Why (and how) we should eat leftovers

NAIT partners with Leftovers YEG and Global Shapers Edmonton to reduce food waste

NAIT student chefs celebrated the humble leftover recently to support a local non-profit group’s efforts to combat food waste and feed people in need.

The Leftovers for Dinner event at Ernest’s dining room (Oct. 21, 2017) saw 5 pairs of culinary students compete in a Chopped-style cook-off, turning surprise leftover ingredients into gourmet dishes. The results were judged by a panel of local chefs and foodies, and enjoyed by guests who attended the fundraiser.

“We wanted to take on a project about food sustainability,” says Jyoti Lamba, who led the project for Global Shapers Edmontona volunteer group of young thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

“The idea was to save all of this food that’s being wasted, to tackle both food waste and the food insecurity and hunger that we have in Edmonton.” The proceeds went to Leftovers YEG, a charity that transports unused food from retailers and restaurants to service agencies for the needy.

Last fall, the Calgary-based Leftovers program expanded to Edmonton. They now save up to 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of food each week in the city, says Lamba.

The statistics on food waste in Canada are shocking. An estimated $31 billion worth of fruit, vegetables and meat is needlessly thrown out in this country every year, according to Value Chain Management International. Almost half of that happens in the home – excess food that we toss in the garbage.

It’s a statistic that frustrates Josh Ward, an educational lab technologist in NAIT’s Culinary Arts program.  

“It’s a really sad state, but hopefully events like this will start opening peoples’ eyes,” he says. “We want to teach our students, in the industry and even at home: use product, don’t throw it away.”

7 tips for salvaging leftovers

Here are some of Ward’s suggestions for making the most of what’s left in your fridge.

  • Prepare only what you need – Follow the lead of cost-counting restaurant chefs, especially with vegetables and starches. Extra meat like beef, turkey or chicken can easily do double-duty for dinner the next night. One of Ward’s favourites is pulled pork mac and cheese, made from his leftover pulled pork.
  • Cook big batches – Invest time on the weekend and freeze meals to heat up during the week. Then you won’t be left with a bunch of raw ingredients spoiling in the fridge.
  • Repurpose veggies – Throw leftover vegetables into soup or chili. Once the soup is cooked, you can freeze the extra.
  • Transform your fruit – Fruit that’s past its prime can be frozen to use in smoothies, or blended with coconut milk for an ice-creamy treat.
  • Seal it up – Invest in an inexpensive vacuum sealer to help proteins last longer in the freezer.
  • Spice it up – Keep a good selection of spices and condiments on hand, along with onions and quick-cooking starches like quinoa, couscous, dry pasta and rice to turn leftover meats and vegetables into stir fries or casseroles.
  • Keep it cool – Refrigerate leftovers right away, wrapping them well or storing them in containers so they stay as fresh as possible.



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