Ever since I starting cooking as a full time adult I have been a fan of the leftover meal. This is due to the fact that the kitchen is not my native habitat (that would be the couch with a cup of tea and something to read). Also because without factoring in leftovers, I found the grocery bills were just getting more and more astronomically expensive.
Over the years, I have discovered that utilising leftovers not only comes with the added bonus of not cooking two nights in a row, but they often taste better than the original meal. Soups, curries and stews in particular often thicken and become more delicious overnight magically in the fridge, leading to double bonus points all round.
It also gives you the special kind of warm and fuzzies that comes with knowing your sustainable practices are helping the environment. Because when you throw away food, you’re chucking all of the resources, water and energy that went into growing, packing and transporting it.
Sustainability Victoria’s Love Food Hate Waste website is full of practical tips, advice and recipes to help families reduce the amount of food they throw away.
But in the meantime, here are some of my all-time best keep secret tips for ways to reduce your food waste, and therefore save money, time, effort and the environment.
When cooking, consider meals that can be repurposed as leftovers. Image: iStock.
1. Plan your shopping list from the kitchen
You need to check (or assign a little helper to check for you) as you write your shopping list. This helps to avoid common conditions such as the Tower of Tinned Tuna, where multiple items are repeatedly bought each week due to a lack of memory/fear that you don’t have them and will therefore ruin dinner. Ahem.
It takes no time at all to peek in the onion bowl, count your carrots and positively identify green produce that can be utilised in your next soup as you go, and is well worth the trouble.
2. Audit existing supplies before you plan your meals
Similarly, a good starting point for planning your weekly meals is to look at the things that have been overlooked in your fridge and panty. Do you indeed have a Tower of Tinned Tuna? If that’s the case, a tomato-based tuna risotto will hit the spot. Do you find you’ve accumulated but are not getting through cheeses? Grate them into a white sauce and put a bit of old fashioned mac and cheese on the menu. The kids will love it.