The forgotten art of leftovers and our nation's wastefulness


There is nothing better than leftovers after a big dinner the night before – it tastes delicious and it feels good to be using the last of what you slaved over. But does everyone still do this? I feel like the art of leftovers has been lost. I used to love preparing a big roast and using the leftovers for a soup or some sandwiches the next day…but now I see my daughter throwing out a crockpot full of food that could be put to good use for days to come. I thought I had taught her how to make use of everything in the cupboard – when she was a child we had hardly any money and would have to make do with whatever was in the pantry, and boy could we make a roast go a long way when we did have the ingredients to make it!

To back up my argument, I have done some research and found that Australians throw out 20 per cent of the food they buy and 40 per cent of our bins are made up of food…around $8 billion of edible food in total. This shocks me…I never buy more than I need in a shop. I see women at the supermarket with trolleys full of rubbish so to think they are throwing out 1 in 5 bags is preposterous to me! There are people starving and yet we have more than enough.

I know that bakeries give their leftovers bread and pastries to charities, in fact Bakers Delight donate $143 million a year, so there are people who are helping but how can we? I have a few tips for minimising waste and doing a shop that doesn’t necessitate you throwing a big chunk of it out!:

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1. Freeze your bread
I live on my own so a loaf of bread definitely won’t get eaten by the time the expiry date rolls by…so I freeze it! When I want to use a slice or two, I pop it in the microwave or just leave it out on the bench.

2. Use stale bread for breadcrumbs
I love a crumbed steak or chicken but I won’t bother buying breadcrumbs – I just use stale bread. It goes in the blender and tastes great.

3. Blend any leftover veges and make a soup
This is pretty straight forward but if I have any tomatoes that have gone a bit squishy, I blend them and then make a soup.

4. Put your potatoes in a paper bag
Potatoes can last a while and I’ve found putting them at the back of the pantry in a paper bag has stopped them from going bad.

5. Canned fruit
If you are afraid you might waste it, just buy fruit in cans. It lasts for a long time and won’t be thrown out.

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6. Best Before
My kids use to hate me for this but I think Best Before is just a guide! Anything in a can or frozen can last longer than the date it says it does. It simply means that it was best before that date…Used By is a different thing!

If I do have any leftover food I can’t use like cans or jar of things, I donate them outside the local supermarket for the charity bin. I found a website that is also fantastic for giving food: Give Now

Leftovers are also great for lunches…I work part time and find that I save myself so much when I take the leftovers to work the next day. It seems simple but the younger generation have such a disposable attitude to life and I’m taking one step at a time to change it!


Do you think charities that donate leftover food are promoted enough in our communities? Do you donate? Do you still have leftovers? What do you do with them? How much food do you waste? What are your tips for minimising waste? Tell us below!