I love food, hate waste: 15 (more) clever ways to use your leftovers

Posted on June 25th, 2013

I’m a fan of using up leftovers. I turn it into a sport, as anyone who’s a regular reader of my blog would know. I’ve recently shared how Maggie Beer and Poh use their leftovers and how to eat your scraps.

Today I’ve pulled together a few extra tips and tricks for using stuff you couldn’t eat the night before. I’ve also asked a few foodie friends to contribute, including Curtis Stone whose latest book What’s For Dinner is really very, very clever. Martyna Candrick is a recipe developer and photographer in our orbit. For regular readers of this blog you’ll recognise her name. And for the chocolate fiends, you’ll recognise two of her recipes in the Chocolate Cookbook. My mate Arabella Forge is a Melbourne dietician whose book Frugavore is a flippin’ excellent resource and cookbook for anyone wanting to cook real and mindfully. Jules Clancy is a food scientist and blogs at The Stone Soup, usually using five ingredients or less.

So now, wrap your chops around these ideas:

1. Grow your scraps.

Try growing some of your scraps. Like a fennel bulb you didn’t get around to finishing. Simply place the white root end in a glass jar with a little water, and leave it in a sunny position. I keep mine in the kitchen window. The green leafy part of the plant will continue to shoot. When it’s time to cook, just snip off what you need from the green growth and leave the white root end in water to keep growing. Freshen up the water each week or so, and you’ll never have to buy them again. To learn how to grow more of your scraps, this article is insanely good.

2. Cook by what’s in your fridge.

Non-profit Foodwise has a handy tool whereby you type in your ingredient (say, avocado) and it will find relevant recipes. It also has loads of recipes from food celebs from Australia (Neil Perry, Kylie Kwong) and Britain (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall; Paul, Stella & Mary McCartney).

3. Freshen your carpets with rosemary.

Use leftover rosemary or ginger to freshen your carpet. Just sprinkle the spices on your carpet and then vacuum. (They’ll freshen your vacuum, too!)  Try an assortment of spices, like cinnamon, thyme, cloves and nutmeg. Be sure to check to make sure the spices’ colours won’t stain your carpet before applying them to the entire rug. Um, don’t try this with turmeric.

4. Stuck with stale bread? Make a panzanella salad.

Tear bread into largish bite-size chunks. Heat a few splashes of light olive oil in a frying pan and cook the bread until golden. Tip the bread and oil into a bowl with 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 finely sliced red onion, 3 chopped tomatoes, a handful of coriander and flat-leaf parsley leaves. Add extra-virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar, season to taste and toss well to combine

For four more things to do with leftover bread go here.


5. Make a salmon dip.

Martyna: Forget store-bought additive-laden dips. Instead blend together your leftover cooked salmon pieces or even canned salmon with a little Greek yoghurt, some capers and dill and you will have a great-tasting salmon dip.

 6. Got leftover veggies? Make Curtis Stone’s crispy vegetable fritters.

You’ll find the recipe here.

7. Make puffed rice.

Take your leftover rice and dry it on a tray lined with baking paper for 24-48 hours so it is very, very dry. Heat oil in a deep-fryer to 180C and carefully place the dry rice in the oil until it puffs up and looks like rice bubbles. Remove from the oil and drain on a kitchen towel.

You can then add this to my Basic Raw Chocolate recipe to make some Chocolate Crackles!! Recipes here.

Here’s four other ways to use up leftover rice.

8. Add leftover black pepper to your laundry.

Add a few teaspoons to your load of wash, and it’ll keep colours bright and prevent fading.

9. Get into a pickle.

Got leftover silverbeet (chard) stalks? Don’t toss them. Make a pickle!

10. Make a roast vegetable frittata with leftover roast veggies.

Heat oven to 150C. Mix six beaten eggs with half a cup of chopped chives, a handful of grated Parmesan, salt and pepper. Heat the vegetables in a non-stick tart pan, and pour over the egg mix. Add ricotta or feta to taste. Bake for 20 minutes or until just cooked. Serve with a green salad.

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 12.52.59 PM

11. Bubble and Squeak.

Use leftover potatoes and cabbage (bind with flour and egg) to make bubble and squeak. You can use any leftover veggies, really. Here’s Stephanie Alexander’s recipe.

12. Make a leftovers porridge slice.

This clever idea is from Arabella.

  • 1 cup leftover porridge
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 cup honey (or rice malt syrup, if you’re sugar free)

Preheat oven to 180C. Place the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour mixture into a greased baking tin, and top with finely chopped fruit. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.

13. Keep insects away with oregano and sage.

Instead of reaching for chemical insect killers next time you have a bug problem, first consider letting your old spices take a shot at deterring bugs. Spices with strong smells will often keep insects away, so consider spices like pepper, oregano, sage and peppermint. Just block holes the insects use with herbs or spices. You can also sprinkle in drawers, which will also serve as a deodorizer. And if you’re trying to get rid of ants in particular: Try any powdered pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, cloves, and peppermint.

14. Fill a savoury pie.

Check out Martyna’s nifty list of savoury pie filling ideas.

15. Make a fridge surprise mish mash meal.

This is one of my favourite things to do. Grab what you’ve got leftover, work out which ingredients might work well together, and get cooking!

For a Fridge Surprise Soup Edition, Jules suggests trying some of the following:

  • Liquid options: water, stock, stock or bullion cubes or powder made up with water, leftover wine (not recommended on its own, mix with water to dilute), tomato paste mixed with water, unsweetened coconut milk, curry powder (combined with water or coconut milk), vegetable juice, miso paste mixed with water, canned tomatoes (chop before using).
  • Solid ingredient options: pretty much anything goes here. Just use your judgement, if you think it will work when you try and imagine the ingredients together it probably will. Leftovers are great such as leftover risotto, salad bits, or cooked lentils, raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, cooked meats, cured meats. And don’t forget to check the pantry and freezer for things like canned legumes, noodles, frozen peas, breadcrumbs etc.
  • Highlight ingredient options: natural yoghurt, sour cream, pesto, a good drizzle of olive oil, butter, toasted nuts (especially pine nuts), finely sliced prosciutto, fresh herbs, soft cheese such as ricotta, goats cheese, blue cheese, grated hard cheese such as parmesan or cheddar. Mayo or aioli are also great soup toppings (think the french classic bouilabaise).

You can watch a video of Jules making her fridge soup here.

Love these? Got more to share? Feel free to add your tips below!

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  • I hate leftovers to, I always feel so bad for not finishing it but not being able to do anything with them. These are great ideas though 🙂


  • These are excellent tips that look forward to trying. Especially the salmon dip!

    Another tip I learnt that I have been using for years is to buy as you cook. I learnt this from a family when I was travelling through England. They had a bar fridge to keep the basics and a big freezer to freeze meals and leftovers from cooking. Whatever fresh produce was purchased had to be cooked and eaten that day and leftovers frozen as there was no room in the little fridge for much.


  • I don’t like wasting food either…a few tips I have are:

    – put all your leftovers/perishables at the front of the fridge so they can’t go hiding and thereby end up going off. Get in the habit of reorganising/wiping inside your fridge at least once a week so you know exactly what’s in there.

    – there are loads of leftovers you can put on your own pizza – olives, tuna, salmon,corn, sundried tomotos, leftover veggies/meat.

    -another good idea for stale bread is to make French toast- so easy and delicious:
    Simply combine four eggs, half a cup of milk, two shakes of all spice and beat. Using tongs dip the piece of bread into the mix (not for long or it will become all soggy and fall apart) and place into a hot frying pan (cook on medium heat). Brown on both sides and either eat plain or with jam, honey or maple syrup.


  • Soma Organics are official partners for the Love Food Hate Waste campaign and we LOVE these suggestions Sarah!
    Our number one tip? Use leftover ANYTHING, crack and organic egg, whisk, fry in coconut oil and make an omelette. Never fails – especially with our baby!



  • Using what is already in your frig for a meal (and it tasting good and being good for you) is SOOO satisfying, right?? Thanks for even more tips. Love it!


  • Emma

    When my mum (Susan) wanted to use leftovers she would cook up (usually Friday or Sunday nights) she would make ‘Susie’s Surprise’. Susie’s Surprise wasn’t one single dish but the name of whatever was cooked using leftovers. My husband and I still often to Susie’s Surprise when we are using a combination of odds and ends in the fridge. We always find anything chopped and fried up with an egg cracked in – like leftover bubble and squeak – tastes amazing!!

    Using the croc pot for leftovers is always good too. A bit of this and that with some liquid or sauce base always tastes good!

    Thanks for the article Sarah. Enjoy your ‘Susie’s Surprise’… whatever it may be!


  • Great tips. I am reading Tamar Alder’s ‘Everlasting Meal’ and I am loving it. Her approach to cooking is beautiful, helped along with gorgeous prose. Basically, her concept is that you look at the leftovers from the last meal as the starting block for the next – sublime.


  • Kristen

    Great article Sarah. I decided to stop the delivery of our fruit and veg box for 2 weeks and live off what’s in the fridge, freezer and cupboard. It’s so easy to overstock and then end up throwing things away.


  • Cathy

    I also hate waste. One of my tricks is when using any veges to put the cut offs into a bag in the freezer. This can be potato peel, stalks of herbs or of silverbeet, etc. Then when the bag is full, put all the cut offs into a big pot, fill with water and simmer for a while. Let it cool and take out all the veges and put in the bin. Now I have a heap of vege stock which I freeze in different size containers. If I can see some stuff about to go off, I also put it into the freezer bag or get started on making my stock.
    I also have the habit of making an omlette with all in the left overs in the fridge!


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  • Fabulous ideas! Thank you for sharing. Spices are so handy, aren’t they? And veggies baked into things? Brilliant. Will put these in play this week. Thanks!


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  • I love these tips!band that frittata looks wonderful.

    There are a few food waste programmes over here in the UK you might be interested in. Love food hate waste is a national programme to help reduce the almost 50% of food that is wasted. Travesty! http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

    I blog about my food waste reduction adventures, too. Cooking creatively and free-style is a great way to reduce waste. I cut my food waste to virtually zero last year.


    Cheers! Jared (Aussie in London)


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