Waste Not Want Not

The inventors of Tupperware made a fortune from leftover’s. Proving once and for all that one man's trash is another mans treasure.This generation has more methods of food storage, than any other in history. We judiciously wrap, seal and save all sorts of bits and pieces of food. Being hard wired, through centuries of privation, to hoard against the day when the harvest fails or the rains don’t come.

Despite, or perhaps because of our many advantages, we are probably the worst at doing something useful with those carefully saved scraps. The handful of leftover roast spuds. A single serve of sauce or stew. Scraps, trimmings and edible odds and ends fill our fridges and freezers. Only to eventually end up in the bin.

It's good economic sense to save all those little left over’s, but only if you actually intend to use them. I’m not talking about whipping up a gourmet feast from a few old egg shells and the carrot peelings. But many of us happily hoover up for lunch or a snack, leftovers that could have formed the basis of proper meal.

Turning a few morsels into a nourishing meal is about the most gratifying thing you can do in the kitchen with your clothes on.

This is the kind of cooking that makes you swell with pride at your own resourcefulness. The added bonus is that you eliminate the yucky job of excavating mouldy Tupperware from the back of the fridge.

To get to this stage though you’ll probably need a few ideas to get you going. Before long you’ll be an expert at turning yesterday’s leftovers into today’s specials. But if you want to spend less by utilising your leftovers, you need to store them properly or you just won’t fancy eating them.


  • Wrap everything completely or store in a sealed container otherwise foods will become tainted with other flavours, dried out and plain nasty.
  • Discard any leftovers more than three days old! If you haven’t used it yet you aren’t going to.
  • Check the temperature of your fridge. Incorrect or inconsistent temperature can cause changes to appearance, nutrient content, and safety of the food.
  • Don’t over stock the fridge, cold air needs to circulate around the food.
  • Always use separate shelves for raw meat and “ready to eat” foods such as leftovers.


Freezing arrests bacterial growth. But it’s important to note that freezers do not kill bacteria. When the food is thawed, the bacterial growth will resume.

See the section on "Freezing" to learn more about what does and doesn't freeze well and for how long.


All food has bacteria, refrigeration slows down bacterial growth. But every time you open the door the inside warms up a little, eventually allowing bacteria to multiply. Just because the wine is chilled doesn’t mean the fridge is cold enough. Check regularly, if the temperature is higher than 5 degrees Celsius, adjust to lower the temperature. My Westinghouse Fridge has a temperature control on the outside so you can check it at a glance. If yours doesn’t, install an internal Fridge thermometer, available from hardware stores.

So what can you make from leftovers? Well, lots actually

Meat Sauces, casseroles, and tomato based pasta type sauces: can all be used as fillings for: Calzone, Pie’s and filo parcels. Gougere (savoury choux pastry), and crepes. Use to fill jacket potatoes for a light meal, or serve as a topping on potato cakes for the kids

Cooked vegetables – plain or roasted: Add to pasta sauces, couscous, fritters and quiche. Make frittata, omelettes and risotto, add to rice salad or pilaff- roast vegetables are also good on pizza’s – pumpkin, kumara or parsnip, so good its worth doing extra

Cooked meat: add to risotto, soup and pasta sauce. Shred cooked meat and scatter on pizza. Cut in chunks and add to quiche or couscous. Add to rosti or vegetable hash browns. Mince cooked meat and layer in a vegetable bake or scatter into a pasta bake.

Random bits of dried pasta: Many of us have a few handfuls of a variety of dried pasta shapes in the cupboard. A bit of penne, some Orzo, not enough spaghetti for a whole meal… Break it all into pieces and serve “thunder and lightening” using all the broken pieces of pasta in a sauce or added to soups

Pulses or beans: Add to soups or casseroles for extra protein, iron and fibre. Process with spices to make a dip or sandwich spread. Add to a salad for texture

Sausages: Add chunks to a risotto or pasta sauce, use to top a pizza, or make mini toads in the whole using chopped sausages and muffin pans

Uncooked meat: as little as 350 g of lean meat, minced or in slices will make a decent family size stir-fry. Add 3-4 cups chopped vegetables and a great seasoning, serve with rice or noodles. Check out the info under the "one chicken breast challenge". 

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