Tips For Leftover & Surplus Food Items
Here are several quick tips for stretching out and using the last little bit of a food item instead of tossing the extra bit out. This is not only less wasteful–it saves cash!
- Have a cup or so of rice left over from last night’s meal that you don’t know what to do with? Toss it into your lunchtime vegetable soup or even chicken broth. Bulks up the soup a bit and saves the rice from being tossed out.
- Make big batches of rice and freeze in meal size portions to use later when preparing quick meals. When freezing individual sized portions, add leftover veggies, meats and sauces for hassle free & cheap work lunches.
- Drop large spoonfuls of whipped cream on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen individually, store them in a freezer bag. You can use these on desserts and hot beverages like hot chocolate and coffee (just let them thaw a bit first). These don’t store long though, use within two weeks.
- Did you make too much tea? You can freeze it in ice cube trays with a mint leaf or a curl of lemon zest–even a slice of lemon. Use the frozen cubes to chill and flavor iced tea when serving. Great for large batches or individual servings.
- Have eggs that need to be used up before they expire? Eggs can be frozen whole or separated in amounts usually needed. For example: If you make your own mayonnaise, freeze in containers the number of eggs yolks you normally use per batch. In another container, freeze egg whites.
- Once a fresh banana is too ripe to eat don’t throw it out, you can freeze it in a number of ways, see this page.
- If you can’t eat the grapes fast enough before they start going bad, try freezing them. First wash the grapes well, allow to dry, then lay them neatly on a cookie sheet (not touching each other). Place the tray in the freezer and once the grapes are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container. Store in the freezer and just take out what you need when you want a cold, fruity treat (eat them as is–frozen–or add to things like yogurt, smoothies and ice cream). This also works well for berries (raspberries, blueberries, pitted cherries, etc.).
- When needing just the broccoli florets, save the uncooked stems, wash well and chop finely. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate. Add the stem bits to salads and cooked dishes like rice or scrambled eggs. This not only helps prevent waste, it also adds a little health boost to your dishes.
- A couple ideas for ham: Cut into steaks, wrap individually in plastic wrap and then store in freezer bags. Take them out for lunches or quick meals as needed. Cut ham into cubes and store in freezer bags (meal size portions). Mix in scrambled eggs, potatoes (hash browns or breakfast mash), add to pasta salads, omelets, whatever you like.
- Freeze wine in icecube trays, then remove and seal in freezer bags. Freeze these until you need wine for cooking, removing wine cubes from the bag as needed. First measure the wine as you fill your first cube so you know how much each cube holds. Or if you find you mainly cook with full tablespoons of wine for most sauces and dishes, you can measure 1 tablespoon amount in each cube.
- If you have part of a bell pepper left over from a recipe and no other immediate use for it, just slice it into strips or dice (whichever you prefer), seal in a freezer bag and freeze. You can also freeze whole bell peppers, see Freezing Bell Peppers & More.
- If you have apples that are no longer that fresh but still good to eat, here’s a tip to use them up fast: Cut apples into wedges, fry slowly in a bit of butter and then sprinkle with cinnamon. Your kids will eat them up lickety split! If you’re really ambitious, use them to make an apple crisp or apple pie.
- Store nuts like walnuts and almonds in an airtight container and keep in the freezer. This will keep them fresh and tasty. This will also prevent them from going rancid. Also if using nuts in baking, toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes first, cool, then add to batter. They won’t sink to the bottom of the batter as easily.
Things To Do With Bread:
*First published October 21, 2010 and moved to this page for better organization
Unless you consistently use that last slice of bread in every loaf before it goes stale, there are times when you’re looking for ideas that will use up bread before it goes to waste. Here are a few ideas that can easily be implemented for future use or for tonight’s dinner.
- Croutons: Spread leftover slices of bread sparingly with butter. Cut in 1/2″ squares, oblongs or rounds. Place in a shallow baking pan and bake in a moderate oven (350°F.) 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. If desired, sprinkle with grated cheese before baking. Serve with soup or salads. Also see Homemade Croutons: How To.
- Toasted Bread Boxes (Croustades): Cut unsliced bread in 2 1/2″ thick slices. Trim off the crusts and cut out the middle portion, to within 1/2″ of bottom, leaving square boxes open at the top. Brush sides, top and bottom with melted butter. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven (375°F.) 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Use as you would for patty shells.
- Make Buttered Crumbs: Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter; add 1/3 cup stale bread crumbs. Mix over low heat until butter is distributed. Use on scalloped dishes, casseroles, macaroni and cheese, etc. Or use grated breadcrumbs in your favorite meatloaf, it’s a nice way to bulk up the meat. You can also wrap stale bread well then freeze. You can grate the frozen bread easily and make your own breadcrumbs. Or place dried bread in a sturdy plastic bag (make sure it has no holes). Roll with a rolling pin or fruit jar as coarse or as fine as you like then pour into a measuring container. If you have more than you need at the time, just tie the bag and place in a pantry or freezer for later use.
- Melba Toast: Remove crusts from very thin slices of day-old bread. Cut into desired shapes and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F.) 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Cinnamon Toast: Cream together 1/4 cup butter, 3 tablespoons sugar (brown or white) and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread mixture over hot toast. Place under broiler until bubbly.
- Make French Toast: Did you know results are better when you use not-so-fresh bread for making french toast? See this page for ideas.
- Garlic Bread: Slice loaf of French Bread (preferably 1-day old) to within 1/4″ of bottom crust. Spread Garlic Spread on one side of each slice, being careful not to break slices. Wrap in aluminum foil and heat in a hot oven (425°F.) 30 to 40 minutes. Break off slices and serve immediately. Also see Garlic Dill Butter – Bulk Recipe (includes directions for Cheesy Garlic Bread).
- To Freshen Stale Bread Or Rolls: Sprinkle inside of paper bag with cold water. Place bread or rolls (not more than 6 rolls or 6 slices) in bag. Twist top of bag to close tightly. Heat in a moderate oven (375°F.) 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at once.
- Make Bread Pudding: You can make both a sweet dessert version or a savory side dish, you’ll find a bunch of recipes here: 25 Ways To Make Bread Pudding.
- Soften Brown Sugar: Toss a slice of bread into the brown sugar cannister and it will keep the sugar from getting hard. Works for keeping cookies soft too! See 10 Ways To Soften Hard Brown Sugar for more ideas.