How to use up everything!
We help you save money and cut down on waste by getting creative with what you already have in the kitchen
Helping you cook smart
Rising food and energy costs mean that many of us are having to think carefully about getting the most from our budgets. To help, BBC Good Food has developed Cook Smart, a supportive campaign bringing together knowledge and ideas to help everyone eat well. Cook Smart also explores the best energy-efficient cooking methods such as hob cooking and microwaving, as well as using slow cookers, multi cookers and pressure cookers.
Fruit for thought – how to put a fresh spin on fruit that might be going past its best
If you have an excess of ripe peaches, a shrub is the ideal thing to make. You can use most vinegars for this – a mixture of champagne and cider vinegar, or white balsamic and cider. Muddle the fruit, combine with the vinegar and leave for 1 hr. With stronger, fuller-flavoured berries like blackberries, you can use white malt or white wine vinegar. Mix with fizzy water and serve over ice, or turn into a cocktail with a dash of gin and some soda water. You can also roast peaches with a drizzle of honey and a few sprigs of thyme. They pair well with chipotle roast chicken, BBQ pork, or a pavlova.
If you have hard mangoes that won’t ripen, peel the flesh into strips and use instead of green papaya in a Thai-inspired som tam salad. Or, finely dice and mix with chopped chilli, coriander and lime juice for a salsa that pairs well with grilled buttery prawns. For a sweet and refreshing drink, blend into a mango lassi with yogurt, honey, cardamom and lime juice. Try our mango lassi recipe.
Don’t neglect the bunch of grapes at the back of your fridge – they work in more than just fruit salads. Space them out on a baking tray, then freeze for a cooling summer snack. Another idea is to halve a large handful of grapes and divide between lolly moulds. Pour over coconut water to fill, and freeze for 12 hrs for another refreshing treat. Or, to make an easy bruschetta, roast them with the stalks on until darkened and falling apart, then spread soft goat’s cheese over some toasted baguette and scatter over the roasted grapes.
Juice and combine with a little five-spice to drizzle over pan-fried duck or pork chops. For a snack that will please chocolate lovers, dip the segments into melted dark chocolate and place on a lined baking tray, sprinkle over a pinch of flaky sea salt and leave to set. To use up the scented peel, put this and any leftover segments in a pan with equal quantities of caster sugar and water. Heat gently until the sugar has melted, then simmer for 10-15 mins, leave to cool and strain. Use in cocktails to add some zing.
If you have sharper apples like Granny Smith, grate them into a creamy slaw. If your red apples are looking a bit mealy, chop and gently fry them in butter with shredded red cabbage until soft – this is a great side dish for pan-fried pork chops. Having a Sunday roast? Simply stir finely chopped apples through your stuffing mixture to fill out a joint of pork.
Black bananas are for more than just banana bread! Chop them and store in the freezer to add to fruit smoothies – you don’t need to discard the peel. For a decadent pudding, cook halved bananas in shop-bought caramel and place a sheet of puff pastry on top. Cook as you would a tarte tatin, then drizzle with chocolate sauce to serve. Don’t waste the peel – trim the ends off the bananas and blitz them, skin on, to use in banana bread. Don’t just take our word for it – try our breakfast cake recipe.
Ideas for using up leftover ingredients
Fresh curry leaves
These often come in a large bunch. Take the leaves off the stems, then wash and dry them. Store in a container or reusable bag in the freezer and use straight from frozen.
Don’t discard them – finely chop and add to the curry in the final 10 minutes. Or, try the below recipe to serve as a side:
Spiced beetroot leaves
Stir-fry the stems and leaves in a splash of oil until soft, then combine with 1 finely chopped chilli, 1 tbsp desiccated coconut and cook until just wilted.
There's no need to peel ginger
Simply give it a scrub under running water and grate. The skin will dissolve as you cook and it’s a bit of extra fibre, too.
Leftover lime halves
Add lime halves to rice as it cooks. Or, try the below recipe:
Lime & chilli salad dressing
Mix any remaining lime juice with finely chopped coriander, honey, sunflower oil and chopped jalapeños to taste.
Try our beetroot curry, a great way to use up some leftovers.
To fridge, or not to fridge?
You’ll be amazed at the array of unlikely ingredients that last longer when chilled, but some should never go in the fridge.
Fish sauce, sesame oil & maple syrup – best kept in the fridge in an airtight container.
Mayonnaise – will keep in the fridge once opened.
Mustard & natural nut butters – should be stored upside down to stop the oils separating
Soft herbs – keep well in a glass of water in the fridge, covered.
Woody herbs – keep well in the fridge wrapped in damp kitchen paper.
Jams & marmalades – will keep in the fridge once opened Wine will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days once opened.
Vermouth – can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 months after being opened.
Most sherries – should be stored in the fridge once opened and used within 1-2 weeks.
Soy sauce – should ideally be kept in the fridge if you don’t plan on using it very often.
Ketchup – can be kept at room temperature or in the fridge if not used very often.
Hot sauce – can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge.
Dried fruit – can be chilled or kept in an airtight container in a cool place.
Citrus – keeps in your fruit bowl for 1 week, or preserve them in the fridge for a few months.
Bread – store in the freezer, but never in the fridge.
Coffee – keep grounds and beans in an airtight container.
Pastries – best kept in an airtight container.
Wholemeal flours – are best stored in the freezer and can be used from frozen.
Olive oil – keep in a cool cupboard
Honey – also keeps in the cupboard.
Swirl it into dips, marinades or dressings for natural sweetness. Drizzle it over freshly baked cakes for a sticky glaze – it works well with carrot cake. Or, mix into softened butter and spread over crumpets. Store in a cool, dark cupboard.
Hot honey sauce
Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan and fry 2 chopped garlic cloves and 1 chopped red chilli until fragrant and lightly browned. Stir in a pinch of salt and 100ml honey. Remove from the heat, add a splash of vinegar, then set aside to infuse for 1 hr. Drizzle over fried chicken or pizza.
There are many different varieties, but you can easily make a delicious buffalo sauce for dousing over crispy wings with most (although a vinegary one works especially well). Whisk 125ml hot sauce with 2 tbsp melted butter. Add a squeeze of honey or spices for a bit more oomph, if you like, and toss with crispy chicken wings. Swirl hot sauce into mayo for a spicy dip to serve with sweet potato wedges.
Hot sauces like gochujang also work well in marinades for steak, and sriracha is excellent in stir-fries as it lends some funk to the sauce. You can store them in the fridge once opened, if you don't use them often.
More like this
Wine vinegars are ideal for dressings and pickling. If open for a while, a cloudy sediment forms, but this doesn't affect the quality. Red wine vinegars are great for mixing with leftover herbs for chimichurri and hollandaise sauce also uses white wine vinegar.
Or, for something simpler:
Garlicky salad dressing
Mix 2 tbsp vinegar with 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 4 tbsp olive oil and 1 small grated garlic clove.
Pickled cucumber & onions
Combine 75ml white wine vinegar with 2 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tsp salt, and pour over finely sliced cucumbers or onions. Chill for a few hours, then serve.
It can be used in sauces, creamy salad dressings or sandwiches instead of butter. Spread over the outside of a cheese toastie for an even crispier finish. Mix mayonnaise with shredded cooked chicken, a handful of chopped soft herbs like dill or chives and some gherkins, and serve on toasted sourdough for an open-top sandwich. Or, combine with a few tablespoons of pesto, a grated garlic clove and a grating of parmesan to serve with roast chicken and chargrilled vegetables. Store in the fridge once opened.
If you find a sauce is lacking a bit of umami punch or needs some greater depth, add a drizzle of soy sauce. You can use it with caramel, too, like in our soy sauce caramel milkshake recipe.
Boil 2 eggs for 6½ mins, then drain and peel. Combine 75ml soy sauce and 25ml mirin and submerge the eggs in the mixture. Leave to marinate for at least 30 mins or up to 4 hrs, turning every so often. Serve with ramen.
Found on most tables throughout the UK, this beloved sauce is well known for getting children to eat their dinner, but it’s much more than that. You can use it instead of tomato purée in a pinch, or add it to bolognese to add some sweetness.
Easy ribs glaze
Mix equal parts ketchup and apricot jam with a squeeze of lemon juice and splash of soy sauce. Use it to glaze ribs, or add 1-2 tbsp to a burger or meatball mixture. Keep leftovers chilled.
The sweet fruit in jam pairs well with savoury foods like pork chops. To make a glaze, mix a few tablespoons of blackcurrant jam with Dijon mustard and a good glug of cider or sherry vinegar. Once the pork chops are almost cooked through, add this mixture to the pan along with a knob of butter and cook, spooning the glaze over the pork until glossy and reduced. Or, try thinning apricot jam with a splash of water – fry halloumi until golden, then spoon the apricot jam over and cook until reduced. Serve with salad or in a toastie.
For a simple canapé, spread marmalade over small squares of puff pastry and top with slices of brie and a pinch of chilli flakes. Bake until crispy and golden. For a sweeter take, use it instead of raisins in a bread & butter pudding. Marmalade works well in our spicy roasted roots recipe featuring carrots and parsnips. Try our harissa & marmalade roasted roots.
Onion marmalade brings rich flavour to everyday classics like cheese toasties or sausages for toad-in-the-hole. Or, stir into a quiche mixture for a hint of sweetness, or mix into a Dijon mustard salad dressing.
Lemon & lime marmalade
For a twist on the classic breakfast martini, use lemon & lime marmalade in place of orange. Make a sticky, spicy glaze for chicken drumsticks by combining the marmalade with crushed garlic, chopped red chilli and olive oil. Slather this over the chicken and roast until cooked through and sticky. Or, give our easy marmalade muffins a go.
Gently warm lemon curd for a lovely drizzle for crêpes or ice cream – it’s just as good stirred into Greek yogurt with raspberries for a refreshing fool dessert. For an easy showstopper, try our lemon curd & passion fruit tart.
Lemon curd martini
Add 2 tbsp lemon curd to a cocktail shaker with 50ml gin, 2 tsp elderflower cordial and 1 tsp vermouth bianco, give it a good shake, add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled glass and serve with a lemon peel twist.
Stir a spoonful into pasta sauces or shakshuka (a North African dish of eggs in a spiced tomato sauce) for a bit of sweetness and heat, or use in place of sweet chilli sauce in your next stir-fry. Chilli jam is also great as a marinade for prawns with a squeeze of lime juice, or stirred into a vinegary slaw to add a bit of spice.