Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: creating a delicious meal from leftovers and scraps you might otherwise throw in the bin.

As a country, we’re getting better at saving food. The latest statistics from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) show that total food waste in the UK has fallen by the equivalent of 7% per person over the last three years. But there’s still more to be done, as households are still wasting 4.5 million tonnes of food every year, amounting to £700 for an average family with children.

It’s clear that we take food for granted, but given the uncertainty caused by the global outbreak of coronavirus, it’s now taken on a focus that’s not been seen since the Second World War. There’s still plenty to go around, but for the sake of our local communities – as well as the planet – it’s important we buy only what we actually need and then use the food we do have to its fullest potential.

And the good news is that it can be used in many varied and wonderful ways you might not have ever considered. According to WRAP, potatoes are the single most wasted food – did you know you can sauté leftover potato skins to make a delicious crispy snack? Vegetable scraps, meanwhile, can be used to make a nutritious broth, while leek tops can be cooked until tender and used in place of onions in your favourite recipe. The fabulous Zero Waste Chef has loads of inspiration for cooking with food scraps, so absolutely nothing needs to go to waste.

Of course, for some, the challenge is less about finding a use for scraps and more about productively using up leftovers in the first place. We’ve all been guilty of bypassing that leftover swede or half can of tuna when making another meal, simply because we’re not sure what to do with them! But there are resources for that, too. Love Food Hate Waste has a brilliant library of recipes for leftovers – all you need to do is input the ingredients you’ve got to use up, and it’ll give you a huge range of recipe options that can even be filtered by cooking time, dietary requirement and difficulty. Or try creating your own recipes – experimentation is one of the joys cooking, after all.

The bottom line

There’s never been a better time to master a food scraps recipe, whether it’s whipping up a tasty snack from vegetable peelings or using cheese rinds in soup for extra flavour. We’re getting better at reducing our food waste, but right now it’s more important than ever that we’re mindful of what we use. Given the global situation right now, we’ve got plenty of time to learn to be better at cooking leftovers.

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