Waste Not, Want Not: Use Up Your Leftovers

So, are you enjoying your easy homemade yogurt? 🙂

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in trying to reduce waste is to use my leftovers well. I struggle with this sometimes, but actually, being creative with what you have is an essential skill when trying to make the most of your food.

Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, I like to use these standby recipes that can be adapted easily to use up leftover veg, meat, cheese, or whatever else you may have on hand: omelettes/frittatas, tarts/quiches, enchiladas/burritos/wraps/quesadillas, pancakes/crepes, soups, and pasta dishes. My husband also makes amazing stir fries, and having a pack of noodles in the cupboard certainly helps him use up leftovers!

Use Up LeftoversOther useful tips include whizzing your stale bread in a food processor to make your own breadcrumbs (keep in the freezer and use without needing to defrost), making a meal plan that starts with a roast and is followed by multiple recipes to use up what’s not eaten (or meal plans based around a few key ingredients), freezer cooking or batch cooking to make up more than one meal in advance and make sure ingredients don’t end up wilting or going bad before you get round to using them, and so much more…

I will come to one of these recipes next week, but for now I wanted to just share the single best way I have found of getting the most out of leftovers: making your own stock.

Not only is it incredibly simple, but the perks go beyond its ease and productivityit is vastly healthier and tastier than using stock cubes. Stock cubes often contain rather a lot of sugar and/or salt – when I started reading the labels of them, suddenly chucking some leftovers and water in a pan didn’t seem like too much trouble!

I make stock at least once a week, usually a big batch that I can then freeze in smaller portions for later use in soups, stews, casseroles, slow cooker meals and many other dishes.

BreakfastHere is a simple, very flexible “recipe” for making your own stock at home with various leftovers. I hope you, too, will wave goodbye to the salt-and-sugar-filled tasteless cubes after trying this! These homemade stocks genuinely lift dishes from ordinary to truly delicious!

Vegetable Stock

A few handfuls of leftover veg bits including: peelings, tops and tails, less-than-pretty bits, and anything else you would normally just chuck straight in the bin (obviously barring any mould!). I usually keep a tupperware in the fridge that I fill during the week with all the bits from veggies I’m using in my meal plan, and then make stock when it is full.

Water – enough to almost fill your chosen pot and cover your veg well.

Any other additions you want to make – I usually add bay leaves, but you could add other herbs or spices, additional carrots, onions or celery, salt & pepper, or whatever else you think will enhance the flavour.

1. Rinse your vegetable peelings and bits well, then place in your chosen stock pot. Cover with the water and add in any extra bits you’ve chosen.

2. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for at least 1 hour, or longer if you want to get a more intense flavour.

3. Pour stock through a sieve/colander into a container and discard veggies.

4. If you are not going to use it in the next few days, divide into portions and freeze for up to 6 months.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Breadcrumbs - with smoked salmon and Finnish sconesChicken Stock

Chicken carcass (and guts, if you have any) – leftovers from a roast are perfect for this.

Water – enough to almost fill your chosen pot and cover the carcass well.

Any other additions – see above (I like to add a few veggies and bay leaves).

1. Place chicken carcass and guts in your chosen stock pot. Cover with the water and add in any extra bits you’ve chosen.

2. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for at least 1-2 hours, or longer if you want to get a more intense flavour (simmering very gently, or better yet, in a slow cooker on low for 24 hours can result in truly amazing “bone broth”, which is sold by the cup in New York coffee shops at the moment due to its amazing health benefits).

3. Pour stock through a sieve/colander into a container and discard chicken.

4. If you are not going to use it in the next few days, divide into portions and freeze for up to 6 months.

 

Some people also use fish bones/heads/guts to make fish stock, and there are plenty of recipes online for this. Although I enjoy fish, I use fish stock so rarely (it tastes weird to me in anything other than fish dishes) that it is not really worth me making it. But if you like fish stock, why not give it a go?

Similarly, if you prefer to use beef stock to chicken stock, just follow the same instructions with leftover beef bones and bits. Your dishes will never have tasted better, I promise!

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