Food Waste — Another "Waste No Food Challenge" Update

by Katy on June 7, 2009 · 21 comments


I did very well/poorly with food waste yesterday.


Into the compost went some brown rice, a half bag of edamame that no one would eat, (the Trader Joe’s edamame is juicy yet crispy with the perfect amount of salt, and has spoiled us for the cheap Asian grocery store stuff) and a small amount of cooked asparagus that got pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten.


Dinner was a buffet of leftovers. Choices were chicken salad sandwich; (chicken was picked off a roasted chicken from two nights ago, only enough for one person. My 11-year-old snagged this one.) chicken pasta with homemade pesto and Japanese curry over rice. (My husband and I ate up all of this.) A few handfuls of cherries were served as a side dish.

I had not cleaned out the fridge in a few weeks, so this was actually three weeks of food waste, which is okay, but still not great. I have a hard time using up leftover rice, and have started cooking smaller amounts, which helps.

As an aside, my neighbor Judy whose son owns a local popular coffee shop brought over a huge loaf of day-old artisan bread. I used it for sandwiches, then french toast and finally regular toast. I had thought I was going to have to throw the last of it in the freezer for  bread crumbs, but we ended up eating every last crumb. It’s amazing how easy it is to not waste food that is rather delicious. It’s a little harder with stuff like leftover rice, which hardly sings its siren song from behind the refrigerator door. But artisan pre-sliced bread? Yum!

How are you doing with your Waste No Food Challenge? Are you putting more of an effort into decreasing the food waste in your home? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara Morrison June 7, 2009 at 6:45 pm

I through leftover rice in the freezer and then next time I have a small amount of beans, I’ll have a lunch for myself. Or it is great thawed and made into fried rice, in eggs ala breakfast burrito, in soup, casserole, or salad, even better rice pudding! Rice has never given me a problem…Maybe being from an area where rice was once grown in large quantities and has always been a staple.


Kristie-ND June 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I struggle with this. This weekend, I threw out some refried beans leftover from burritos. I just wasn’t sure what to do with them, and they didn’t look like they would reheat well, but I didn’t feel good doing it, that is for sure.

Sometimes I just can’t imagine what I might use a small bit of this or that, that wouldn’t freeze well, so I throw it out.


Ellen June 7, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Leftover rice is great for rice pudding, and also good in salmon cakes. Mix the rice with canned or leftover cooked salmon and an egg, form into patties, then pat with dry bread crumbs (panko are really good!) and pan fry. Serve with home-made tartar sauce (just mayo mixed with chopped cornichons from TJs) … yummy (and makes the salmon go twice as far).


David June 7, 2009 at 8:13 pm

We had my daughter and her husband and their three boys over for dinner this evening. We also have a couple from England staying with us. One of the boys brought his girlfriend, a total of 10 people. When we eat alone, which is most of the time – this was really unusual – we hardly ever have anything left over. But this evening I was horrified, there was more food left on the plates than we have wasted in the last several months! Fortunately we have chickens. Not a scrap was thrown out, it all went to the chickens. Half eaten ears of corn, half eaten potatoes, unfinished salad, partly eaten chicken parts – the chickens love them all! So, does this count as no waste? Also, the potato peelings, carrot tops, lettuce trimmings – all in the compost. Nothing left over for the trash except the cork from the wine bottle (the bottle went into the recycle bin)
Speaking of recycling, our trash is picked up twice a week and our recycle once a week. The recycle bins are usually pretty full for pick up on Tuesday, but I rarely have anything for the trash pick up on Tuesday or Friday, in fact I find I only put one trash can out – and that is often only half full every two weeks or so! Any comments on that? Seems to me if more emphasis were put onto the recycle we could easily only need one trash pick up a week.


prkpinch June 7, 2009 at 11:10 pm

The best thing to do with ld rice and old vegetables is fried rice. I’ll even just fry it up with garlic and throw a fried egg on top. My kids love this lunch. I find I end up wasting food that is still in the package. For whatever reason food that is really cooked and just needs to be heated seems to be eaten faster.


fairydust June 8, 2009 at 5:55 am

We did pretty well this weekend. I had leftover crock-pot pork in the fridge, so I shredded it, added some bbq sauce and heated everything in the microwave. I spread that on a wrap, added some sugar-free cole slaw that I’d made last week, and we had “pulled pork/slaw wraps” – yum! In fact, DH liked them so much, he used the rest of the slaw the next day and recreated the wraps this time using up some leftover sliced ham 🙂 Meanwhile, I didn’t realize my milk was as old as it was, but it still tasted okay, so I had a huge glass of it with dinner last night to finish it off. No waste at all this weekend.


lindainkansas June 8, 2009 at 6:57 am

Two ways we have really improved our use of leftovers and remnants (items you buy a little too much of for a particular recipe):
1. I pull up a chair to the fridge door every Mon. (we do our main shopping on Tues.), sit down, and quickly go through, organize, purge (hate to do that)every shelf and compartment. Also wipe up spills and drips. Takes about 6-8 min., but pays off in reminding me of what I already have on hand, need to use up, etc.
2. We have set aside one small, mid-level shelf and one side of one produce compartment in fridge for leftovers, remnants, things going close to or past use-by-date. Anytime we snack or cook, we look there first and try to USE IT UP.


J. June 8, 2009 at 10:15 am

I hardly ever throw out leftover rice, couscous, etc. If it’s a rice pilaf, I’ll add frozen peas, frozen shrimp, and some kind of seasoning, depending on what I put in the pilaf to start with (like a squeeze of lemon, a cube of frozen pesto, etc.). If it’s plain rice, I’ll add canned/frozen black beans, Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn, salsa, and maybe leftover shredded chicken and cheese for a sort of Tex-Mex casserole. These make good packed lunches if you have access to a microwave. Keeping a variety of frozen staples around really helps to make a good meal out of scraps!

What I have trouble with is pre-bagged fresh veggies. For some reason I sort of “forget” about that last stalk of celery or carrot in the bag in the bottom of the crisper until it’s too late. We do vermicompost our non-animal food waste, but it’s still wasted food and it bugs me.


Lori June 8, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Mmm… rice pudding. I’ve now transitioned wholly to brown rice, and to my surprise, it makes even better rice pudding. With 2 cups whole milk, a bit of vanilla, maple syrup or agave nectar to taste (go easy)and a couple of eggs, 3 cups of leftover brown rice makes breakfast heaven when warmed and served with berries. So … if you have all the frozen rice you need, make some rice pudding on the stovetop for quick easy, delicious desserts and breakfasts.

Also, this from Mark Bittman: when you have bits of vegetables that seemed destined for the compost, throw them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer, and keep adding until the bag is full. You can even use things like celery and cabbage cores and onions skins. When the bag is full, pour it in a soup pot, add water, simmer for a day, taste for required salt, pepper, spices and garlic, and strain. Now you have a whole pot of veggie broth for all kinds of recipes — freeze it in smaller containers for soups, casseroles, and stir-frying veggies.

Yoghurt and/or cottage cheese on its legs? Throw these in the freezer to be added to smoothies or dips.

Happy eating, my friends … food is good.


Kristie-ND June 8, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Hey Jenn,

Yep, live in the badlands, and right now freezin’ our rears off!

I am a good cook with the meals I make, I am just not very adventurous!LOL!

When we lived in Turkey, my maid tried to teach me how to cook Turkish foods, but I was a failure and she gave up 😉 They waste nothing over there either!

Left over meats, etc are the easy things to not waste, but it is those bits and bobs that you just look at and think “what am I going to do with you?”

Even our Great Dane isn’t a good “livestock” choice to dispose of leftovers…too picky 😉


Sandy June 8, 2009 at 9:01 pm

When I have enough leftover for a lunch but everyone is sick of it, it goes into the freezer and I label it. Usually I can add rice or something and I try to use these single serve meals for work lunches.


karen June 9, 2009 at 8:41 am

one of my favorite ‘recycled’ dishes is the leftover fries from a dinner out. (I consider them ‘filler food’ with an entre so eat the sandwhich first) I dice them up to add with leftover diced veggies for omelets. Since the fries are already salted, I dont need to add salt to the mix. I normally dont make baked potatoes for just 2 people, so I know when I have fries with my sandwhich, I’ll end up with 2 meals 🙂 I dont get a discount if I forego the fries, so since I’ve paid for them, I hate to leave them to waste on the restraunt plate


Kristie-ND June 10, 2009 at 5:07 pm

I really like the french fry idea! Thanks 🙂

Tonight, I had another failure. We had a very small amount of mashed potatoes and green beans leftover from dinner. Not enough for a meal, or even a cup of mashed potatoes to make potato bread, and since we are not set up to compost or have livestock, I threw it away. What would you all have done?


Pennie June 10, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I would have made tater “pancakes” with the mashies, and served them in the place of hashbrowns with some scrambled eggs or they work equally well as a side dish for a dinner meal.

My from scratch recipe. which can easily be modified to add anything that sounds tasty: to the mashed potatoes add either a bit of minced onions or a dash of onion powder, a smidge of minced garlic or a dash of garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, and a medium raw egg. Gently mix all together, scoop up blobs of about 2-3 Tbsp each in size and pat into small patties, rolling in flour. Do this quickly while the taters are still cold and somewhat firm–if they get too warm they are difficult to handle. Add them to a preheated pan with a bit of butter or oil, add a sprinkle of paprika to look pretty and cook about 5-10 minutes a side on medium, turning once. Serve warm. Yum!

For the little bit of green beans I’d either add them to a rice stir fry to add color, flavor and nutrients toward the end of the cooking period, add them to a vegetable soup, or combine them with two other veggies for a “trio” vegetable serving, i.e. corn, beans and cauliflower, or peas, carrots and beans.

Not glamorous by any means, but nutritious and interesting and helps me keep on budget and avoid wasting food.


Sam Jones June 11, 2009 at 5:08 am

I keep a one gallon plastic container w/screw top lid (old commercial sized mayo container) in my freezer, marked “Soup Stuff”, right in front. It has a permanent spot and never gets moved. Into it, I’ll add that last tsp of rice, beans, veggies, salsa, ANYTHING that is edible. I also add the cooking water left from steaming veggies. When it’s full, simply thaw it out, put into the soup pot and begin adding herbs and whatever other foods it seems to need. The results are always a bit different, but always delicious! Leftover soup is one of our favorite soups. PS We’re vegetarians so no meat goes into this. I would think that meat mixes would not be good, so if you add meat to your container, perhaps just stick to chicken or beef so it will be consistent?


WilliamB June 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Leftover rice is difficult. It goes hard in the fridge so fast and doesn’t freeze well.

Not-so-old leftover rice is great in omelets, fried rice, fritters, or baked into bread.

Older leftover rice needs to be paired with something wet or goopy, so the rice is fully hydrated and the texture disguised. Soup, stew, tagine, domburi, wet beans, you get the idea. You can do this with frozen rice as well.


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