Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to Recycle Food

After dinner--even a bad dinner--the table is pretty well grazed and there are just traces of evidence that your family dined together. A single baked potato. A few chunks of crumbled feta. A handful of sliced crusty peasant bread. Leftovers can be recycled, so don't throw out a thing! Here are some tips for recycling your food:

  1. Take the larger leftovers for lunch. Are there one or two slices of quiche left? Wrap it up and put it in the fridge for tomorrow. Quiche makes nice leftovers, hot or cold. Be sure to wrap it up right after dinner so that it doesn't get forgotten and then thrown out.
  2. Save small leftovers for smaller people. You may have only a quarter cup of lasagna leftovers. It's not enough to feed an adult, but it will feed a child for lunch quite nicely.
  3. Mentally catalog your leftovers. Before you start making a meal, look over what you have and see if it can be added to the meal. Can it be put on top of a pizza? Mixed into a quiche? Slapped between two slices of bread? Served as a side dish? Sneaked into a soup?
  4. Store leftovers in clear containers. When I was a kid we had little opaque storage containers that were for leftovers. We always used the containers but never used the food that inevitably spoiled in them. We couldn't see what was in them, so the food went bad. We now use the Rubbermaid Take Along containers. They're clear, sturdy, and cheap. We only buy the square and deep square so the lids are interchangeable.
  5. Package your food quickly. A lot of food goes to waste because it's left on the kitchen table overnight. You'll only be able to use your leftovers if they're not crusted, hairy or bacteriated. (What's that squiggly red line under 'bacteriated' for?)
  6. Group leftovers together. After having tacos for dinner, put the tomatoes, onion, meat and cheese all together in a container and throw them into an omelet for breakfast. Or stick them in a quesadilla for lunch. You don't need to package every little thing in a teeny-tiny plastic baggie.
  7. Recycle salads by sauteing. A side dish of lightly sauteed spinach with a clove of crushed garlic is a crowd pleaser. Next time you buy greens, buy spinach and plan to recycle your salad.
  8. Compost or feed the worms. As a last resort, food that no one wants to eat can be turned into rich compost--either in a compost pile outside, or a worm bin inside. We have a little worm bin filled with red wigglers. It sits nicely under our kitchen sink. The worms eat old broccoli, apple cores, cantaloup rinds, and other non-meat/non-dairy leftovers. They love it. Dairy and meat can be composted in an outside bin.
Wasted food is wasted money. Anything you can do to prevent waste in the kitchen will translate to cash in your pocket!


  1. I love this advice! We often save small leftovers for lunch the next day, or mix them into something else.

  2. So true...we're having a pot roast tonight (inspired by Alton Brown's Good Eats) and I was able to recycle some chopped cabbage, not-so-crunchy celery, and baby carrots and potatoes that needed to be used up. It's all simmering in the crockpot and will start smelling incredible in a few hours...