In New Zealand we waste a lot of food because we cook too much. In fact, 50% of Kiwis say that food going off before they can eat it is the main reason for food waste occurring in the home.

Leftovers often get pushed to the back of the fridge, because we don’t feel like eating them, or simply forget about them. We find them days later, when they are even less appetising and into the bin they go.

So what should you do?

If you know you’re not a big fan of leftovers, or they just don’t get eaten in your house, then try to cook only as much as you need for each meal.

If you do have leftovers, take them for lunch the next day. It will save you time in the morning not having to make a sandwich before you rush out the door, and it will save you money as well.  It is important to refrigerate your leftovers to keep them safe, or if you aren’t going to eat them the following day, then freeze them.

When it comes to leftovers, a simple tool to remember is the 2-2-2 rule:

  • You have 2 hours to get your leftovers into the fridge

  • You should eat them within 2 days 

  • They will last for at least 2 months in the freezer

Here’s a few more tips for making sure your leftovers are safe to eat:

  • Leftovers should be cooled before being put in the fridge, but make sure they go in the fridge within two hours of cooking.
  • Ensure they are covered or sealed in a container.
  • Eat leftovers within two days – either eat straight from the fridge or heat until they are piping hot.
  • If you freeze leftovers they will last for at least two months. Make sure you label the container so you don’t end up with a freezer full of UFOs (unidentified frozen objects).
  • Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.
  • If you have frozen raw meat, defrosted and then cooked it, you can refreeze it.

Five ways to makeover leftovers:

With a little bit of creativity, you can turn your leftovers into something even better the second time around.

If it is spaghetti Bolognese one night, the next day you can add a tin of beans to the mince and have burritos. Leftover roast meat and vegetables can become cottage pies, croquettes or bubble and squeak. 

Cooked rice can be used for fried rice, rice pudding, rice-crusted quiche or crispy fried rice cakes. Other odds and ends can be used in a savoury bread pudding. 

Easy frypan frittata

  • Pies – pies are a fantastic way to use leftovers, because no matter how little you have left, there’s always enough for a pie!
  • Soups – great for using up leftover vegetables. Chuck in whatever you have with some water or stock and simmer for a while. Blend it if you like your soup smooth.
  • Frittata – leftovers are given a new life in a frittata. Mixed with a few eggs you won’t even know it is leftovers you are eating.
  • Toasted sandwiches – toasties are the perfect option if you only have a small amount to use up. Add some cheese and we guarantee you’ll be thankful for this quick meal.
  • Crumble – perfect for using up all sorts of raw or cooked fruits. Best of all, it can be eaten any time of the day!

More ideas for leftovers