This piece started after an article in the Independent about the top 10 foods that we apparently throw away in the UK. I took to Twitter to ask people what usually ended up in their bin, and then spent a whole day and night answering hundreds of queries – some of them came up a lot, like bread and mushrooms, and some were rathee more surprising, like ‘half a jar of caviar’ (not a problem I can say I have ever had, but I am here to help, and inverse snobbery is as ghastly as the original kind so please, resist the urge.)
I have compiled them all here as an A-Z, and will keep this list going, and add to it regularly, as a handy reference point – so keep checking back! And add your own tips at the bottom, our ‘hive mind’ is a much better thing than my admittedly limited experience!!
Also remember you can always use the search bar on the blog to find recipe ideas too, for that stray carrot, half a tin of pulses or bargain bag of oats…
As ever, I would love this to be shared far and wide as I have designed it to be useful, but please bear in mind it has been about 14 hours unpaid work so please don’t just nick it – link to it or credit, and if you are a profit-making site or news organisation get in touch and we’ll sort something out, coz I’m happy to help individuals – it’s what I do – but if you’re a big fish gonna make money out of me it’s probably fair to pay me too. Friendly little prod. If you suspect this is about you then it probably is, HuffPo, Daily Mail, I’m looking at you.
ON WITH THE SHOW.
Almonds: Blitz into a pesto with greens, garlic, lemon, oil and salt. Cook with sugar and spices. Make almond milk. Cook into a passanda. Toss through salad. Chop and add oats and sugar and bake in granola.
Apples: Sweeter apples make a great apple butter, there are lots of recipes available online for it. Stew them until soft and use as a vegan egg replacer in cakes. Dried apples are good too, slice and bake in the bottom of the oven to dry out then store in a jar for a few months.
Aubergines: Baba ghanoush, aubergine curry, miso aubs, aub and kidney bean burgers, roast aub soup, aub and lentil pasta sauce…
Avocado (bruised/freckly): Some brown bruised bits are fine, use your judgement. Excellent mashed in guacamole with lots of lemon or lime, you won’t even see the bruises by the time it’s all thumped together.
Baking powder: Lost its fizz? You can use it to clean things with, like stubborn pots, the oven, whites in the machine, etc. Some folks clean their teeth with it (!), others their microwaves. Horses for courses I guess!
Bananas: Dry them, mash and freze them, make banana pancakes, banana muffins, banana bread, mix with oats and bake for banana granola, lob in a smoothie with oats and milk for a morning power breakfast…
Banana skins: Tape to the bottom of your foot for verrucas like my mum used to. (Hey, it worked). Other suggestions on Twitter included using them to extract splinters, and drying them out to make shoes. Yes really.
Beansprouts: Easy to freeze! Just freeze half when you get a bag so they stay at their best. Can be cooked from frozen in a hot pan so heck, freeze them all.
Beetroot: Pickle them, freeze them, juice them, soup them, crisp them, falafel them, burger them, roast them, bake them into a cake, grate into a magical looking slaw, and for the really wrinkly ones boil them in a pan of rice or pasta to turn it pink and surprise the kids (or yourself).
Blueberries: Freeze them when you get them, anything they work in they’ll work in frozen as they’re so tiiiny. Bake in pancakes and muffins. Dry out in the bottom of a warm oven and snack on. Snack on them frozen, come to that!
Bok choy: Separate it from the base, wash and freeze it. High water content in the stalk means it freezes well. Use in soups and stir fries from frozen.
Bread: Roux, cheese, break up bread, stir, dish, cheese top, bake. Mac-n-cheese/bread pud hybrid would be IMMENSE. Do it! Also freeze half the loaf when you buy it so it stays in good nick. Use for toast, pappa al pomodoro, bread pudding, breadcrumbs, bread sauce, etc.
Broccoli: If it’s losing its colour it’s also losing its goodness, so act quickly. Blanch it and freeze it to use later. Blitz raw in a blender and add to salad, or blanch and cool and make a pesto by adding lemon, garlic, oil, nuts or seeds. Pesto can be frozen and used later, or kept in the fridge for around a week. There’s always broccoli soup, too!
Broccoli stems: Slice and stir fry, or make a great soup. Fry for a few mins to start them off for a better flavour. Gorgeous cooked until soft with crushed garlic, salt, lemon and chilli as a side dish, too.
Butternut squash: See ‘squash’
Cabbage: Pickle it! Slice thin, boil in water with 1 tsp each sugar and salt. Jar, Add vinegar, fridge, enjoy.
Cake (stale): Make a basic semi freddo, (recipe on my blog), crumble pud, fold through, freeze, enjoy all year. Make cake pops. Slice and make a trifle or tiramisu.
Caraway seeds: Fry them and store in oil to infuse and keep in the fridge. Add to sugar and infuse for bakes. Breads. Biscuits. Toast and use to top salads. Add to rice when cooking to accompany curries.
Carrots: Grate or julienne, and pickle them. Especially delicious with indian spices, garlic, white wine vinegar, mustard seed, and salt. Oof. Also ribbon with a veg peeler and toss through pasta.
Cauliflower: Blitz raw into tabbouleh. Roast with turmeric. Ottolenghi has some wicked ways with cauli, he’s my brassica hero, so look up his Guardian recipes and ignore any fancy ingredients if you don’t have them.
Celeriac: Roast for soup, make a celeriac dauphinoise, grate into slaw, dice and fold through mac n cheese…
Celery (leaves): Pop in water in the fridge to infuse for a very yummy drink, or blitz into pesto, or add to juices and smoothies.
Celery (wilting): Soak it in cold water overnight to refresh it then roast it and blitz with spuds and stock for a gorgeous soup.
Cereals (gone soft): Most can be rescued but there will be some exceptions. Shake them onto a baking tray, bake at 140C for about 20 mins, let cool, and they should be good as new. If not, make them into crispie cakes or rocky road or fridge cake, and scour poundshops for decent cereal-storage containers so it doesn’t happen again!
Chard: I am obsessed with chard. Massage with oil and salt and lemon to soften it, top a pizza, make salad, pesto, drop it into soups, make a saag aloo, and use the stalks like celery.
Cheese: Cheese can be frozen but it goes a bit crumbly, so grate it and use from frozen for best results.
Clementines: See ‘Satsumas’
Condensed milk: Amazing in a risotto base or carbonara but temper with something sharp like lots of lemon to balance. Dollop into strong coffee. Make fudge or extra-rich caramel sauce or Scottish tablet.
Coriander: Just freeze it or dry it when you get it, and use it like that. Much simpler than finding it soggy in the fridge.
Cottage cheese: You can freeze it because of sloshy texture. Just defrost in the fridge overnight before use. Or lob in an omelette.
Courgettes: Can be made into fritters, ratatouille, roasted for soup or pasta sauce, chips, battered and deep fried, pickled, and someone has a very popular courgette gratin recipe…!
Cucumber (soft): If it isn’t actually slimy, slice and freeze to add to water or gin/vodka based drinks. If it’s too squashy it’s beyond help this time, but generally the exposed end wastes first, so cut a bit off then give it a prod to see how gar down the damage goes. Or pickle it in white wine vinegar with salt and mustard and fennel seeds.
Garlic (dried up): Excellent. Pop it in a jar, and you have yourself some dried garlic. Use in anything slow cooked, like soup, stocks, curries, casseroles, stews.
Garlic (sprouting): Pop it somewhere sunny and let it grow, if you’re curious. The green shoots are delicious lightly fried – like a cross between garlic and a tender spring onion. Use cooked to top soup, in soup, in hummus (again, cook it first), stir fried, but make sure you cook it. Raw sprouted anything can cause serious stomach upsets and worse for lots of reasons too gross to go into here. I’m not in the business of scaremongering but I’ve had raw sprouted stuff twice in my life and both times I was horribly sick for days. So cook them. Please. The raw garlic shoots you buy in fancy shops are a kind of chive, not grown like this.
Herbs: Freeze or dry the other half and use later on. Stalks can be blitzed with oil + lemon for salad dressings, keep in the fridge and use within a week.
Hummus: Makes an excellent pasta sauce hot or cold with veggies. Or mix with mac n cheese. Or top pizza with it as a vegan alternative to cheese. Have it on toast, too, it’s yummy melting into a slice of warm toast…
Kale: Kale pesto, or wash and freeze it to use later. Good in soups (I have a kale and barley recipe) and curries, and saag aloo. I drop it into pasta sauces and casseroles blitzed into tiny pieces too.
Ketchup: Use it in place of tomato puree in most recipes. Can be frozen in an ice cube tray and used from frozen in soups, stews and casseroles, too.
Kohlrabi: Was my Grandad’s fave freaky little vegetable. Good as mash, roasted, in a salad, dauphinoise-style, or grated in a slaw.
Lemons/Limes (squeezed out): Dry them in the bottom of the oven or on top of a radiator and keep to use as firelighters, the oils burn off and smell amazing, and if they are on a BBQ, they impart a great little flavour too.
Lettuce: Slice, oil, lemon, salt, toss through pasta for surprisingly delicious pasta salad. Or cook with peas, french style. Also great tossed into a pea soup sliced thinly at the end.
Mayo: Use in place of butter when mashing potatoes for a richer taste if you struggle to get through a jar. Use instead of butter for cheese on toast, plain hot toast, or sandwiches, too.
Milk: If it’s only just turning you can add it to natural yoghurt to make your own yoghurt. Store in the fridge and keep an eye (or nose) on it. You can also use it in place of buttermilk in soda bread and scones.
Mushrooms: Best thing is to dry them. It intensifies their flavour and they can keep for a year in a jar. Simply leave to dry on a baking tray for a few days, or pop in the bottom of the oven when it’s on for something else. They make an excellent earthy stock too, just slow cook with herbs and an onion, a carrot if you have it, and a pinch of salt for an excellent base for soup or risotto.
Olives: Tapenade! Also can be dried, blitzed & kept for months. I have been known to serve dessicated olives with a cheese course just because I can, and people always loved them. Also great sprinkled on a risotto, or added to stews, casseroles and soups for a deep tangy flavour.
Oranges: See ‘Satsumas’
Pasta (cooked): See ‘spaghetti’
Peppers: Roast and blitz into a pasta sauce with tomato and onion, or sneak into pizza sauce. Freeze either in ice cubes and use as required.
Pickled cabage: I’m thinking drop it into a beet soup and cook off the vinegar… Yum!
Pizza: Breakfast. Like a superior cheese on toast. Or dice small and bake and add to soup like intense little croutons. You’ll thank me.
Plums (unripe): Stick them in the microwave wrapped in a thin tea towel for 2 min on defrost. Voila.
Plums (squishy): Boil up with a little sugar and lemon to make a compote. Store in the fridge or freezer and add to yoghurt, granola, toast, porridge, bircher, cakes, etc.
Rice: COOL IT COMPLETELY. Add an egg (gram flour if vegan) and chill it. Fry in patties next morning for amazing brunch. Also see ‘bibimbap’ for ideas from Korea of how to sex up fried rice. Oof.
Roast potatoes: Have them cold in a potato salad, hot in saag aloo, blitz for soup, make a spud curry, slice and refry for potato sandwiches like my Aunty Helen used to make.
Rocket: Rocket makes an excellent fiery pesto. Add oil, lemon, garlic, S&P, cheese, nuts or seeds. Freeze for months or fridge for 7-10 days.
Satsumas: Boil up and simmer for a compote to spread on toast or add to birchers, or make small marmalade; equal weight fruit to sugar, boil, simmer, jar, fridge, enjoy. Also delicious in a curd, find a simple lemon curd recipe and replace the lemons with satsumas and off you go.
Spaghetti (cooked): Chop it up small and start a minestrone soup. Can of tomatoes, stock, carrots, peas or greens, go.
Spinach: Freeze half of it when you buy it to prevent the sludgey bottom of the bag. Use in pesto, soup, curry, casseroles, tagines – I put it in everything!
Spring onion/scallion tops: Slice and add to oil with garlic, lemon, ginger, chilli, salt/soy = sexy spicy asian-style dressing for noodles, stir fries, salads and veg. Slice and add to mash for colcannon, too.
Squash: Dice it and blanch it and freeze it. Chips. Mash. Risotto. Soup. Mix into hummus. Grate it and make a rosti. Posh bubble and squeak. Pasta sauce with chilli and cheese. Curry with chickpeas and spinach.
Sweetcorn: Shuck it and freeze it and use it from frozen. Dry the middles and donate to friends with guinea pigs – mine loved to gnaw on them!
Tahini: Make halva. Lots of halva. And send me some.
Taramasalata: Makes a great pasta sauce warm with lemon. Add a mashed egg and some spinach/kale for luxury.
Toast: Pappa al pomodoro is excellent made with toast. I do it with SBs discarded half eaten toast if it’s only had butter or marmite on.
Tomatoes: Just cook slowly with a few cloves of garlic, dash of vinegar or lemon and a pinch of salt for the best pasta sauce. Or make a panzanella! Or blitz/mash for passata and freeze it until you need it.
Weetabix crumbs or similar: These are very good in a crumble topping! Just store in a small bag or jar until needed. If you bake your own bread they can be added to the flour too.
Yoghurt: If not too far gone, add salt and mashed garlic, pour into a teatowel, hang in the fridge over a bowl to strain overnight, and you have labneh. Experiment with spices like cumin and chilli, za’atar if you have it, lemon zest and pepper if you haven’t. (I don’t have za’atar but someone might!)
Zested citrus fruits: Slice them and freeze them whole and use in water/alcoholic drinks. Or cook immediately into compote or a curd before they harden.
What do you struggle to use up? If I can answer it I’ll add it to the list – just comment below!
Jack Monroe. On Twitter/Instagram @MxJackMonroe.