A general view of an onion being cut (Tim Goode/PA)
24 February 2021

Life in lockdown: How to make the most of your leftovers

24 February 2021

Home cooking is now an unavoidable part of life thanks to coronavirus restrictions, as even the most ardent takeaway fans cannot order in every night.

So how can you have healthy, tasty and, most importantly, affordable meals every night without hassle?

Here we speak to health food experts about how to make the most of what is in your cupboard and feature some recipes to help get you started.

– What staples should be in every person’s cupboard?

The key to success is including versatile, long-lasting items in your weekly shop, experts say.

Jane Clarke, dietician and founder of Nourish Drinks, said she would recommend the following items:

– Tinned tomatoes– Tinned tuna– Herbs and spices– Stock cubes (chicken, vegetable or beef)– Oil– Dried pasta (brown, wholemeal or white)– Rice– Onions– Potatoes–  Plain flour– Dried or tinned fruit– Bread– Eggs– Cereal

“All these foods can be easily accessed at a local supermarket, as well as being affordable,” she said.

“These foods are great to have in your cupboard to make a quick meal if you are low on fridge food, or just can’t be bothered to go out for a food shop.”

Coronavirus (PA Archive)

– How can I make the best of leftovers?

If you have not managed to use up everything from your last big shop, the key is to know the basics to get the best out of what you have left.

Celia Brooks, chef and founder of food tour company Gastrotours, said: “Eggs are a gift from the gods when it comes to using up leftovers; make an omelette and fold it over just about anything, like leftover steamed or roasted veggies – add a bit of grated cheese to make it creamy, rich and delectable.

“Leftover cooked potatoes or any veg or beans can be turned into a frittata – again, add some cheese melted on top.

“Finish with chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or dill.”

– How can I keep food fresh for longer?

If you do have some food in the house but are not up for cooking, learning how best to store different food types will make all the difference.

Ms Brooks said: “Keep lemons and limes in a sealed plastic bag in the veg drawer of your fridge – they’ll last for weeks rather than days, and once opened, wrap cheese in greaseproof paper or baking parchment and store in a sealed bag in the fridge to extend its life.

“Your freezer is your best mate!

“Freeze sliced bread and you’ll always have it ready to pop in the toaster, freeze leftover casseroles, stews, soups, and mashed potatoes in individual portions or use frozen mash later (defrosted) to top a shepherd’s pie, or make bubble and squeak.

“Any leftover portion of an ingredient from a jar or tin – like beans, corn, vegetables, and fruit, can be put in a small resealable bag or air-tight container and frozen for up to six months and you can also freeze leftover cooked rice, pasta or grains.”

Coronavirus (PA Archive)

– How easy is it to stay healthy on a budget?

Ms Clarke said: “Planning meals in advance is a great way to reduce your spending on food, as well as making sure you have all the right foods to receive the nutrients necessary for your healthy lifestyle.

“One tip I would recommend is to buy frozen vegetables, these come in big bags and can be kept in the freezer for months and this will help when being on a budget as you will not need to go out to keep buying fresh vegetables.”

– And finally, what about some recipes?

A classic that can be done by anyone, Ms Brooks suggests a pasta bake.

“Make a pasta bake with leftover pasta and sauce, adding extra veggies such as sliced courgettes and peppers, and even a tin of drained chickpeas or butter beans, then mix well and spread into a baking dish and top with loads of grated cheese,” she said.

“Whizz up that leftover heel of bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs – coat the crumbs lightly in oil and sprinkle over the dish, then bake until sizzling.”

Ms Clarke suggests a slightly more complex, but still very doable recipe: soup.

She said: “It’s great feel-good food, as well as being filling.

“One of my favourite recipes would be a tomato and basil soup.

“Fresh tasting and fragranced with basil, this soup is delicious whether it’s warmed or chilled.”

Prep time: 15 minutesCooking time: 35 minutesServing: 4


– 300g tomatoes, peeled and deseeded–  Sprig of thyme–  50ml olive oil– 200g tomato puree– 100g carrots, peeled and diced– 100g potato, peeled and diced– 100g basil650ml chicken or vegetable stock–  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

Method–  Saute the tomato flesh and thyme in the olive oil–  Add the tomato puree and continue cooking for five minutes–  Add the carrots, potato and basil to the pan and cover with stock–  Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes–  Remove the thyme–  Season the soup, blend until smooth and serve.

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