7 Easy Ways To Avoid Wasting Food At Home

Here's how you can make sure nothing is wasted.

IMAGE Patrick Martires

Though no one really buys food with the intention of wasting anything, sometimes, it does happen. It can be hard to keep track of what's in the fridge, for instance, both in terms of the fresh food in the freezer and the produce drawer, as well as the leftovers from dishes that were already cooked. Sometimes, one batch of ulam and rice can be too much to eat in just one sitting, so the food ends up being kept in the fridge to get a new lease on life as tomorrow's breakfast. 

On top of these, we might also receive food as presents, or we're forced to keep other people's potluck contributions for a special occasion, like at a family reunion or a Christmas party, for example. On occasions like these, it's common practice to bring a lot of food because it's practically a sin not to have enough. But what do you do with all the leftovers in the coming days? How do you make sure that none of them go to waste?

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In this short guide, we'll teach you some important but otherwise easy lessons on how to make the best of leftovers. In addition, we'll give you tips on how to organize the food in your kitchen and how to be creative about certain types of food waste. Avoid wasting food, and make sure that what you already have on hand is put to good use!

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Reheat Leftover Rice, and Cook Up New Meals Out of It 

No Filipino meal is complete without rice, but many of us cook more than what we can finish in one sitting to be on the safe side. If the leftover rice you put in the fridge isn't as good as it was when freshly cooked, however, there's no need to worry. By using a good amount of water, you can properly reheat rice and bring the fluff and life back to it. Alternatively, you could try any one of these recipes using leftover rice, pantry and refrigerator staples, and leftover ulam. Our recipes for bangus fried rice, Chinese-style fried rice, and rice casserole with cheese and broccoli make great use of dry day-old rice. 

Photo by Miguel Nacianceno
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Transform Your Leftover Meat Bits into Something Tasty

You can take a similar approach with some of the leftover meat you might have and use it as an ingredient in other recipes. Get creative about adding roast beef, pork, or chicken to sandwiches, salads, casseroles, or pasta dishes. You can also make fajitas or grilled cheese sandwiches with saucy meat bits, or mix them up with vegetables and seasonings in an anything-goes type of casserole. When it comes to making the most of food scraps, a little ingenuity goes a long way. 

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Make Toppings or Condiments Out of Scraps You'd Only Throw Away Anyway

Even if you can't use your food scraps as main ingredients, you can still adapt them into toppings or condiments for other meals. This definitely beats food spoiling or getting moldy, and therefore becoming unusable altogether. For ideas, check out this handy guide on using up food scraps. You can make croutons or breadcrumbs out of stale bread, infused syrups out of fruit peel, or stock out of scraps like veggies or shrimp heads. Not only will you be able to use up food scraps-your upcoming meals might have a little more panache to them as well!

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Be Imaginative with Those Stale Holiday Treats

It's never a bad thing to receive special food for the holidays, but it's even better to enjoy the leftovers long after the festivities are over. There's a number of recipes you can make out of leftover ham alone, and these include embutido, chicken cordon bleu, ham chowder, and ham croquettes. There are also many awesome things you can do with leftover lechon, including bao buns, lechon sisig, and lechon lumpia. And don't forget what you can do with queso de bola, such as grating it over freshly cooked pasta or whipping up this easy queso de bola dip. 

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Change the Layout of the Contents in Your Refrigerator 

One of the most common ways that we end up accumulating food waste is by leaving items in the refrigerator for too long. So many leftovers go bad because we put them in the fridge and then proceed to forget about them. If this is something that seems to happen to you often, the root problem may be the layout of your refrigerator. It may not be easy for you to see which leftovers will go bad soon or which food items need to be consumed faster than others. 

You can remedy this by setting a scheme for how you put food items and food containers inside. For example, the top rack can be reserved for items that should be consumed within a few days. Items that last longer, like sandwich spreads or jams in jars, can be put in the lower racks. This takes care of the out-of-sight, out-of-mind tendency that you might have with food items in your refrigerator, ensuring that you remember to use or consume them before they spoil. 

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Put Bigger and More Legible Labels on Food Items

Similarly, it's a good idea to put labels not only on the food you have in your fridge, but also the food you have in your pantry. It may be hard to see the best-by dates on jars, cans, and packets of food. You can check for these, and then put bigger labels on the packaging that will make it easier for you to see the latest date for consumption. Also consider using brightly colored labels, perhaps in neon colors that will make them more visible.

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See Which Foods You Can Compost or Regrow

If you can no longer eat your food scraps, there may be a way to turn them into compost. Food items that don't have a lot of meat or dairy in them, like grains or tomato-based sauces, can be composted if ever they're unusable. Research online to find out which other food items can be turned into compost versus which foods you shouldn't put in the composting bin. 

Better yet, if you fancy yourself a plantito or plantita, or you are aspiring to become one soon, why not give gardening a shot? You can practice your green thumb on herb, fruit, or veggie scraps and grow your own spring onions, carrot tops, or lemongrass. It'll be very satisfying to harvest and eat food you've grown yourself! 

We don't always consume our food mindfully and optimally, but we can definitely make the choice to reduce our food waste and make sure that what we have goes a long way. 

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Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

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