Leftovers night.  Souffle.  Scrambled eggs.  Casseroles.  Bento boxes.  Soup.  Pumpkin-arepa stuffing (quite edible, actually).

There are many destinations for your bits of leftovers.  The key, of course, is timing.  Always clean out the fridge often enough that your forgotten leftovers are still edible.  Example: 1 cup of lentil cooking liquid that would have been a nice quick vegetable soup base was abandoned in a far corner and is, alas, no longer edible.  In fact, I’m slightly scared to open the jar.

Nevertheless, I vow to be more efficient in my storage and use of leftovers.  Food waste is one of our national tragedies.  Much of it may occur prior to the kitchen, but a significant amount can be curbed by chief cook and eater.

General tips:

  • When in doubt, freeze your leftovers for longer storage times.
  • Clean out or take a quick inventory of your produce drawers and fridge shelves twice a week and use it.  No excuses.
  • Try using clear storage containers if you tend to forget about things (glass jars are handy at home).
  • Place recently cooked items in the back, and use the items in the front first.
  • Try to have cohesively themed meals for several days so the leftovers go together well and so that you use all of your base ingredients (like tortillas, or canned pumpkin).
  • Don’t get carried away when buying food at the store!  Know how much you’ll eat before it goes bad, and adjust according to your plans for eating away from home for the week.

Cooking tips:

  • Don’t mix too many flavors when combining leftovers for one meal– Italian Roasted Vegetables with Pesto may not go well with a Spicy Chicken Enchilada but Italian Roasted Vegetables with a White Bean and Fennel Salad would be quite nice.
  • Reheat appropriately!  If it’s supposed to be crisp or crunchy, use the oven.  If it’s a grain or pasta, toss with a little hot water or sauce before heating in the microwave or stovetop.  Casserole?  Add a little more liquid.  Soups or stews are the most forgiving of all food to reheat.
  • Revamp often.  Lentil Salad is nice for a day or two, but then it’s time to make a sandwich, a loaf, or burgers.  You can add ingredients, or change the shape and texture.

Check back in for more suggestions on how to revamp your leftovers.  Hmm, maybe we should call it the leftover makeover challenge?

Need more info?  Bloom has a great blog focused entirely on food waste: http://www.wastedfood.com/

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