An inexpensive and waste-free method of meal-prepping, using bits and bobs of vegetables, a small cup of rice or even a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt might pose a challenge, unless combined with other ingredients. Here’s how you can work around this challenge.
If you’ve peered into the fridge and found tiny dabbas of food that was cooked a couple of days ago, staring right back at you because you saved them out of guilt more than the intention of using them up, then you need to shift your perspective in the way you can use up leftover food. Most times, we don’t tend to realise the stock of leftovers we might have, only to realise a month later that a cup of rice or a stalk of broccoli needed to be eaten. Typically, what most people struggle with is a way to use up leftovers creatively rather than eating it in the way they have it stored. Using a few practical tips, like the ones listed below, might be the way out of the never-ending cycling of storing and then throwing away.
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Although this might seem like a bit of work, using glass containers to store food helps greatly in knowing what you have stored up. Go a step further and add a post-it note with the date at which you refrigerated your food, so it’s easy to know what to use up first. If you face space constraints, use Ziploc bags with labels so you’re less likely to lose track of how many leftovers you have stashed up.
Think ‘Ingredients’, Not ‘Leftovers’
Have some rice leftover which isn’t enough to cover for a meal? Make burrito filling or arancini balls out of it. Freeze bits and bobs of any leftover cut fruits in air-tight containers to add to your breakfast smoothies. If a recipe has you using just the egg yolks, freeze egg whites to make meringue from when the inspiration strikes. If you have cooked vegetables that are untouched, blend with tomato puree to make a veggie pasta sauce that comes locked-in with plenty of flavour.
Stash Vegetable Scraps
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If composting sounds like too much work to get into, just add all your veggie peels to a sealable bag and freeze to make stock or soup out of. Even ingredients that are past their prime in your fridge can be added to this bag and put away for a later day when all you need to feel normal again is a bowl of warm soup. This idea even applies to the cores of tomatoes, ends of onions or leeks, stems from fresh herbs, etc.
Portion & Store
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If you’re used to buying food in bulk quantities because it is more economical, stash away some of it while still fresh – think buying a large loaf of bread and freezing it in a box for later use; or even rotis or cuts of meat and fish that are cheaper to buy in large quantities. Ensure that if your ingredients need to be scrubbed, cleaned or rinsed before storing away, that you do so before it is frozen or refrigerated rather than wait for later.
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A great way to use up leftover sabzis, dal or even rice, is to simply combine everything into a delicious filling to add to a sandwich or stuff into rotis. Want something healthier? Add some shredded lettuce and raw vegetables like cucumber and cherry tomatoes, to make a salad with leftover chicken bits, shrimp or tofu. Since you know the kind of flavours your leftovers have, it is easier to know what would taste best with them when you think of mixing and matching combinations and ingredients.