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Posted on Aug 27, 2007 in Parent Hacks, Tips | 41 comments

Top 7 things to do with leftover food scraps

Top 7 things to do with leftover food scraps


Orzo salad lunch for toddler

I don’t make much food art — you know, making shapes and fanciful characters out of food, using cookie cutters and scissors. But I do it occasionally, making cutout sandwiches and veggie shapes like those in these lunches (click photos for details). After you’ve cut out the fun shapes, though, you’re left with a pile of food scraps that’s a shame to throw away.

So without further ado, I present:

The Top 7 Things to do with Leftover Food Scraps

1. Eat as you go: Have them as part of breakfast or a snack as you pack.

2. Camouflage: Put them underneath a layer of pretty food, or cut them small and mix with other food. For example, the yellow pepper scraps in the orzo salad lunch to the right are chopped and mixed in with the salad itself.

3. Veggies: Save & put in other food like salad, fried rice, stir fry, soups, or a sauteed add-in to macaroni and cheese. You can also chop them up small and add them to a mirepoix or seasoned food topping.

Currypanman onigiri lunch for toddler

4. Bread crusts: Make into bread crumbs, croutons, or freeze in cubes and save to use in stuffing or bread pudding. Or you can always save them to feed to the birds — my preschooler enjoys going to Golden Gate Park and feeding stale bread cubes to the ducks in Stowe Lake.

5. Fruit: Save (in refrigerator or freezer) and put on cereal, in smoothies, yogurt, pies, pancakes, or muffins.

6. Cheese: Save and use in salad, melt over bread (sandwich melt, grilled cheese, or “pizza”), melt over tortilla chips as nachos, or put in an omelette.

7. Sliced meats: Save and incorporate in other dishes like pastas, sandwiches, omelettes, fried rice, etc.

What do you do with your food scraps? Comment and let us know. Speedy sandwich lunch for toddler



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  1. Well, we’re lucky (?!) to have 18 chickens so we usually give the food scraps to them….if there isn’t enough to save. I do however freeze leftover veggies in ziploc bags to add to soups in the wintertime…

  2. with veggie scraps, I keep a plastic container or bag in the freezer and just toss in veggie scraps (and leftover vegetables). When I make soup, I can add chopped, mixed veggies, yum! It’s great for the scraps or when you don’t really have enough for leftovers but hate to waste it.

  3. I don’t do much food shaping either, for the very reasons you mentioned. I hate to see the waste and as I’m in the process of losing weight, I can’t afford the added calories…usually. I do save crusts for bread puddings and stratas in the fall/winter and when I cut carrot or cucumber rounds into stars or hearts, I’ll add the “negative” cut to the lunch because that is equally cute. I’ll watch this thread for more ideas.

  4. Hmm… I don’t do much shaping because I’m lazy but the funny thing is, the fastest bento I can make is a sandwich bento with cut out sandwiches, then fill the rest of the bento with veggies + hummus. So the sandwich portion that I’ve cut out- I eat it as a breakfast, since, as I said, it’s the fastest bento I can make, I usually wind up with a few extra minutes before I leave the house.

  5. Actually, I usually save vegetable scraps (and many other things) for timables. I have a recipe if you’re interested.

  6. I feed them to my brother…

  7. I feed them to my kids! lol

    This morning while cutting out my soot sprite eyeballs I hear the familiar, “Mommmmmy…. I want cheeeeeese.” No problem sweetie!

  8. @2 from leendaluu: Ah, feed the 18 chickens. That’s what I forgot! ;-)

  9. @4 from Beanbean: Nice idea on using the “negative” cutouts as decoration!

  10. @5 from Yvo: Mmmm, hummus. That sounds like a fast but delicious lunch (just add hummus!).

  11. @6 from iasmin: Those timbales look like the perfect leftover dish! Thanks for the link; I’ll try it out sometime.

  12. @7 from Siea: Ha ha, maybe I’ll give Bug a treat next time too! :-)

  13. @8 from Pikko: So you’ve got a cheese monster in the house too? I swear kids would live on cheese if we’d let ‘em.

  14. I feed scraps to my “pet” worms (vermicomposting) :)

  15. mini-refrigerator pies (a.k.a. quiche)

    good, quick, and can take pretty much anything
    great in bento cold or hot

  16. @16 from Keri: Hey, vermicomposting isn’t something that would have occurred to me! Good one (and sorry about your comment slipping through the cracks).

  17. I put my scraps into my compost, except for cheese and meat because then it’ll smell. If I have meat and veggies sometimes I’ll make fried rice.

  18. @20 from Sharon J.: I finally got those biodegradable bags for our compost and love them — it’ll make composting in our urban kitchen a lot neater.

  19. Has anyone any recipes for mini quiche? I love quiche but the shop made ones use dried egg product and taste bland. And they are huge!)

    Our hamster eats scraps of carrot and apple. Apart from that, my 6-year-old usually just eats leftovers when lunch is being made!

  20. @22 from Anne: I haven’t made homemade mini quiches; let me know if you find a good recipe!

    Feeding your pets the food scraps — now that’s a good one I hadn’t thought of!!! :-)

  21. I eat as I go though I’m not much for cookie cutters ( mine went missing )
    sometimes I give the cheese to my dogs they love it

  22. I agree with Tony [above]. My dogs love cheese. It’s an extra special treat for them whenever I make cheese cutouts for my bento.

  23. here’s a good mini quiche recipe:

  24. @26 from Tony: Thanks for the mini quiche recipe, Tony!

  25. I keep a little bowl beside me for fruit and veggie scraps, then feed them to my rabbit. If there are too many at once and I don’t feel like nibbling, the bowl is easy to store in the fridge for a later hour.

    Small amounts of edible leftovers also make excellent fillings for nikuman. The dumplings freeze well, and a single one will reheat in the microwave in two minutes. In the past, I’ve used tinned ravioli, eggplant parmesan, stir fry, strawberries, peaches, nutella, and sausage as fillings. I don’t label them, so pulling one out to eat is always a surprise!

  26. @28 from Hopper: I like your idea of storing scraps in a little bowl for later, and using them for nikuman bun fillings hadn’t occurred to me. Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. If Ive cooked too much pasta for dinner I save some plain pasta and make a salad out of it.

  28. @30 from Corinne: Thanks for sharing your pasta tip, Corinne!

  29. @32 from anonymous 13 yr-old: Absolutely! Just make sure the filling is chopped up small, assertively flavored, and not too wet (you can drain it of excess moisture in a little sieve or on paper towels). Use your imagination with creative combinations — onigiri fillings don’t have to be standard Japanese flavors.

  30. Just about any kind of leftovers go into our weekend “Breakfast Mess”, sort of an undignified omelette/fritatta. (We stole the name from a restaurant featured on Food Network’s Diners, Dives & Drive-Ins with Guy Fieri) Essentially, heat up the bits in your skillet. Once they’re cooked as you like them, add in an egg or two beaten with milk. Move/flip all the contents around in the pan until the egg is cooked through. Top with cheese shards or shreds and serve.

    This is a great way to use up even tiny bits of leftovers. The humble egg is a universal translator: you can mix and match ethnicity with ease. We’ve been known to throw in Italian, Mexican, and Japanese leftovers with delicious results.

  31. @34 from t: Ah yes, eggs: refrigerator velcro (thanks, Alton Brown!). Sounds like weekends at our house too, t!

  32. I try to reuse most food scraps, so if we have a handful of green beans leftover I save to add as a side into lunchboxes. However, things not worth saving or foods that are going bad we compost. This year we splurged and bought a nice compost tumbler as our anniversary gift (the kind that is off the ground and you can rotate with a handle…) It is amazing how many food scraps can blend into a wonderful compost to add to our garden.

  33. Can you please let me know where can one buy this kind of lunch box? The one which is shown as the 1st picture on this post, where there are two sections that go inside one lunch/cover box. Also where do you get the lunch boxes which has a separator as shown in this link

    I live in SF Bay area. Much appreciate your help. I went to Daiso Japan, Keimei and Ichiban Kan and couldn’t find it there.


  34. @37 from Asha: I bought the first one above at Kamei, and the one with the separator on the skate wing lunch at Irving Housewares — albeit a while back. I’ve seen the latter box (Leaflet Tight) also at Kukje (Daly City) and Nijiya (Japantown). Good luck! Full store information is here at the San Francisco Bay Area Shopping Guide for Bento Gear.

  35. Thank you so much for the quick response. I’ll check out those stores.

  36. I rarely do shaped foods, but when I do, I save the scraps in separate containers in the freezer — meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, ‘other’. When I’ve got full containers, I’ll toss cheeses into a mac-and-cheese or give them a whirl in the food processor and then sprinkle on salads or wraps. Meats and vegetables become soup stock. Fruits go into pancakes or muffins, or on my yogurt, or they become pie.

    Bread scraps are easiest, for me. They become bread crumbs, which I use for meatballs, or for dredging chicken or fish for pan-frying. They can be croutons for salads. I detest bread pudding, but bread scraps can easily top my potatoes au gratin, as long as I’m not making it for my friend with Celiac disease. Cookie, cake, pie crust, and other sweet crumbs become the crusts for pies or cheesecakes.

  37. I just eat them as I go (or give them to my dad) I have a friend who takes leftover cooked veggies, gives them a spin in the food processor, and freezes them for use in soups and such later.
    Leftover veggie scraps in veggie lasagna? Maybe?
    Leftover meat scraps… I have cats, nuff said.
    My mom also has a tendency to send leftovers to school with me, because dorm food sucks.

  38. Almost all fo my scraps go in a baggie in teh fridge and I make fried rice at least once a week. The only things I can’t seem to put in it are cheese bits, but my daughter is a cheese monster, so no problems there. Timbales are a great idea, so are smaller potatoes baked and then stuffed with thier insides and scraps and rebaked. These can be frozen, you can also use hard rolls for this purpose.

  39. Just amazing. Wow, some really great ideas. Love them.

  40. I envy your leftover pictures. I think I have to work out on them myself to convince myself that I’m not eating one. I’m a big brown rice fan that’s why I always end up making fried rice in the mornings. I like you camouflage idea.

  41. If my daughter is clamoring for some food as I’m making her lunch, I’ll feed her the scraps. Otherwise I make HER food fancy, and add the scraps to MY lunchbox. Or save them in a little reusable container in the fridge for another day, or a snack.
    I don’t save the bread scraps though, although I know I could use them for croutons or something. But I’m not really a cook, so I usually toss them out back for the wild animals or into our compost bin. But that’s because I’m just lazy. To prevent ruining the scraps for other uses, cut the bread out first, THEN add the PB/Jelly/etc. Although I do that so I don’t have to wash the cutter… I just brush off the crumbs and put it away! Again, lazy!


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