How to make the most of your food before it goes off

Handy tips on how to reduce your food waste – and save money while enjoying delicious meals

soup made from leftovers
(Image credit: George's Kitchen)

We're guilty of letting food go to waste every once in a while. From not using up raw ingredients and letting them spoil to leaving leftovers in the fridge until they're no longer safe to reheat, it can be easy to forget about the food going to waste in our fridges. 

So, what can we all do to reduce the amount of food we waste? Just remembering to use it all up sounds easier than it's done, and sometimes it can be difficult to work out just what to do with that half an onion hanging around in the veggie tray. Getting a really good fridge is a good idea – many fridges nowadays sport useful food preserving technologies. There are few extra tricks*, however, that can help you use the food you've got more wisely. 

1. Give your food storage a revamp

How do you store your food? Do you just stick the veggies in the fridge tray? Leave packs of cheese/cold cuts open? Those are all guaranteed to make food go off quickly – and stink out your fridge. We advise investing in silicone food storage bags – they keep all kinds of food fresh, are hygienic and reusable, and don't hold onto smells. Glass containers are useful too. We look out for ones that are microwave, freezer and oven safe.

2. Use a slow cooker to turn your leftovers into a yummy meal

We think there's hardly anything that a slow cooker won't turn to succulent magic. Even if your food is a little past its prime but hasn't gone off, you can safely chuck it into the slow cooker with some tinned tomato to make an excellent ratatouille or sauce. Pour over pasta and bake in a baking tray afterwards – voila, an easy tray bake.

Have the opposite problem and cooked too much meat in your slow cooker? You've got an excellent burrito filling ready: simply add chopped tomato, onion, chilli, and coriander, and wrap in a warm tortilla with some rice and cheese. 

3. Make stock from scraps

Although composting is the appropriate method of disposing of your vegetable scraps, before doing this you could prepare a rich and versatile stock. You can reserve your trimmings (the ends of onions, leeks and carrots, the stems of herbs and greens, corn cobs, tomato cores and the like) in a zip-lock bag in the freezer, along with any produce that’s gone past its prime. 

Once the bag is full, simmer the contents in a large pot of water for a couple of hours. After straining you will be left with a delectable, homemade vegetable stock – perfect for myriad tasty dishes.

4. Make soup with yesterday's grilled veggies

This uses both your homemade stock and any leftover veggies you'd grilled or fried the night before. Just about anything can be pureed with yesterday's grilled vegetables and three-four cups of stock, before being warmed up to create an excellent homemade soup. What you add to this concoction is all down to preference, but you can be sure that it’s an excellent method of reducing food waste.

5. Don't discard bread that's gone hard

Good, freshly baked bread does go hard quickly, but it's no reason to throw it away. So long as the loaf hasn't gone mouldy, you can still eat it, but it will need a bit of a refresh. Simply heating the bread up will improve its quality and make a great accompaniment to your soup. If that's not done the trick, try halving your remaining bread, drizzle with good quality olive oil, add a little salt and pepper, wrap in foil and bake until warm for crispy bruschetta bases.

* Tips developed with the help of the founder of George's Kitchen George Rouse. 

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.