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Need to use up some past-their-best veggies? Here's my favourite ways to do just that

Do you ever open up your fridge, and see plastic boxes with half-forgotten odds and ends in, and a crisper drawer full of wonky veg? Then you and me have something in common. This post is devoted to making the most of food that's left over, on the turn, or otherwise in need of some love.

This a post about food waste (it's good to be clear about these things up front, no?) The amount of food waste in the UK is fairly criminal - apparently £13bn a year - while the use of food banks in the UK is rising. While not creating food waste won't solve the problem of food banks, it does meant that environmental resources, as well as your hard-earned cash, aren't been wasted on growing food that ends up in the bin. And hey, if you've saved a few quid by not spending money food on you're not eating, why not spend a bit of surplus on donations for your local food bank? Everyone wins.

There aren't many areas of my life where I'd claim to be doing well, but food waste is one of them. One of the best ways I've found to avoid any food going straight from the food to the bin is meal planning - there are lots of great guides out there on how to master it. My other handy tip is if you see something that looks like it's not got too many days left in it, freeze it before it crosses the point of no return, and work out what to do with it at a later date.

Other than that, I think the secret to dodging food waste is to have a few endlessly-adaptable recipes up your sleeve that can be used to accommodate whatever ingredients you need it to.

Here's a few ideas for rescuing food that's past it's best but not fit for the bin.

If I ask Mr Flicking the Vs what he wants for dinner, he says without fail 'Mexican or Chinese'. We eat a lot of Mexican and Chinese in our house. A lot. That means occasionally I find myself with offcuts of smoked tofu, say, from a five-spice noodle broth and a few stray tortillas keeping company with a wedge of avocado that's at risk of going grey.

When I have veggies that are on the verge of going bad and not enough meals to use them up in, I see if I can cram a few extra into breakfast. So, with my post Mexican, post Chinese glut, I decided to make some rudimentary breakfast tortillas.

Turns out three tortillas, two tablespoons of salsa, half an inch of tofu, and some stray salad can all be put to good work. It might not be a traditional breakfast round these parts, but it was a really welcome one.

While I'm guessing the likelihood of you having the same ingredients in need of using up is fairly slim, Mexican recipes are a great way to use up stray odds and ends of vegetables and pulses you may having lying around. Mixed vegetable fajitas anyone?

Another of my favourite ways to use up stray veggies is making a chickpea flour omelette. You can pretty much take any vegetable, or any mix of veggies, you like, pour on the batter, and in a few minutes you've got a proper meal (even a proper breakfast if you're that way inclined!) Chickpea flour is fairly bland, so you can load it with all your favourite flavourings or spices. I always have to restrain myself from going overboard with the sriracha and getting the chilli sweats.

This particular omelette - or frittata, if you'd rather - isn't the best example of the form, but it's filling and good to eat. If you fancy one, the recipe's here. Don't hold back on the sriracha, mind.

When I was doing a spot of fridge archaeology, I found myself face to face with a bag of jerusalem artichokes that had turned spongy and wrinkled. They weren't the most appealing veggies I've ever seen, and I felt bad for them, having been treated so badly by their purchaser. I decided to me to give them the send off they deserved.

My default way to deal with veggies that are past their best is to turn them into soup. Maybe soup's not going to rock anyone's world, but I can't think of the last time I had a soup I didn't enjoy either. Happily, there was a few tablespoons of vegan cream lying around in the fridge, looking the worse for wear. Maybe cream plus jerusalem artichokes could make... cream of artichoke soup?

There's always bread lying around our house somewhere, but I'm not sure I can legitimately call it leftovers as it rarely hangs around longer than a day or two. If there's ever a happier marriage than soup and bread, I can't think of it right now.

My last fallback for making the most of vegetables that need a bit of love is making a curry. I love a deep and abiding fondness for creamy lentil curries filled with curry leaves and mustard seeds. These are the sort of curries that are best cooked low and slow, so you can just chuck in whatever vegetables you have to hand, and let your curry simmer them gently. I like this recipe for a dahl base: start with lentils, then add in diced veggies 10-15 minutes before end of cooking time, and you've got yourself a cheap, nutritious, and pretty tasty dinner. No veggies were neglected in the making of this curry!

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  1. Love your ideas. I have been making a few big stews with lots of vegies that need using. I confess sometimes I just give them to my worms and they are chomping through old vegies and scraps at some rate. But soups are always great. And I want to try your omelette idea - I always make my omelettes quite plain but fancy them full of veg.

  2. Love the omelette idea! I love making potato pancakes/variation on bubble and squeak. I just mix sad, limp leftover veggies with mash and fry it up (or sometimes I bake it). I usually put a little mayo or some kind of sauce on top too, depending on what I have to hand. I have been trying to cut down on food waste too. My favourite new discovery is vegetable scrap stock! I had no idea onion and garlic peel could be used to make vegetable stock, and I read this great tip where someone said to put a bowl in your freezer, and every time you peel onions or garlic or have a carrot end left over, just toss it in that bowl. When the bowl is full, you can add it with water to a pan and make veg stock (which you can, in turn, freeze)!

  3. I agree with meal planning making a huge difference! I love your ideas too. I had to laugh at you asking Mr FtV what he wants for dinner though - I rarely ask Mr Bite, he gets what he's given :D

  4. Great ideas! Our fall back is usually a stirfry with an interesting sauce. The stirfry can be part of a bowl with a grain and maybe some raw grated carrots and a little sauerkraut. Soup is also popular at our house, especially with lentils. My favorite, though, is a chickpea flour frittata, which is, in fact, what I had last night, filled with stray mushrooms, leftover onion, and broccoli. It was flavored with granulated onion and garlic, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and other things I can't remember. Apparently, we have lots in common. :D

  5. I'm all about preventing food waste and salvaging scraps! I often shop the discount produce at my local grocery store which leaves me with lots of odds and ends that need to be used up immediately. Big pots of soups, curries, and stir-fries are my easiest go-to solutions that always work out deliciously, no matter what vegetables turn up in my cart.

  6. Great ways of using veg past their best. I end up mostly using them in one pot chilli or curry dishes (love the look of yours - YUM!), and when the veg has been seriously neglected then I feed the compost bin. I wish I made more soups though.

  7. All great tips to prevent food waste! I go the soup or curry route, sometimes with very interesting food combos which I wouldn't have tried if I didn't have to use up a particular veggie right away. :-)


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