Day 28 of the January Money Diet – Reduce Food Waste

“The remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” ~Calvin Trillin

It just kills me to discard spoiled food that we didn’t eat. One of my goals this year is to make better use of leftovers. The whole concept of “zero waste” appeals to me on so many levels, and utilizing food efficiently is so important.

If you feel the same way, you might enjoy the Leftover Chef site where you can input whatever strange ingredients are lurking in your refrigerator for recipe ideas. Enter ‘turkey, ‘cranberries,’ and ‘onions,’ for instance, and you’ll find an appealing recipe for Turkey Cutlets with Cranberry – Pear Relish.

Do you have stale crackers and chips lurking in the pantry? Refresh them by spreading them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and baking at 300 degrees F for about 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then seal in an airtight container.

What about those stray veggies in the vegetable crisper? Use them in salads or on pizza, or freeze them for your next batch of soup.

Leftover tortillas can be used to make homemade tortilla chips, like this healthy baked version from Savory Sweet Life.

Homework assignment #28: What’s your favorite way to use leftovers? We’d love to hear your ideas!

P.S. In case you’ve just joined us, the January Money Diet is a challenge to take a 31-day break from nonessential spending. You can learn more about the money diet here — and jump right in!


Win a Deluxe Happy Simple Living Gift Basket

In honor of the January Money Diet, I’ll be giving away a gift basket chock-full of home and garden goodies plus several books at the end of the month. On January 31, 2013, I’ll draw one random name from everyone who commented during the month and that lucky person will win the gift basket. I hope you’ll stop by often this month and share your own ideas, thoughts and experiences about taking a 31-day break from nonessential spending.


About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day 28 of the January Money Diet – Reduce Food Waste

  • I agree with Deborah but there are certain days that we can’t avoid leftovers even if we have a plan. Creating sumptuous dishes from scratch can be difficult.

  • Deborah Gore

    With meal planning and cooking smaller amounts, we have very little waste. Lunches are planned each evening using the leftovers from dinner. This has really cut our food bill also!

  • This is a big pet peeve of mine, I try to reuse everything I can. My favorite way to reuse leftovers is stir fry, or fried rice. Any vegetable can go in there and if there is leftover fried rice it can be a side on the next day.

  • Thanks to all of you for sharing these great ideas. It’s getting ready to snow here in Denver and I think a big pot of soup is in our future! 🙂

  • Carolyn

    Like Linda, the heels of bread are either eaten (my hubby) or become breadcrumbs or croutons or bread pudding – yummy, all. Dinner tonight will star chicken soup made with bones of roast chicken (I take meat off bones BEFORE serving so it’s clean), simmered with celery, onions, carrots – then, add some leftover mashed potatoes. A bit of baked beans, too, become a great add-on to soup, along with other yummies!

    Thanks for the challenge!

  • I really enjoy leftovers in their whole form, and creating new meals from random foods in the fridge & pantry! It’s cost-effective, better for the environment, and forces me to be creative & healthy at the same time! One of my faves is using leftover Chinese food, adding frozen fresh veggies, a little sauce, and throwing it all in a pan to saute. Cook up some fresh rice, and you have a whole new meal!

  • ElainieMay

    You would be amazed at the variation of burritos we come up with!!!!

  • Bobbie

    Food waste is so tragic when there are so many, even here in the US, going hungry every day. I try very, very hard not to waste any food. I cook smaller portions and take leftovers for lunch. Planning meals has helped eliminate a lot of wasted food in my home.

  • Ramona Dumas

    The U.S. wastes 34 million tons of food every year. Every. Year. At least you are doing something to save the world. Thanks.

  • Catherine

    I learn a lot of things in this site..hope you can share more..Keep it up!!!

  • Ellie

    Thank you so much for the tip on ‘refreshing’ stale chips and crackers Eliza. This will be a great food saver in my house.


  • Brunella Brunet

    love this website. am learning all kind of ways to save and recycle. Thanks for sharing all of these.

  • Just mindlessly munched on stale chips while watching mindless TV (blame it on a day of taking care of elderly parents coupled with a day of battling the mall) – sure wish I had had that tip about refreshing chips before!

  • My favorite ways to use leftovers are on pizza and in chili. I’m still not great at always seeing leftovers in the back of the fridge, so when those stragglers become spoiled I add them to my compost.

    I recently saw someone who had a small plastic bin in the front of the fridge. They stored all of their leftover and forgotten veggies in it so they would remember to use them. I think this is a great way to prevent anything from being forgotten going to waste.

  • Maureen

    Like Linda, we usually have the heels of the bread left after the in-between slices are gone. I put them in a paper bag and let them dry out, then I make bread crumbs in the food processor. Another use is to make bread pudding with the leftover bread slices. It doesn’t matter if they’re not soft; the milk/egg mixture will soak in and soften them up for baking.

  • Linda Henderson

    We usually try to use everything possible so we don’t have any food waste. The other day I was in the kitchen and my daughter was about to throw the bread bag away with the two heels in it, I asked her why she was throwing them away and she said none of them would eat them. Needless to say I saved them for me. I actually like them.

  • I have some good ideas to do with leftovers on my page. I make fish cakes with stall crackers. They’re great because the crackers are like pre seasoned bread crumbs. They add a lot of flavor.

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