From plate to garden - five ways to recycle your leftovers
Slim your bin with a starvation diet and see how much food you can recycle this month...
1. Make the most of edible leftovers
Reheat and eat: The simplest way to deal with cooked food? Decant any leftovers to a covered dish in the fridge within two hours of cooking and reheat for lunch or dinner the next day. So many foods are better the day after!
Freeze portions: If you have other plans for the next day's meals, instead portion the cooked food into lidded or sealable containers – shallow is better for faster freezing – and label the outside with the contents and the date. As a quick rule of thumb, meat, fish and dairy dishes should be eaten up within a month of freezing, with veggie dishes lasting up to six months in freezer storage.
Recycle into a new dish: If just one element of a meal is going spare, refrigerate or freeze as a quick ingredient for future eating, for example...
>> Cooked vegetables can be blended into a 'hidden vegetable' tomato sauce or grilled for a warm salad.
>> Leftover tomato or cheese sauce can find a home in a quick pasta dish or, if the sauce is more Asian inspired, tossed into a noodle stirfry.
>> Cooked meats can be sliced into a sandwich or segued into a spicy chilli with a tin of beans.
>> Leftover grains can be fried up with ginger, garlic, a dash of soy and whatever vegetables you have lurking in the fridge.
>> Vegetable trimmings can be collected in a bag in the freezer and used to make homemade stock.
Always pay attention to food safety guidelines. In doubt? Check Still Tasty for guidance on how to store almost every raw and cooked foodstuff safely.
2. Use food scraps for cleaning (yes, really!)
Don't chuck those trimmings if you've got chores to do around the house – those unassuming bits and bobs could cut down on the old elbow grease...
>> Potato peelings dipped into bicarb will gently scrub surface rust off chrome and stainless steel.
>> Shine wooden furniture with a cloth dipped in a little leftover black tea from the pot.
>> Clean and protect shiny leather shoes and bags with the innards of a banana peel. Simply rub on and then buff up with a clean, dry cloth.
>> Crush egg shells and put them in your kitchen sink drainer to help catch stray food particles. The grit particles from the shell will also scour a gunked up drain naturally.
>> Dry orange peels and save them for lighting fires in the hearth or barbecue. The oil in the peel fuels flame naturally and is much cleaner than using chemical firelighters or liquid fuel.
>> Add unwaxed lemon peels to a jar of cheap distilled vinegar and leave to infuse for two weeks. Strain, then mix the liquid 1:1 with water for a brilliant all-purpose cleaner.
3. Protect, fertilise and grow more in your garden
Natural, effective pesticides and fertilisers? And FREE? These waste foods are an absolute boon for green fingered folk...
>> Encircle tender plants with spent coffee grounds to deter slug and snail attacks.
>> Chop up banana peels and spread them around the base of fruiting trees. The potassium in the peel gradually breaks down into the soil, giving trees the necessary to produce larger, healthier fruit.
>> Steep garlic, onion and/or chilli trimmings in water for a day or so, then spray on pest-affected plants. The potent smells will send most creepies elsewhere, although do be careful not to accidentally take out beneficial critters along with them.
>> Strew citrus peels around the perimeter of your garden if you're fed up with cats treating your beds like a litter box. They hate the smell!
>> A little bit of garden magic... have you ever wanted to grow your own fruit and vegetables, but hesitated because of the cost of seeds? No need to buy expensive seed packs, just save and dry seeds from the fruit and veg you eat for your own flourishing food patch next summer!
4. Compost in even the smallest outdoor space
If you have a patch of soil, you can compost uncooked vegetable-based food scraps directly into the garden:
>> Food waste made from small bits, such as spent coffee grounds or the pulp from a juicer, breaks down so quickly that you can dig it directly into the soil around fruiting plants and trees.
>> Year round, larger trimmings and peelings can go into an an old lidded bucket for a discreet, in-ground mini-composter: drill a few 8mm holes in the base of the bucket to allow those vital microbes access to the waste and sink into a flower or veg bed in a convenient location, or...
>> ...in the autumn, compost in holes or trenches in the garden, digging down around 25cm to bury food waste directly in the soil. By the time spring rolls around, you'll find few traces of your raw vegetable leftovers – just well nourished soil!
5. Recycle with your local food waste collection
So, if all the above doesn't work to reduce your food waste significantly, many areas now have local food waste collections. Check your local council's website for details of services in your area, caddy orders and a list of food waste recyclables.