Here are several quick tricks for stretching out and using the last little bit of a food item instead of tossing the extras/scraps out.
This is not only less wasteful–it saves cash and many times adds flavor or enhances the dish in a big way!
- 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 and saves the rice from being tossed out.
- Make big batches of rice and freeze in meal size portions. Nice for 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 extra whipped cream on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen individually, store them in a ziploc bag. You can top these on desserts and hot beverages like hot chocolate and coffee (just let them thaw slightly first). These don’t store long though, only about 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. The cubes are nice to chill and flavor iced tea when serving. Great for large batches or individual servings.
- Vegetable ends, peels & leftover (uncooked) bites: Keep a bag in the freezer drawer and toss all these veggie bits in (including fresh mushrooms & stems). Add them to the pot the next time you are making homemade stock (meat or vegetable). They’ll add great flavor to your stocks. See more info and tips on this page.
- Have eggs that are about to expire soon? They 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, the whites. See this page for all the details.
- Fresh garden herbs from end of harvest: It’s Fall and you’ve brought in all the produce and herbs from your garden before the night frost hits. What to do with all those herbs? They’ll only last so long in the fridge. Here’s something tasty I’ve discovered: Chop up all the bits together (parsley, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, whatever you have) then mix with a *bunch* of Kosher salt, pack tightly in a glass mason jar. Seal then refrigerate. Throughout the winter, toss a heaping spoonful of these salt granules & herb pieces into your soups, stews and whatever dish you think will benefit from it.
- Once a fresh banana is too ripe to eat don’t throw it out, you can freeze it in a number of ways, instructions are here.
- Cupcakes, Cake, Muffins: These can be chopped up, coated with a bit of cinnamon sugar then crisped up in the oven and used as croutons to top off puddings and desserts. Are also nice as a sweet snack to nibble on. Remove any trace of frosting first!
- 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 ziploc 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 ziploc bags (meal size portions). Mix in scrambled eggs, potatoes (hash browns or breakfast mash), add to pasta salads, omelets, whatever you like.
- Freeze leftover wine in icecube trays, then remove and seal in bags. These will keep 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 need for it, just slice it into strips or dice (whichever you prefer), seal in a ziploc bag and freeze. You can also freeze whole bell peppers, see this page.
- 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 little 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 consume that last slice 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 meals or for tonight’s dinner.
- Croutons: Spread leftover slices 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 an unsliced loaf 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. Sprinkle 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 pieces well then freeze. You can grate the frozen bread easily and make your own breadcrumbs. Or place dried slices 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.
- 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.
- Keep Brown Sugar Soft: Toss a slice of bread into the brown sugar canister and it will keep the sugar from getting hard. Works for keeping cookies soft too! See this page for more ideas.