Leftovers Can Help Reduce Food Waste

OFS Promotion on how to reuse resources for Earth Day

Earth Day, a day we celebrate our environment and raise awareness about climate change, is celebrated on April 22nd annually. However, the need to be environmentally conscious continues each day, month, and year following. There are many ways to support our environment. Still, you may not realize that reducing food waste not only helps improve the health of our environment, but also supports individuals receiving food they need. As we dive into May, it is important to revisit how we can move forward making positive, lasting impacts on the environment and work towards food security for all. The amount of food produced worldwide is enough to nourish everyone, but not everyone has access to food. Global food insecurity is rising. In 2018, it was estimated that 1 in 9 individuals face food insecurity, impacting more than 820 million people. The COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.

Ending world hunger and reversing climate change are not small goals and will take time to improve. So, how can we get there? One simple thing we all can do is avoid throwing out food. Instead, we can recreate leftovers into new meals or snacks! It can save you money, time, and even add some fun in the kitchen.

Listed below are some ideas on how to reuse leftovers:

Make tacos: If you ask me, just about anything can be made into a taco. Leftover meats, eggs, beans, or veggies can be warmed in a pan with a pinch of salt, pepper, and cumin (or whichever spices you prefer). Keep it classic by serving on a hard shell or try a soft, whole-wheat tortilla or skip the shell and place over greens for a taco salad. Optional toppings include shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, chopped onions, and avocado.

Pasta: Have leftover spaghetti? Try baking it! Add more sauce and any veggies you like such as peas, tomatoes, or broccoli, sprinkle more cheese on top and bake until golden brown and warmed throughout. Cook too many noodles? Try stir-fry noodles by warming on stove-top, adding veggies and any Asian-inspired sauce.

Vegetables: Simply reheat and add to meals like pizza, pasta, rice, quesadillas, or warmed on hot sandwiches. Keep cold and add to salads!

Rice Dishes: Reuse rice for rice bowls. Add canned tuna or chicken to warmed rice and top with leafy greens and vegetables of your choice. Fried rice is best when using leftover rice, because the rice is dried out. Warm on stove top with 1-2 teaspoons of oil and add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables (or any you need to eat up!). Stir in a sauce of your choice.

Make a syrup: Have fruits that are expiring? It takes 5 minutes to make a simple syrup. Add leftover berries, chopped apples, or peaches into a small saucepan. Heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add water for desired consistency and cinnamon for spice. Use syrups on pancakes, yogurt, or drizzle on cereals for extra flavor.

As you explore the ways to reduce food waste, don’t forget about freezing foods to extend their life! Fruits, vegetables, and even cooked dishes will generally last about 3 months in the freezer if stored in an airtight container or bag.

Cheers to being creative with leftovers,

Taylor Aarns, Utah State Dietetic Intern

1. Boliko MC. FAO and the situation of food security and nutrition in the world. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2019;65(Supplement):S4-S8. doi:10.3177/jnsv.65.S4

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