Easy ways to love your leftovers and cut food waste

Hate wasting food? Me too! In today’s tough economic times, we could all do with some smart solutions on how to make our food purchases last longer. If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to cooking, storing and freezing food, here are a few good habits to get into now…

ALSO SEE: 6 Ways To Eat On A Budget

Start freezing food

Cooked too much dinner? Freeze it! If, like me, you often cook surplus food, get into the habit of freezing food as individual portions in freezer-safe, seal-proof containers.

I personally love Sistema containers because they’re so durable and designed to be used in the fridge and freezer. I can also pack them easily on my freezer shelves because many of the containers are stackable, which also means I can freeze things separately such as curry and rice. Not only does this help with portion control, it also stops me swinging by the convenience store on the way home from work or a shoot, because I know I have a healthy meal waiting at home.

Foods you can freeze

Did you know you can freeze egg whites and yolks? If I’m baking and I only need egg yolks, I often freeze the whites and I label it so that I remember it for next time.

Other freezer-friendly foods include;

  • Any stew, casserole, curry or soup (just not cream-based like spaghetti Carbonara)
  • Pasta-based dishes like lasagne, Gnocchi or cannelloni (filled, rolled pasta)
  • All meat, chicken and fish including leftovers from a braai. Just make sure that you trim off any fat from the meat before freezing as this will help it last longer. Ground meat such as mince and sausages should only be frozen for 3-5 months.
  • Baked goods such as quiches, muffins, cakes or loaves like banana loaves, fruit breads and any type of bread.
  • Cooked or uncooked pastries also freeze well.
  • Vegetables and fruit can be frozen particularly berries, mango, bananas, corn, peas etc. Just a tip, if you are going to freeze veggies, it’s best to blanch them in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes before freezing, then throw them into cold water before freezing. This will help to keep their shape and texture for longer.
  • Wine for cooking can be frozen and will keep for up to three months.

The best containers for freezing foods

I love the convenience of freezing food in durable, BPA-free plastic containers and that’s why my kitchen is stocked with a variety of Sistema containers. I really can’t rave about them enough!

Some of the best Sistema containers for freezing are the Klip It Rectangular containers such as the medium and large split containers, as well as the Klip It Round containers for cakes and baked goods such as muffins and scones. If you want to freeze a variety of fruit and veggies then it’s best to use a container with multiple compartments like the Sistema Snack Attack To Go. It has two large compartments to keep your fruits or veggies separate, plus easy locking clips and a separate seal. I use these a lot for my morning smoothie or juice ingredients.

This Heart Bean and Vegetable soup freezes amazingly.

Freezer no-no’s

  • Any cream-based meal doesn’t freeze well because it tends to separate. Mayonnaise, for instance, will curdle in the freezer.
  • Fruits and veggies with a high water content are best eaten fresh and shouldn’t be frozen. So, avoid freezing foods like lettuce, spinach, watermelon, citrus fruits, strawberries, zucchini or grated carrot.
  • Dairy products like cottage cheese, hard cheese and yoghurt don’t freeze well either, but you can freeze milk in its container and defrost.
  • Fried foods tend to go soggy and rancid in the freezer – and they’re best eaten fresh.
  • Potatoes don’t do well in the freezer. If I make a lentil cottage pie for the family, I only freeze the lentil part and leave out the cheese and potato topping. It’s also not a good idea to freeze potato chips.

TOP TIP: Some tomato-based meals or curries can stain your container. To avoid this, Sistema manufacturers suggest simply spraying your container with non-stick cooking spray before storing and freezing your meals. If the food still stains the container, apply a paste of baking soda and water and wash thoroughly.

Keep it simple

Fresh and fast is key. Don’t leave foods in the fridge for too long as this can raise your risk of eating contaminated products (and there’s nothing worse than food poisoning doing the rounds) and you might end up having to throw too much away anyway.

In general, I stick to these guidelines when it comes to keeping food in my fridge:

  • Although I’m a vegetarian, some members of my family still eat chicken, meat and fish from time to time and if we have guests over, I’ll cook a variety of foods. If I have chicken or meat leftover in the fridge, I’ll make sure it’s eaten within three days. I keep smoked salmon or trout for a week in the fridge.
  • Soft cheese in an airtight container will keep for a few days in the fridge; hard cheese for up to a month.
  • I’m quite pedantic about dairy products. If I cook with cream and don’t use it all in one go, I’ll use it within a week or stick to the use-by date. We also eat yoghurt within a week or two of purchase.
  • I find that fresh baked goods such as custard tarts or apple pie with a high water content generally last about a week. But these get eaten quickly anyway!
  • If you get into the habit of shopping only for what you need for 2-3 meals in advance, and ensure you store and freeze your foods correctly, you’ll get the maximum benefit from your meals and it’ll be easier on your wallet too.

Visit www.sistemaplastics.com for more handy containers you can use to store and freeze food.