Between minimal supermarket trips and constant self-catering, our fridges have become dinnertime battlegrounds of leftovers, forgotten ingredients and people opening it, only to shout, ‘There’s no food!’ when you know for a fact it’s overflowing.
If you’re struggling to stay on top of best before dates and whatever is lurking in the recesses of the veg drawer, here are a few meal ideas for items that will soon only be suited for the bin.
1. Last chance potato wedges
Potatoes are seemingly always trying to grow ever more potatoes. Nab them before they manage it, slice off any fledgling growths and make a huge batch of salty, paprika-spiked oven-roasted wedges. Serve with copious amounts of mayo, or top with cheese, sour cream and jalapenos as a nacho substitute.
2. Bruised fruit ice lollies
Shrunken satsumas, slightly fizzy strawberries, borderline blueberries, apples that have almost given up? Instead of making yourself eat them out of duty, juice them, freeze them, and save them for a sunny day.
3. Croutons and bread crumbs galore
While you could, in theory, scrape a small blossom of mould off your toast, better to turn stale bread either into bread and butter pudding (always the preferred option) or bread crumbs. From chunky croutons fried with garlic for topping soup, to flaky breadcrumbs to add crunch to pasta, bread can always be salvaged somehow.
4. Bendy carrot cake or beetroot chocolate cake
Cake is one thing you won’t have to worry about when it comes to any being leftover. And carrot cake is one of the best – and since it’s grated in, it doesn’t matter how bendy, bruised or brown your carrots might be. In fact, you can sub in or combine almost any sad-looking root veg languishing in the bottom of the fridge – beetroot (goes very well with chocolate), even a wedge of celeriac – and chuck in a banana past its best for more sweetness too.
5. Leftovers risotto
Risotto is such a fail-safe vehicle for leftovers, and you can even use standard white rice if you haven’t got any arborio in. Additions to consider: the last rogue slice of bacon that’s getting slightly dry around the edges, leftover veggies from your Sunday roast, wrinkly peppers, limp broccoli stalks, a battered-looking courgette – just blast in the oven and stir through your oozy, cheesy risotto before serving.
6. Pasta sauce with dodgy tomatoes
Arguably, dodgy tomatoes are the best kind of tomatoes. A little bit squishy but undoubtedly ripe and packed with sweetness, all you have to do is blitz them with garlic, basil and some olive oil, toss in some pasta and no one will be any the wiser.
7. Monster mac and cheese
Some might say it’s worth holding back forlorn, borderline moulding corners of cheese for just this purpose. Mac and cheese is always excellent – but mac and cheese made with a medley of different cheeses, all muddled and melted together? It’s the dream.
8. Fridge/freezer haul noodles
Half a chicken leg? A handful of wobbly looking radishes? Some very old frozen sweetcorn? A lone, raggedy spring onion? Some slightly mushy cucumber? As long as you have some noodles in the cupboard and a bottle of hot sauce of some kind, you have a decadent bowl of noodles on your hands.
9. Last of the herbs pesto
It is almost as though herbs are designed to disintegrate into a sludge at the bottom of your veg drawer – same goes for lettuce. But if you get in there just before the leaves go from slightly curled, to vegetal gunk, whizz the lot up – salad leaves included – into a bright green pesto. Apply to pasta, cheese, bread and more.
10. Pickled odds and ends
There’s a surprising amount to be achieved with a little vinegar or citrus and a few dejected vegetables. Before consigning half a red onion to the compost, consider whether it can be revived – and pickled in lime juice as a garnish. If the few carrots you have won’t make a cake, marinate them in white wine vinegar and honey, and stuff into pitta with mint and feta. Tomatoes, peppers, beetroot, ginger – pickle them, and extend their edible lifetimes exponentially.