantageous. It may not be easy to achieve the goal of zero wastage. But you can take small steps at a time to gain progress. Once food saving becomes your second nature, you would not struggle. 

Anyway, cultivate these food habits in your kids also. They follow in the footsteps of their parents. By listening and witnessing how you manage this, they will become more responsible in this area. Hence, it can be worth paying attention to this from now onward.

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