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I hate food waste. With two little one’s it can’t be helped, but before they came along I was a self-confessed food snob. I’d throw away anything past its best before date and chuck leftover meat away without a seconds thought.
Now, with these two extra mouths to feed and every squished budget, I’ve realised that my weekly shop goes further when I plan to waste nothing.
It’s not easy, especially with my two fussy kids, but by using a simple meal plan and rummaging around the freezer and cupboards every week, I can “normally” whip up a cheap meal for four every day while keeping my shopping bill low.
Well apart from the obvious answer; saving money, I read recently that the average family throws away over a fifth of their food a week, chucking away a massive £51,000 of per household over a lifetime.
The main reason behind it was that many families just didn’t realise what they could freeze to eat again or where scared of reheating the meat.
So here are 25 easy and cheap recipes you can use. All are adaptable and leftover-friendly.
Lost cost and healthy, Spag Bol is a huge hit in my house and is one of the only things I can get everyone to eat.
I normally buy the mince then split it, putting half in the freezer if I don’t plan on using the rest of week. It works well with extra grated vegetables too if you have any going off, and can be slow cooked to perfection while you’re out.
Here’s my own version, that feeds a minimum of four for under £4.
A Friday night treat in our house. We all love takeaway, but just can’t afford it now, so to soften the blow, we make our own and clear the fridge of all the leftovers.
Anything goes. Leftover meat, vegetables, even sauces. You don’t even have to have special flour; I use bread flour and it turns out perfect.
Perfectly when you get to the end of the week and have nothing left.
Throw everything in; from the tiny chunk of cheese to those weltering spring onions and peppers.
To be honest, you can do loads of things with eggs, if that’s what you’ve got leftover. Boiled eggs and soldiers, scrambled eggs, pasta, and cupcakes!
My failsafe potato idea when I’ve no idea what to cook. You can put jacket potatoes with anything. Raid the freezer and see what you can use. The kid’s love leftover gammon with there’s, but are happy with the last slice of ham or half a tin of tuna if it’s laying around.
If the skin is looking a bit dry, try covering them with a touch of olive oil and salt. It helps bring out the moisture and makes the skin extra crispy.
Cheese on Toast
My go to tea time treat when we’ve all gotten in late and I can’t be bothered to cook.
If it’s bread you have leftover, then you always freeze it. I tend to half mine as a rule now. We never get through a full loaf and by the end of the week, the kid’s are bored of sandwiches.
Taking it straight from the freezer to toaster is quick, and works just as well as a toasted cheese, onion and ham sandwich.
Just like Spaghetti Bolognese, here you can chuck anything in. I grate my almost off carrots, celery, and mushrooms, and use up that last bit of puree that’s been sat there all week.
Also, it freezes lovely and makes a great meal for the following day or week. Just make sure it’s fully cooled before freezing and heated piping hot before eating.
I use this recipe but there are hundreds out there just as good. I leave out the wine unless I have any left around.
A cheap meal that uses up a bit of everything. I normally freeze my sausages anyway, but if I have any leftover sweet potatoes or vegetables kicking around, sausages help beef it (sorry) up a little, and make it feel more like a meal.
If the sausages are the item you have left, then you’re very lucky, because the possibilities are almost endless. We like sausage pasta bake with caramelized onions while the kids love tortillas made with leftover sausages and potatoes.
From leftover meats to almost off vegetables, anything goes.
Whatever you have around the fridge or cupboards going off can go in. Nothing is wrong in a pasta bake!
Don’t throw all those gorgeous vegetables away. Stir fry them up with a bit of meat (I use chicken, but whatever you have) and sprinkle over some herbs. Serve with rice or a packet of noodles, both what I would call cupboard staples.
So easy and so good. Roasted root vegetables go really well as does any leftover meat.
The classic Beef and Ale Stew is a winner here and uses so much leftover meat from Sunday lunch, that it’s become a Monday favorite.
Onions, carrots, mushrooms, cheese, even leftover herbs get chucked in to simmer away.
No one is too old for pancakes! Not only are they a fab dessert but use up so many eggs that it outweighs any guilty feelings for me.
My recipe makes 12 for 86p and I freeze them if we can’t eat them all by allowing them to cool, then layering them between greaseproof paper. Then I wrap in cling film and freeze for up to 2 months. They can be reheated in seconds!
Like most families I’m guessing, we have a lot of leftover fruit. Smoothies are my go to normally, but the kids would eat crumble every night if I let them.
I freeze a lot of my ripe fruit and defrost it when I need it, but there are just some fruits that hate being defrosted, hence a crumble to use them all.
Rhubarb, ginger, apple and pear all go well. Blackberries, gooseberries, and strawberries in season, when we’ve all had enough of eating them raw.
But really anything does go. I’ve added cherries, mango plums to mine and it’s worked. Whatever you have, use.
Chocolate Rice Krispie/Cornflake Cakes
If your cornflakes or rice crispies have gone soft, then melt some chocolate and stir them in. It’s as simple as that.
Depending on cost, we choose a different meat every week. Normally a gammon or chicken as that tends to go further and can last us up to three days.
I use this recipe, as it involves sweet potatoes and peppers, something we always have over.
Whatever meat you have throw in. I’ve used turkey, chicken, fish and gammon and they all taste lush.
Never throw flour, milk or eggs away again. The three things I always have leftover at the end of the week, and that used to be thrown, in till recently.
To empty it all down, I make scones for the kid’s lunch boxes, adding any chopped fruit I can to the mix.
Victoria sponge, fairy cakes or any other sponge mix works with just flour, eggs and milk too, not forgetting pancakes up above.
I’m not an expert, but I have reduced our waste by over £30 a week by using the above recipes as my go to if needed.
I’ve also stopped peeling vegetables, especially if they are being grated and slow cooked. Just no point; it all tastes the same!
Bread; I freeze half a loaf. Even with the four of us, we can’t use a whole loaf, and most of it went in the bin. Now, it gets frozen and eaten when needed.
I weigh out food like pasta and rice, so I don’t cook too much. It’s really hard to judge portion sizes when dry, so weighing it in a simple plastic contender stops me throwing excess away.
Leftover fruit either gets turned into smoothies or bread pudding, and ripe banana and carrots make great cakes with dried raisins.