Leftovers Pooling: The Most Fun Way Yet to Cut Down on Food Waste

    Jacquelyn Ottman Posted by Jacquelyn Ottman.

    Jacquelyn is the founder of J. Ottman Consulting, Inc., which helps businesses develop and market the next generation of products designed with sustainability in mind.



    Leftovers Pooling: The Most Fun Way Yet to Cut Down on Food Waste

    Sarah DiGregorio’s adaptation of Chef Jason Neroni’s paella fried rice was a perfect addition to a Leftovers Pooling party.  (Image: Jesse Webster for The Wall Street Journal)

    I’ve been toying with the idea for a while now: throw a Leftovers Pooling Party.  (Picture a pot luck supper with a food waste twist.) I even came up with a little definition (see below).  For my birthday last week, I decided I’d give it a try.

    My NYC #susty gal pals took to the idea of a Leftovers Pooling Party right away:  What a great way to clear out the fridge, bring friends together, and try out a new way to cut down on the food waste. Asking them to bring a regift to swap added to the fun.

    Leftovers Pooling Party definition

    Jacquie Ottman’s definition of ‘Leftovers Pooling Party’

    Makeover the Leftovers at a Leftovers Pooling Party

    What I quickly discovered is that my mostly (working) guests-to-be were not, understandably, in a position to drag the loose drumstick or stray tacos from home during the middle of the work week. (This suggests the idea may be better suited for  friends and family down the hall or down the block, for convenience sake.)

    But what my guests did find fun was eating food like Irish Gur cake and two different forms of fried rice, which like French Toast are dishes designed to repurpose (‘makeover’) the leftovers. Did you know that French Toast is a perfect way to use up stale bread? So are bread crumbs and croutons and stuffing for turkey or chicken. (Two recipes HERE.) ‎

    Fried Rice is a Perfect Way to Make Over Leftovers

    For the Chinese, fried rice represents the perfect vehicle to repurpose leftover rice — it’s less sticky than fresh, and you can literally throw into the wok or large fry pan whatever extra ingredients you have on hand to make a sumptuous meal.

    Here are downloadable copies of the recipes that I serendipitously found in the Wall Street Journal a few days before the Big Day.

    Be forewarned: The Gur cake (see recipe above), despite adding some brandy, wasn’t the biggest hit, but the vegetable whole grain fried rice and the paella fried rice definitely were. Try them at your own Leftovers Pooling Party.

    Four Creative Ways to Make Over the Leftovers

    1. Find (and share with others) recipes for creative ways to makeover the leftovers. Two recipe books that we have featured on WeHateToWaste.com include:

    The Leftovers Handbook: An A-Z Of Every Conceivable Ingredient In Your Kitchen With Inspirational Ideas And Recipes For Using Them by Suzy Bowler

    And The Refrigerator Files by Jocelyn Deprez


    The Top 5 Recipes on WeHateToWaste For Making Over the Leftovers

    Veggie Soup From Whatever’s Around: LINK HERE

    3 Recipes for Tastiest Lettuce Soup : LINK HERE

    Lobster Bisque: LINK HERE


    2. Shine a spotlight on familiar foods that are based on leftovers. Start with French Toast and what I discovered this week:  fried rice, which is actually better with leftover rice because it’s less sticky.  (#WhoKnew?) Start with simple foods like bread, bread crumbs, croutons and even Gur Cake, made from bread crumbs.

    3. Request a doggie bag to take home uneaten food from restaurants; better yet, bring your own doggie bags. I try to bring two ziploc bags in my purse for that extra half a sandwich without the waste associated with most other types of doggie bags.  Zip bags also come in handy for packing up leftovers at the many sustainability and other types of events I regularly go to here in NYC. Fredrica Rudell adds, ‘Organizers of campus and community events where food is served — especially ‘groaning board’ buffets — should routinely have baggies or take-home containers on hand for that purpose.’  Until that practice becomes more commonplace, let’s all pack a few bags or containers for our friends and neighbors to rescue those extra half sandwiches and stranded cheese cubes, too.

    4. Throw your own Leftovers Pooling party. Try it out, and help spread the word. Perhaps we could all start a new American Sunday nite tradition. Fridges would be cleaned out, friends, family and neighbors would bond over stories of recipes tried, new restaurants visited. I suspect it’s a swell way to get people together to clean out the fridge and just have an informal time recounting the week through the stories surrounding their food (the recipes, the new take out place discovered, and of course, what they may have done to ‘spruce up’ what they brought to the party.)

    A Good Time Was Had By All at My Leftovers Pooling Birthday Party

    Jacquie Ottman about to blow out the candles on her Gur birthday cake made for her Leftovers Pooling Birthday Party.

    Jacquie Ottman posing with the Gur cake she made for her Leftovers Pooling Birthday Party.

    Needless to say, a good time was had by all  (helped by regift swap (“Everyone takes home a party favor”) at my inaugural Leftovers Pooling party. And the excitement of the evening surrounding impending Hillary acceptance speech at the DNC only added to the fun. Had all my #susty gal pals not rushed home at 9 pm to watch the speech, we’d still be sipping the Limoncello one guest thoughtfully brought. Next time, I might just try making my own with some leftover lemons.

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    Feel free to let everyone else know your favorite ways to repurpose leftovers by adding a comment below!

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