It’s easy to confront your food waste when you’ve got a pile to put out for collection, or to dump onto the compost heap. But what about the bits and pieces that end up being ditched down the sink? It’s 'out of sight, out of mind' for those, and yet over time those dregs will definitely add up.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that cooking oil and grease should not go down the sink, because they clog up the sewers and cause massive fatbergs. But we need to think twice about other liquid foods, and whether we could be making use of them rather than swilling them away. For example, we throw away 29,000 tonnes of milk a year, despite the fact that sour milk is a useful ingredient in its own right.
Fewer people are brewing tea in a pot these days, but if you do end up with cold tea to dispose of, Tea Happiness has some ideas of how to use it, including polishing wood, cleaning windows and watering plants. Of course, you can always get crafty and use cold tea to ‘age’ paper or for dyeing experiments. If you prefer an edible use, then how about soaking some dried fruit in your cold tea and making a tea loaf? It works just as well with herbal teas as it does with black tea. Apparently you can also use leftover tea to marinate meat, add it to soups and stews, or freeze it into ice cubes that won’t dilute your iced tea.
If coffee is your brew of choice, then of course you can use leftovers to flavour coffee cake to go with your next cup. There are more imaginative options, including mocha overnight oats and coffee smoothies to start your day with a caffeine boost, or iced coffee cocktails to end it with a buzz.
As we’re moving onto the hard stuff, it’s worth looking at alcoholic liquids. It’s probably best to throw away that inch of beer in the bottom of the glass from last night, but if there’s some left in the bottle/can then you can freeze it and save it to add flavour to casseroles and stews - beef in beer is a classic combination. So is pork and cider. There’s a surprising variety of recipes involving lager, including sweet waffles, and beer bread is lovely (even if you don’t like beer).
We were recently given a bottle of white wine that turned out to be a bit ‘meh’, so rather than drink it I turned it into a slow-cooked chicken casserole, which was much more enjoyable! Plenty of people think leftover wine is a myth (like leftover chocolate), but if you’re not one of them then the Dinner Doctor has some great recipes for making the most of the rest of the bottle. It’s common advice to freeze leftover wine in your ice cube tray, so you have it to hand for when you’re cooking. I don’t find it freezes well like that (and red wine stains the ice cube tray), so I reuse plastic containers from take-aways instead, which has the added advantage that you can write the contents and the date on the lid.
In amongst these more recognisable liquids, my freezer often contains a pot labelled ‘casserole juice’, which is the excess liquid from a casserole. It’s great for adding flavour to the next one, or to a homemade soup. The same is true of gravy, if you live in a house where it doesn’t all get slurped up.
And what of sweet liquids? Fruit juices can go in smoothies, of course. I recently made a simple syrup for something or other (it pains me that I can’t quite remember what!) and had some left over. It sat in the fridge in a clean jar for a few days, and was then perfect for the water/sugar content of a homemade fruit compote. It could just have easily been the base for a cocktail. Fizzy drinks that have lost their sparkle are basically flavoured syrups and can be used as such, and Nigella’s gammon in cola recipe is legendary (although as it needs two litres, that’s a lot of leftovers!). The Dinner Doctor has other ideas, including pulled pork and jellies for grown ups.
More liquid leftovers: Cooking water can be used for stocks, the liquid from cans of beans (or their soaking water) can be turned into a vegan egg replacement good enough to make meringues (!) and the leftovers from your jar of pickles makes tangy marinades and vinaigrettes and salad dressings.
What’s your favourite way of reusing leftover liquid foods, and what are you still throwing down the drain?