Written by Jenna Brown @Foodsafetymum
In a world where a third of all food produced globally goes to waste, it may (or may not!) come as a surprise to hear that the average UK household wastes the equivalent of EIGHT MEALS a week!
Whilst I’m positive that not all of this can be attributed to feeding our little ones….. Their ever-changing appetites and food refusal can leave us wondering what to do with their leftovers! Anyone on the weaning journey will appreciate all of the meal planning and prep work that goes into each and every meal (parenting is exhausting isn’t it?!) and none of us want to see a meal we’ve prepared go to waste!
Well, knowing how to safely handle leftovers can be the key to helping you reduce your food waste without putting the safety of your family at risk as well as being a really practical way to have quick and simple meals ready to go – perfect for weaning! It’s important to point out here that babies and young children don’t have the same immune system as us adults, so it’s no wonder you might find yourself all of a sudden questioning what you’ve ‘always done’ now you’re responsible for that tiny little person you’re raising!
So, what are the key things you need to be aware of when handling leftovers?
- Cool your leftovers quickly! Any food you intend on re-using must be cooled as quickly as possible, but always within an hour and a half…. (I have a whole blog on tips to cool food quickly coming soon!)
- Keep leftovers in the fridge…. Or freezer! Don’t keep leftovers on the side – The fridge will slow down the growth of bacteria whilst the freezer acts as a “pause” button on food.
- Use any leftovers kept in the fridge within 2 days (1 day for rice dishes). If you don’t think you’re going to use your leftovers in this time, pop them in the freezer as soon as possible!
- When reheating leftovers, reheat until piping hot; so steaming all the way through! Don’t be tempted to reheat to a lower temperature to avoid having to wait for the food to cool down. Once heated, allow to cool a bit before giving to your little one!
What leftovers can you re-use?
Remember that you can only reheat leftovers once!
But….. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen into a meal, it is safe to freeze the leftovers. So for example, if you use defrosted raw chicken and cooked it within a pie, you can freeze the leftover pie to reheat another day as another meal! It’s important to remember here that you aren’t ‘re-freezing’ the meat in its frozen state, as cooking will have made the chicken safe to eat, and reheating the leftovers (until piping hot) will be sufficient to make sure they are safe to eat!
Freeze in baby-friendly portions to make it easier to only use what you need when defrosting.
To avoid running the risk of forgetting about food lurking in the fridge going past its use by date, when I get home with my food shop, I always work out what I am planning to use in the next couple of days and freeze the rest without this having any impact on me being able to save my leftovers!
It’s estimated that 25% of food wasted at home is due to cooking, preparing or serving too much food1 so hopefully knowing how to use leftovers safely will make all the difference!
As always though…… “If in doubt, throw it out!”
Top tips from Charlotte for using leftovers when weaning!
I know as a time poor mum, having some easy fridge leftovers to serve to baby can be super helpful so you avoid all the extra prep. Here are some of my favourite ways to use leftovers to reduce food waste and maximise variety in your little ones diet:
- Use leftovers for lunch! “Cook once, eat twice” is a helpful philosophy when weaning – you can use last night’s dinner for lunch, even adding an additional piece of fruit or veg to add variety and make it into a slightly different meal
- Add leftover vegetables to an omelette or scrambled egg
- Add fruit to porridge or yogurt – a few weeks ago I made a big batch o apple crumble & used the apple filling to top Raffy’s porridge and pancakes the next day!
- Make a pasta sauce – leftovers are ideal for making a “whatever is in the fridge” sauce that you can add to pasta, rice or a jacket potato
- Mix it up – if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that some of my favourite meals for Raffy, are the ones that are made up with a random variety of leftovers. Mixing up foods really is the perfect way to use up food and add variety to baby’s diet as well as helping to get them used to different flavour and texture combinations.
Mixing up foods really is the perfect way to use up food and add variety to baby’s diet as well as helping to get them used to different flavour and texture combinations.
For more advice, follow Jenna on Instagram @Foodsafetymum.
 WRAP (2020), ‘Food surplus and waste in the UK – key facts’