In my ongoing quest to waste less of the food that I bring into my home, I started doing something over the past few weeks that is helping me meet my goals. On Saturday morning, I go through my refrigerator and see which leftovers are in need of repurposing. Then, I either choose to add them into my weekend meal plans or prep and freeze them purposefully.

What do I mean by freeze them purposefully? I freeze them knowing what I’m going to use them for and when I’m going to use them. The sooner the better.

Here are a few examples.

Mid-week last week I made chicken thighs with a maple-mustard sauce. We ate about half of what I made. On Saturday morning, I rinsed off most of the sauce and I chopped up the chicken with the intention of using it for chicken pot pie this week. I plan on making the pot pie either tomorrow or the next day, so I froze the chopped-up chicken so it wouldn’t go bad before I had a chance to use it. (I also keep a container in the freezer that I throw leftover peas, corn, green beans and carrots in to use when I make pot pie.)

The pureed vegetable soup that I wrote about earlier today was born out of my need to use up not only the tomatoes that I had been given out of my niece’s garden, but also some other vegetables that were about to be past their prime. I realized that I needed to use them up and decided to get creative.

Purposefully freezing or using my leftovers is a bit of a change from the way I used to throw leftovers in the freezer to use “sometime.” I realized the last few times I cleaned out my freezer that I was throwing away food, particularly meat, that I had frozen with good, but not specific, intentions.

Now I plan to use the majority of leftovers that I freeze within the next week so they don’t get lost at the bottom of the freezer, develop freezer burn and end up wasted. It’s a small, but meaningful change in the way I look at leftovers. I hope that it helps me to waste less food and get a tighter rein on the food budget.

Why am I doing this on Saturday morning? I tend to cook a lot of traditional meals during the week — meat, vegetables and potatoes or pasta. The leftovers build up during the week and are usually still good to use by Saturday morning. If I waited much longer, some of them may not be safe to eat in a day or two. If you like this idea, but there’s a better day of the week for you based on your cooking and eating habits, find the time that works for your household. 

When you freeze your leftovers, do you freeze them to use “sometime” or do you make specific plans for them to ensure they get used?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

The weekly, intentional fridge check curbs food waste
Spend a little time once a week making sure the previous week’s leftovers get a new life.