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 Austin, TX 78759, USA


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©2017 by Optimal RD: Registered Dietitian Nutritionists


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Rethink Leftovers: A different approach to less food waste

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, over one third of all food in America gets wasted each year. While food waste occurs in many different parts of the food supply chain, the largest percentage (about 44%) is food wasted at home. It is estimated that about 15-25% of the food American’s buy at home gets thrown away. That is equivalent to almost 300 pounds of food per person each year! The average American today throws away 50% more food than in 1970. You can make some simple changes in your own home to decrease food waste and save some money!




Many people dread having leftovers from their meals. It just doesn’t taste the same when it is reheated, especially in the microwave. So what can we do to reduce food waste and actually enjoy our leftovers? Try changing the meal by making it into something new! Here are a few ways to reuse your leftover and reduce the amount of food thrown away.


These ideas are adapted from the Food Bootcamp presentation by Michelle Dudash, RDN, Chef.




Leftover meat

Try adding leftover meat such as chicken, pork, or beef into a new meal such as:

  • Wrap: Add some diced or sliced leftover meat in a tortilla with lettuce, raw veggies, and a light balsamic dressing.

    • My favorite: Chicken Caesar salad wrap (chicken, salad greens, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, freshly grated parmesan cheese, roasted chickpeas and a small drizzle of Caesar dressing)

  • Salad: Top some salad greens with diced leftover meat and your favorite toppings (A variety of veggies, fruits, and nuts or seeds). Drizzle with a light dressing

    • My favorite: Taco salad (leftover meat on a bed of lettuce with light feta cheese, avocado, black beans, cherry tomatoes, and lime juice. No need for dressing!)

  • Tacos: Any taco toppings on a corn tortilla for a lower carb option.

    • My favorite: Leftover meat with avocado, fresh cilantro, light feta cheese, and lime juice

  • Grain bowl: A variety of grains (quinoa, rice, farro, barley, etc) with any toppings similar to a salad.There are endless possibilities! You can even go vegetarian on this one!

    • My favorite: Quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, pepitas, roasted chickpeas, kale, feta cheese, lemon juice


Leftover grains

Reheat by adding a little bit of water to keep from drying out

Freeze them! Divide into smaller portions and freeze in a freezer safe container.

Try to use in a new way:

  • Salads: sprinkle on top of a salad with your favorite toppings

  • Grain bowls: You can combine any grains, veggies, protein, or toppings to have endless options



Vegetable scraps

Rather than throwing away all of your vegetable skins, nubs, and scraps, save them to make homemade vegetable stock for “free!”

  • Throw all of your vegetable scraps (ex: onion, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley stems) into a gallon sized freezer bag until the bag is full. Be sure the veggies were washed prior to cutting or peeling. Tip: don’t use strong flavored vegetables like broccoli or asparagus because it will over power the flavors in the stock

  • Once the bag is full, throw all the scraps in to a stock pot, add enough water to cover the scraps, then simmer for a few hours.

  • Strain the scraps and use the vegetable stock in your recipes so you don’t have to buy the boxed version. It will stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.



  • Use in place of water when cooking rice or quinoa for more flavor

  • Freeze in manageable portions to thaw and use in the future

  • Use in place of chicken stock in recipes

  • Use stock in place of water when steaming vegetables to add more flavor


What are some of your favorite recipes using leftovers? We would love to hear how you save food waste at your home!




The State of America's Food Waste Report: 


Food Bootcamp for Registered Dietitians presentation by Michelle Dudash, RDN, Chef at the Today’s Dietitian Conference


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