Sustainable America Blog

Creative Ways to Use Leftovers

Making pasta sauce with leftover vegetables

Blend leftover cooked vegetables with a can of whole tomatoes for a quick pasta sauce. Photo: Sarah Bassett via Flickr

How many times have you peered into the refrigerator and discovered, way in the back, a container that’s been stashed there for weeks, overlooked and forgotten?

You’re not alone: A survey from Glad found that nearly half (44%) of Americans have found an item in their fridge in the past month that they didn’t realize was there.

For all kinds of reasons — environmental, social and financial — it makes sense for us to get smarter about fully using the food that we purchase. And that means getting smarter about leftovers. Here are five tips for using those extras from I Value Food, Sustainable America’s new campaign to help end food waste. Click here to read all 10 tips.

1. Create leftovers purposefully. When you’re planning meals, think about what the extras can become. It’s a real time- and budget-saver: If you prepare twice the vegetables you’ll need for tonight’s dinner, you’ll have the starting point for a soup or pasta dish later in the week. Anticipate using leftover roast chicken on sandwiches; cook twice as much rice as you need and freeze the extra for later use.


2. Store leftovers smartly. Glass storage containers are not only reusable and sustainable; they allow you to see what’s inside. That way, you’re less likely to lose track of leftovers. For freezing, use zip-top gallon bags (which can be washed and re-used), and label and date the contents on a piece of tape.


3. Dedicate a leftovers night. If you find your fridge or freezer stuffed to the gills with leftover food, commit to “eating down the fridge” one night a week.


4. Turn dinner into lunch. Another money- and time-saver for busy people: Stash a lunch-able portion of dinner in a container and pack it for lunch the next day. With a bit of planning and no extra effort, you can create a week’s worth of healthful take-it-to-work lunches.


5. Think “ingredients,” not “leftovers.” Turn extra pasta or cooked vegetables into a frittata. Blend cooked vegetables with a can of whole tomatoes and create a veggie-packed sauce for pasta. Create burritos with leftover cooked rice, meat and vegetables, and top them with sour cream and salsa.


Continue reading Creative Ways to Use Leftovers for 5 more tips…

MORE RESOURCES FROM “I VALUE FOOD”
3 Recipes for Leftover Vegetables
How to Get Kids to Waste Less Food
How Long Do Fruits and Vegetables Last?

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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