Make the most of your leftovers

30th September 2021 | Eativity editors

How much food do you think you waste? A recent kitchen bin “deep dive” by Central Queensland University researchers has revealed that Australian household food waste is twice as bad as we believe. And it’s costing us a pretty penny – an average of $965 per person per year. The study found that while we are making headway in some areas, we still need to stop tossing leftovers. To help Australians combat their food waste at home, MasterChef alumnus Dani Venn has partnered with GLAD to create some easy and surprisingly tasty ideas that can help you to make the most of your leftovers.

Make the most of your leftovers: crispy cauliflower leaf wings
To get the recipe for these crispy cauliflower leaf wings, click here.

We can do better

The CQU research found that beef, bread, cheese and salad were the most thrown out foods in Australian household kitchens. It also found that Australians, despite their best efforts, underestimate their food waste by half. The average estimate was around 2 kilos of food wasted per week. Bin audits found it was more than 4 kilos a week. This food waste is happening even though many households have good food habits overall.

“Most of our respondents were planning ahead before hitting the shops, checking the cupboards, fridge and freezer, and then making a shopping list,” says researcher Professor David Pearson. “Where we could be doing better is learning how to make better use of leftovers, and not purchasing extra food for ‘just in case’.”

Dani Venn
Dani Venn won the only immunity pin of the MasterChef AllStars 2020 season.

Mix it up at mealtimes

Venn says that being more sustainable at home doesn’t have to mean making massive changes all at once. It’s the simple things done consistently that made a big difference.

“We all want to reduce the amount of food we’re throwing out,” she says. “But when re-using your leftovers, it can be hard not to get bored of having the same meal all week.

“To help you get started, I’ve come up with a few delicious ideas you can create from your leftovers. This is my take, but you can add your favourite ingredients or mix it up.”

Make the most of your leftovers: spaghetti bolognese frittata

Spaghetti bolognese frittata

Looking for a way to make leftover pasta a bit more egg-citing? Turning leftover spaghetti bolognese into a frittata is simple to do. It takes 20 minutes to make, and completely re-invents the dish. Fry leftovers in a bit of oil and add eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Make the most of your leftovers: chilli nachos

Chilli choices

If you’re mad for Mexican food, I can guarantee the mix of spices and ingredients that are thrown into a black bean chilli will taste even better when they’ve had a chance to meld in the fridge. What’s so great about black bean chilli is that it makes for a perfect leftover meal. You can toss your leftover chilli over a baked potato or into a casserole. Or if you want to continue with the Mexican vibe, you can mix it in with your nachos. This is the perfect way to keep your meals exciting and reduce the amount of food wasted at home.

Make the most of your leftovers: beetroot stem and leaf curry

Beetroot stem and leaf curry

Ever made a beetroot salad and then wondered what to do with the leaves and stems? Now you have your answer. This delicious curry is a family favourite of ours and super easy to make. It’s also a great example of how to turn food leftovers into something yummy.

Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes

You’ll need:

1 to 2 tbsp full-flavoured coconut oil
½ brown onion, finely diced
1 tbsp finely diced garlic
2 tsp finely diced ginger
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
½ tsp chilli flakes or 1 diced fresh red or green chilli
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp brown mustard seeds
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp coconut sugar
500g beetroot leaves and stems (approx. 1 bunch)
1 can of lentils or chickpeas, drained
Squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice to finish (approx. 1 – 2 teaspoons)
Your choice of steamed rice to serve


1. Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat and add one tablespoon of coconut oil. When hot, add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes, cooking slowly to release the natural sweetness of the onion. Once the onion is softened, add garlic and ginger and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
2. Add a little more coconut oil if ingredients are too dry. Add curry leaves, chilli, ground cumin and coriander and mustard seeds. Cook for a few minutes until spices are aromatic.
3. Add coconut milk and coconut sugar, stir to combine. Add beetroot leaves and stalks, mix well to combine. Simmer for about 10 minutes until stalks have softened a little.
4. Add in a can of drained lentils or chickpeas and stir through curry. Taste and season with salt to taste. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Serve with steamed rice.

September 29 was the second annual United Nations International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. Head to the website to find out more about what you can do, and why it’s so important that we put an end to needless waste. For more advice on how you can reduce food waste at home, check out these tips and facts. For food scraps you can’t use, refer to this checklist of what can go in your compost bin. For more on how to shop, cook, store and compost smarter, head to