Avoiding food waste starts with careful meal planning – always decide in advance what you’re going to cook and write up a shopping list, try to find meals that will make full use of all ingredients and never, ever go shopping on an empty stomach (unless you want to buy far more than you actually need!).
Making a big batch of one dish is a great way to save time and money – the leftovers from this harissa chicken and vegetable traybake, for example, are perfect for chicken shawarma wraps and a chicken and cauliflower tagine later. Sauces, soups, curries and casseroles are also good to make in large quantities and then either eat over several days or freeze – many slow-cooked dishes actually taste better the next day when the flavours have had more time to develop.
Back to basics
With a basic tomato sauce your culinary options are wide: serve it with spaghetti or on a pizza. Kids will love the combination of sauce and meatballs in a sandwich for a fun lunch or teatime snack. You can also pep up a simple sauce by adding spices and herbs, a swirl of cream or crème fraîche or finely chopped vegetables for variation. This lovely lentil soup has a prepared tomato sauce as its base.
Use absolutely everything
It’s easy to give leftovers a new lease on life. A roast or poached chicken just keeps on giving. As well as using cold leftovers for lunchbox sandwiches, wraps and pittas, turn them into a delicious satay chicken noodle jar, use to fill pies or pasties or add to a risotto. Even the carcass is handy for making homemade stock – slowly heat in a large pan with plenty of water, a halved onion, carrot and leek.
Waste not, want not
Even scraps that seem destined for the dustbin can be given a second chance to shine. Freeze leftover herbs in ice cube trays for easy garnishes or add to soups, stocks and stews. Basil can be used to make homemade pesto, a squeezed-out lemon to refresh your microwave (put it in a bowl of water and heat for 1 minute) and hard-to-grate parmesan rind melts well into a cheese sauce or soup.
If you have a glut of fruit, why not purée and freeze some? It’s great swirled through breakfast yogurt or ice cream, can be used in desserts and an excess in the fruit bowl can be transformed into refreshing cordials. Whizz stale bread into breadcrumbs and keep in an airtight jar for toppings and coatings and if you’re using egg yolks, don’t forget that the whites can be frozen if you don’t have time to whip up a meringue there and then.
With just a little inventive thinking it’s possible to make food go a lot further, adding new recipes and ideas to your cookbook in the process.