Creative Ways to Use up Food with a Short Shelf Life

We can often find that we have left over food products close to their expiry date after preparing recipes.  There is no need to dispose of them as there are numerous ways to use them up before their ‘best before’ day.

short shelf life ways to use up food

Creativity is the name of the game when it comes to managing food leftovers, and with our tips you will find it fun while making use of every morsel of almost expired food!


Often there is that one tomato that’s overripe, a potato that’s about to sprout, or spinach leaves that have lost their crisp. Vegetables are the easiest to reuse and they can be transformed into a side dish or even a full meal. Clean, chop, cook, or puree vegetables into a soup or curry. Chopped and pureed vegetables can be easily frozen, extending their shelf life for three to six months. Fermenting and pickling in brine or vinegar is another great option for those about to spoil carrots, radishes and cucumbers. Certain vegetables can even be used as part of a skincare routine as well. The final ways to use up food and transform what can’t be used to eat, is to compost and make fertiliser.


mango lassi

Seasonal and organic fruits often have a short shelf life and can lose their freshness quickly. Most fruits like peaches, apples, oranges, and berries can be preserved into jams, purees, or compotes and stored for later use. Bananas, berries and avocados can be frozen for future use in smoothies and bakes. A last resort is to convert fruit and vegetables, which cannot be used for cooking or consumption, and turn them into compost for domestic use.


fresh herbs growing

Of all things natural, fresh herbs are delicate. Once harvested, they will last for a maximum of one week when stored correctly. Save unused herbs for future use by either drying and storing them in glass jars, or by preserving them in olive oil. Herbs such as mint and coriander can be used in chutneys that can be jarred and stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Dairy products

Fresh dairy products have a short shelf life. Spoiled milk can replace buttermilk when baking, flavour certain dressing, or help to tenderize meat. Sour, thickened yoghurt is often used in Indian cuisine and Mediterranean specialities. Add various herbs for a delicious dip or strain it to make labneh. Yoghurt can also be used in skincare to make a scrub. 


mixed nuts

Almonds, pistachios, walnuts are some nuts that tend to get rancid in humid weather or if not stored properly. Roasting them in the oven, without the casing, will revive their flavour and then they will be perfect to consume as a snack or for use in other recipes. Nuts can be added to oats, cranberries, and raisins for a delicious homemade granola, or added to cakes and cookies for that added crunch and flavour. Nuts that haven’t turned rancid but lost their crunch can be turned into delicious nut butters.

Bakery Items

Often, we do not consume our bread before it starts to get stale! French toast, croutons, and bread crumbs are the easiest transformations for ‘old’ bread, but you can also produce pizza toasts, a bread and butter pudding, or incorporate them into meatloaf, potato and bread cutlets. The options are numerous! 

Cooked food

As home cooks and chefs, we are all guilty of preparing too much food, especially when celebrating special occasions, resulting in large quantities of leftovers. Eating the same foods yet again is not always enjoyable, so organise a fun gathering and be creative with your leftovers! Often a completely different ‘dish’ can be prepared by enhancing and adding extra flavours. Steamed carrots and broccoli can be magically transformed into a gratin or used in a curry. Similarly, the classic tomato pasta sauce can be turned into a soup base for the next day, and left overs of boiled rice can become a delicious fried rice with addition of other ingredients.

Packaged snacks

Busy lifestyles often lead to bulk buys and over stocking of the pantry, which in turn leads to snacks such as biscuits and crisps, reaching their best before dates and losing their crispness. Crumbled sweet biscuits make a great cheesecake base, or they add crunch to a pudding. Pretzels, savoury biscuits, and cornflakes can substitute breadcrumbs or panko in some recipes to ‘bind’ a meatloaf , meatballs, or make crumb-fried chicken.


  1. I always try to reduce food waste. Your post is so great for reducing food waste and at the same time having delicious and nutritious meals. Thank you for spreading the message 🙂

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