The Leftovers Container: Reducing Food Waste 101 Series

December 4, 2017

The Leftovers Container: This post is part of my ongoing Reducing Food Waste 101 Series.

the leftovers container

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve come to realize that reducing food waste is a constant process. You determine what you’re wasting, create a strategy to combat it and then something changes, something always changes, doesn’t it?

It’s an ever evolving process and not one that I can say I’ve perfected, regardless of practice. Some weeks/days/months are simply better than others. I’m finding the key is constant vigilance, A LOT of peeking into the compost bin and asking myself the following:

  • What are we wasting on a week to week basis?
  • Is it different from last week?
  • Is there a theme?
  • Should we stop buying x or y?
  • And if we really like something but tend to consistently waste a portion of it, how can we use what’s left while still enjoying our favorite foods? (Case in point, yogurt, I’m constantly searching for ways to use up half eaten containers of yogurt! Noe Chase why can’t you eat the whole thing and why won’t you eat an already open container after the first sitting?!)
This is all to say that I think the how of reducing food waste is as important, if not more important, than the what.

So how do we fix the problem? What is the strategy? This reminds me of my advertising days, identify the problem but don’t expect someone else to come up with the solution for you.

However, in this case, if you have the same problem as me, well, you’re in luck, because I did come up with a solution.

One of our biggest struggles, besides the above yogurt dilemma, is leftover cooked produce. I’ve talked at length about freezing leftover vegetable scraps for stock, which works great for raw produce and fresh herbs, as I mentioned in this post, but it’s more the already cooked stuff and the fruit that are our biggest wastes.

Let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

  • On Monday it might be a couple of tablespoons of leftover peas from Noe’s dinner
  • On Tuesday 3 pieces of steamed cauliflower and a handful of chopped bok choy from a side dish
  • By Wednesday it’s a 1/4 of a really gigantic roasted sweet potato that I just couldn’t finish
  • Thursday brings a few random pieces of cheese that Noe broke apart and left for dead
  • And on Friday, Noe’s lunch bag offers up a couple of apple slices and a few segments of orange
My zero food waste solution?

A designated leftovers container for all the random bits and pieces. I am finding it to be an immensely helpful and simple tool.

These may seem like silly amounts of leftovers to save. But, putting them in one container has become a really good way to suss out our waste, and up the guilt factor. When viewed as a singular unit they may seem insignificant but collectively you can see how it all adds up.

Okay, yay, you’ve saved them, but what now?

This leftovers container can be helpful as a quick snack for hungry two-year olds but more often than not the contents become my Friday lunch.

I have taken to buying a head of lettuce early in the week and saving a bit for Friday afternoons. I chop some greens and throw on everything from the leftovers container. The veggies are usually pre-chopped, which is a nice bonus! This has become a simple way to get a healthy quick meal on a day when I usually don’t want to make anything, and it saves our leftovers from being wasted.

So, if you find yourself throwing out a few peas here or some broccoli florets there thinking, “what does it matter? It isn’t much anyway.” I encourage you to consider a leftovers container. It can be an eye-opening way to see how much you waste in a given week.

* I will note that these bits and pieces increase exponentially with kids. I don’t remember having as many random pieces of food when it was just Michael and me. So if you have a kid/kids I highly recommend this method.


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