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How To Use Leftover Food

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Amelia Forman gives us some useful tips for using up leftover ingredients and food scraps.

Image Credits: Pixabay

It is easy in our busy lives to lose track of best before dates and forget the wilting vegetables hidden in the back of the fridge. Learning how to use these last bits of food will not only prevent unnecessary food waste, but save you a bit of money as well. Here are some quick and low effort tips I have implemented into my routine that could save some commonly wasted foods.

Spinach, or other leafy greens

Spinach is the main food I buy that goes off before I can eat it all. Most students are shopping only for themselves, so if your attempts to eat an entire bag of spinach in a couple of days has left you bored of it, here is an easy way to preserve it.

Simmer spinach in boiling water until wilted. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process, then squeeze out as much excess water as you can. Form the spinach into single serving balls, then freeze in a tub or reusable freezer bags. You can add this frozen spinach to anything you cook in the future

Vegetable skins

The best way to use the peels of vegetables is to make stock. You can use onion skins, garlic skins, potato skins, carrot skins and more. Just make sure they are thoroughly cleaned before cooking.

Put the skins in a pot and add water until they are just covered. Add some extra flavour with salt, pepper, and mixed herbs. Bring to boil then simmer on a low heat for at least thirty minutes to extract the flavours. Strain and use as a stock for soups.

Image Credits: Pixabay


A delicious way to use up berries is to make a compote.

Add your berries to a pot with a tablespoon or two of sugar. Add water until just under the top of the berries are covered with liquid. Bring to a boil then simmer on a medium low heat for around ten minutes until you reach the desired thickness. Stir often to avoid the compote sticking to the pan. You can use this as a topping on pancakes, toast, or porridge for a sweet start to the day.

Image Credits: Pixabay


Stale bread is perfect for adding different textures to food. Fry small cubes to make croutons to add a bite to a salad. You could also grate or blend it for breadcrumbs on top of a pasta bake to add a golden brown colour and an extra crunch.

Image Credits: Pixabay


The leftover bits of cheese from a charcuterie board or wine and cheese night are a great way to add more complex flavours to traditional dishes. Try using the more melty cheeses for a creamier mac and cheese. Use stronger cheeses in soups, like broccoli and stilton. Add a last splash of milk to a creamy soup like a leek and potato recipe.

Pasta and rice

We are all guilty of overestimating portions of the true student staples: pasta and rice. Instead of throwing out the excess, try adding leftover pasta to a well dressed salad to make it more filling. Next-day rice is actually perfect for fried rice because it has lost the extra water, so it will crisp nicely. Fry the rice with some veggies for a quick and healthy lunch.

Image Credits: Pixabay

Miscellaneous vegetables

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink pasta is a uni classic. Use green veg like courgettes or peas in a creamy pesto pasta. Cook red veg like tomatoes, peppers and carrots and blend to make a rich and smooth pasta sauce.

It can be difficult to be mindful of how we use our food when most of our lives exist outside of the kitchen, but by using even one of these tips you can delay your trip to the supermarket and help to reduce food waste!

Image Credits: Pixnio

About the Author: Amelia is a second-year English and History student in York with a passion for incorporating simple and sustainable choices into a mindful lifestyle.

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