Turn leftover ingredients into edible treasure and keep kitchen waste at bay – it’s easy as ABC.
A to Z of kitchen sustainability
Scan your pantry and choose your own cookie adventure! Use any opened packs in your pantry, such as nuts, dates, odd chunks of chocolate, pretzels and the last crumbs in a box of cereal, in your favourite cookie recipe (or packet mix such as Coles Ultimate Choc Chip Cookie Baking Mix). Add to the prepared dough and bake.
Bring your own bags
Coles phased out its single-use plastic bags back in 2018, saving billions* of bags from landfill. Coles then introduced the Coles Better Bag, made from 80 per cent recycled material and designed to be reused. Coles Community Bags do some heavy lifting of their own – they’re designed by Australian schoolkids and proceeds from each bag sold go to community organisations including Guide Dogs Australia, Clean Up Australia and Little Athletics.
As well as using more of your fruit and veg in cooking, a great way to discard the scraps is to compost them. And the best part? Anyone can compost anywhere. Start a backyard compost bin, adding grass clippings and food scraps to create a rich fertiliser. In smaller spaces, a composting system can be tucked under the sink or a worm farm kept on the balcony. Almost any fruit and vegetable scraps can go into compost, as well as egg shells, tea leaves and coffee grounds. Some areas also offer a food-waste program – check your local council website for details.
Turn leftover milk, cream and buttermilk into delicious, smooth ricotta. Curtis Stone’s homemade version has a creamy texture and delicate flavour. Try it on thick slabs of toast dotted with jam, or with honey and cinnamon for dessert.
If you’re the pav-maker in your household, you’ll have faced this dilemma: what to do with leftover egg yolks? There are a bunch of ways to use them, such as ice cream and carbonara. What’s more, you can freeze them for later. Pour yolks into an airtight container and label how many are inside. To help the yolks keep their consistency, add a little salt or sugar, depending on whether you want to use them in a sweet or savoury recipe, before freezing for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge.
Frozen and fabulous
What’s a good way to prolong the life of your veggies? Pop them in the freezer! If you’ve got tired carrots in the fridge, coarsely chop them and freeze in a sealable bag for later. This works with beans, zucchini and overripe fruit, too. Add straight to cooking or baking.
Making galettes – or free-form tarts – is a useful way to enjoy fruit that’s gone a little beyond ripe. Shape bought shortcrust pastry into discs, about 5mm thick. Place on a lined baking tray. Combine 3 cups of sliced fruit – try using seasonal fruit such as apples or pears – in a bowl with 2 tbs brown sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 11/2 tbs lemon juice. Arrange the mixture over the dough, leaving a border. Sprinkle with 1 tbs caster sugar and fold the edges over, partially covering the fruit. Bake at 200°C for 40 mins or until the pastry is golden and the fruit is tender. Serve with ice cream.
If you only use the leaves, you’re throwing away half your herbs. The stems of soft herbs such as basil, parsley and coriander are a bit tougher than the leaves, but they still have the same flavour. Their fibrous texture adds excellent crunch to salads and bite to a salsa verde. Also try using stems to bulk up pesto or boost the flavour in stocks and casseroles.
It’s too easy to forget what’s in the cupboard and accidentally buy duplicates of what you already have. If you create an inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry, and update it regularly, you’ll be less likely to buy what you don’t need. It also helps you to know what needs using up so you don’t forget about something right at the back.
Hold on – you’re not finished with that empty jar of mustard yet! Those last remnants a knife can’t get can make an excellent salad dressing. Pour in a little oil and red wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper, then seal and shake vigorously. Try adding extras such as crushed garlic and lemon juice, too.
Here’s how you can create your own windowsill garden from food scraps. Regrowing veggies from scraps is simple: place the ends of your chosen vegetables in a jar or glass filled with 2cm water and place in a sunny spot. Change the water daily and watch as new green shoots begin to magically emerge. Once roots start to grow further, you can plant the veggies in the garden or a pot. This method works well using the base from vegetables such as spring onion, leek and celery.
Love potato peel
Find peeling spuds a little tedious? The skin contains nutrients, so leave it on your potatoes when cooking. If you want to remove it, try scrubbing your potatoes, then peel them, saving the peel to make a salty snack. Pat the peel dry and place on a lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with some salt, pepper and paprika. Bake until golden and crisp, then snack on immediately.
Create a tasty muesli using leftovers in your pantry. Start with a base of rolled oats, then add any half-empty packets of nuts, seeds and extras you have handy (try desiccated coconut, dates or cacao nibs). Heat coconut oil or olive oil in a saucepan with maple syrup or honey and a little ground cinnamon, then pour over oat mixture and stir well to coat. Spread over lined baking trays and bake at 150°C, stirring, for 20 mins or until golden. Cool, then stir in any dried fruit.
Leftover nuts, such as peanuts and cashews, become the most delicious toast toppings with the aid of a food processor. Blend nuts until a smooth paste forms, and voila! You can take it a sweet step further if you have cacao powder to use up – add it to the nuts with a little coconut oil and maple syrup, then blend until smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks – if you can resist eating it before then.
Odds & ends
Planning is an important part of a no-waste kitchen, but try leaving one night per week unplanned. Use this night to set yourself the challenge of creating a dinner using up any ingredients that remain in the fridge. Try a dinner bowl of leftover meat, egg, veggies, grains and cheese.
When it comes to what can and can’t be recycled, or which bin different plastics should go into, it’s sometimes not as simple as we’d like it to be. Luckily, Coles is making some important changes to reduce waste and educate customers on recycling. You can now find the Australasian Recycling Label on numerous Own Brand products across its stores. This label identifies what packaging can be recycled at home or in store and what’s general waste. Coles has also made changes to its Own Brand packaging, such as replacing non-recyclable black trays used for Coles Macarons with recyclable clear ones. Plus, the meat department now uses Plantic™ meat trays, which are recyclable and made with renewable and recycled material. Keep an eye out for more environmentally friendly packaging as Coles continues to update its range. For more info about the Australasian Recycling Label, go to arl.org.au.
Stop dinnertime protests and use up leftovers with this layered quesadilla that’s been going viral online. Here’s how it’s done: take a tortilla or flatbread and make a cut from the centre to the edge. Place four different toppings on each quadrant (think leftover pasta sauce, spinach leaves, chicken and fetta; or a breakfast quesadilla of egg, bacon, mushroom and cheddar). Fold each quarter over the other until you have a triangle shape.
Since 2011, sustainability organisation RED Group has been helping customers to deposit soft plastics into REDcycle bins in Coles stores across Australia. Thanks to RED Group and these REDcycle bins, more than 4 million kilograms of soft plastics have been diverted from landfill. Try collecting your soft plastics (that’s plastic you can scrunch) at home, then recycle them at your local Coles supermarket. For more info, go to redcycle.net.au.
Designate a large bag in the freezer for veggie scraps, such as onion peels, herb stems, carrot tops, potato peel, corn cobs, pea pods or parmesan rind. When you have a free Sunday and 4-6 cups of scraps, it’s time to make stock. Place the scraps in a stockpot. Add a few dried bay leaves and 5 black peppercorns, plus enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for at least 1 hour. Strain the stock and allow to cool before dividing among containers and freezing. For chicken stock, add 2 chicken carcasses to the vegetable mix and simmer for 3-4 hours.
Worked hard to bake a cake only for it to break after turning it out? Don’t despair – or throw it in the bin! Turn it into irresistible little truffles. Crumble the cake into a bowl (this also works well with leftover bought cake) and add a dash of orange-flavoured liqueur or orange juice. Place in the fridge until firm, then roll into small balls. Roll in desiccated coconut to finish, then enjoy.
Use it or lose it
Billions of kilograms of food goes to waste each year*, a large percentage of which is fresh produce, such as leafy salad greens. If you’ve discovered a bag of almost-past-it spinach in your fridge, don’t bin it – freeze it. Blanch the leaves in a bowl of boiling water for 30 seconds. Refresh in cold water and drain, then pat dry. Freeze in sealable bags and add straight to curries and casseroles, or blend into smoothies and sauces.
Spent vanilla pods have more to give – they’re still loaded with vanilla flavour. Harness it in homemade vanilla essence using just 2 ingredients: alcohol and vanilla pods. Vodka is a good option but for a richer essence, try brandy. Allow 6-8 vanilla pods per cup of alcohol. Place the pods and alcohol in a glass jar, seal and shake well. Store jar in a cool, dark place, shaking occasionally, for at least 2 months before using in sweet recipes.
Just because your celery is floppy and your greens are wilting, doesn’t mean it’s time to toss them. To revive limp vegetables such as carrots, broccoli or celery, place them in a dish or glass of cold water for a few minutes. This allows them to absorb lost moisture and crisp up again.
Okay, hear us out. Xenismos is an Ancient Greek word meaning “offering meal”. The best way to prevent wasting food? Offer it! Try starting a group message with friends or neighbours and use it to offer up any excess produce you have. Or, send your guests home after a dinner party with leftover ‘goody’ bags. Every bit that doesn’t end up in landfill helps.
Got Greek-style yoghurt left? Jazz it up with an infused oil. Cook finely chopped shallots, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, garlic and chilli flakes in oil until aromatic. Cool it slightly, then swirl through yoghurt along with lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Slice up any veggies you’ve got in the crisper – carrot, capsicum and celery, for example – and get dipping.
The zest is the most flavoursome part of citrus fruit. It adds that tangy intensity to everything it touches, from cakes and scones to a mouth-watering citrus curd. Before you use your citrus, grate or peel the zest from oranges, lemons and limes (just make sure you remove any white pith). You can use it immediately, or freeze for future use.