By chef Christopher Koetke, WorldChefs

We’ve all been there: clearing our fridge and discovering forgotten canned food and rotten veggies.

Chef Christopher Koetke from WorldChefs works out six simple tips below to help us better manage our food at home. From re-purposing food items to managing kitchen hygiene, his tips will help you reduce food waste at home.

1. Re-purpose food items

Aside from using leftovers to whip up quick meals, consider using every item in your pantry. Vegetables such as onions, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes, and chicken and pork bones can be used to make soup stock. Pork and chicken used to make Chinese soups can be shredded for fried noodles and rice.

2. Buy ingredients enough for the week

Try not to stock up on perishables, and plan a menu that would use up leftover items on a bi-weekly basis.

3. Use the entire product

Vegetables can be used in a hot dish day one. The trimmings can for example be used to make a soup, wok or just a salad. The same goes for fish and meat. The trimmings can be ground and used to make different dishes. Consider all the “other” parts of different foods.  For instance, carrot peelings, onion trimmings, vegetable peels and celery leaves can be used to prepare stocks, broths, and soups.

Purchase whole items like chickens instead of chicken parts.  Then, use all the leftover parts to make stews, soups, and additional meals.

4. Remember good kitchen hygiene

Cool down hot, cooked products quickly (within 4 hours) in shallow containers or in an ice bath.  Once they are cold, do cover, label (with a date) and refrigerate quickly to minimize throwing out food products.  If they cannot be consumed within a few days, consider freezing them or giving them to friends or family. You can keep a thermometer in your refrigerator to check that food is being held at safe temperatures: 1-4C.  If your refrigerator is not cold enough, food will spoil faster.

Don’t overfill your refrigerator so that air cannot circulate well.  This will result in the refrigerator temperature not maintaining consistent safe temperatures.

5. From Zero to Hero

An overripe banana might not be directly edible, but the puree can be used for smoothies, muffins, cake and pies. Apples that have gone soft can be used to make pies, stews and muffins. Overripe cucumbers can be used to make pickles, salads and stir fry dishes and soft tomatoes can be turned into pasta sauce, jam, soup or salsa.

6. Deal with leftover

Some tips to deal with leftover:

  • Use transparent containers for your leftovers.  This helps you when you make inventory at home before planning your menu. Always mark the containers with the date it was frozen.
  • Make two days of the week leftover days for your meals.
  • Try to work out a weekly menu. Look what you have at home and plan your menu containing some of the leftovers if they are in small amounts.
  • Portion food items and freeze & label excess portions so it will not be wasted.  Be sure to put a date on each item.
  • Inspect your refrigerator every two days so that food items do not get lost or forgotten. Make a list of the foods that should be consumed as soon as possible.
  • Make sure that dry goods are stored in containers where insects or rodents cannot get at them.
  • Keep the oldest items/the ones to consume first in the front of cabinet or refrigerator shelves.  Otherwise, they tend to get pushed to the back where they are forgotten and spoil.
  • Feel free to share leftovers with others.