Reduce food waste – three ways with tinned tomatoes

Filed in Blog, Reduce by on September 12, 2010 18 Comments
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3 ways with tomato pasta sauce

3 ways with tomato pasta sauce

As we roll into the home stretch of zero waste week I wanted to share ideas for one of the most frequent items of food waste in our home before our zero waste challenge. It  was either tinned tomatoes, passata  or jars of tomato based sauce – the kind you use for making pasta sauces. Anything tomatoey in a word.

I would make one meal out of them and then find the remaining ingredients in the fridge, sporting a green jacket, a week or so later.

T’other week I made three meals from one jar of tomato-based sauce and, as our post on reducing pesto waste was so popular, I thought I would share my ideas here.

As ever I would love to hear your comments and recipe suggestions.


The first meal was a sausage casserole. This is a staple ‘Love your leftovers’ meal at zero waste towers. I mixed up a fried onion, some diced carrots and potatoes, left over sliced sausage and added leftover gravy and some tomatoes. Throw it all in a saucepan or the slow cooker and leave it until you’re ready to eat.


The next dish was pizza! Instead of using tomato puree, I used some of these tomatoes as the base. I added chopped peppers and covered with cheese before cooking.

Minced beef

The final meal was minced beef. Following one of Maisie’s ideas I fried some minced beef with carrots and peppers, padded it out with some cooked rice and lentils and added the remaining tomatoes. That was served with mashed potatoes and sweetcorn, which Little miss green wolfed down. It ended up being pretty frugal too.

So there you have it; three recipes to use up a large jar of tomatoes or passata – all of which could be easily adapted to vegetarian options.

What about you? Do you have some ideas to share? How would you use up a tin of tomatoes or jar of tomato sauce?

Over on Pixiepine blog, Caroline has been cooking up a vegan storm for zero waste week; find out what she made with some sad looking kale and wilting spring onions.

National Zero Waste Week is sponsored by Tetra Pak. Special layers in long life cartons protect the goodness of your product right until you need it, helping to save food waste. It does this without the need for energy intensive refrigeration or preservatives and is recyclable too!


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (18)

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  1. Maritza says:

    well I usually eat all the tomato sause, but I’ll tell you what I do with the empty cans. I use all of the empty glas containers. I do art with them. I paint the top so it looks like rusted and very old. Then I use old photos and old paper cuts and make canned memories. I decorate the cointainer with old lace on the outside and a handmade label.

  2. Sooz says:

    I try to remember to freeze my left over tomato sauce in portion sized boxes, I never get through a whole jar!

  3. Mummy Zen says:

    I throw my left-over tinned tomatoes or passata into a soup (I especially like to add it to a carrot soup with some chopped chilli pepper). I also make veggie enchiladas and use the tomato as a quick sauce on top with grated cheese and then bake in the oven.

  4. Julie Day says:

    With tomato sauce, we usually use half the jar and put the other half in a plastic pot which then goes in the freezer for the next time we have that meal. No waste.

  5. LJayne says:

    I tend to make multiple portions based on how much tomato I’ve got. I tend to use tinned ones so it isn’t quite so bad. And then I divide into dinner sized tubs and freeze. There are 5 of us so this is a big basis of my cooking anyway. It’s great to just pull something out of the freezer the night before and know I’ve only got to reheat to piping hot and cook the carbs.

    But to answer the original question properly! I love tinned tomatoes with a fry up (childhood memory!) or I whizz for pizza base topping. If you whizz tinned toms you get a kind of passata – they thicken up – and my kids love this over any kind of pasta with cheese on top and then whatever protein I fancy. Sausage or bacon or just ordinary sliced ham if I’m in a real hurry.

  6. Ben says:

    I much prefer passata to tinned tomatoes, it goes so much further and no need to strain or simmer off the water (I can also sell the jars for a few pence to someone who reuses them). However, it tends to come in 500g jars, so I freeze any left over.

    A really simple recipe to use it up is fry some onions and garlic, mix with the tomatoes, add some herbs and mix in to pasta. It’s even nicer if you put some cheese on the top and bake it. For some reason I often have left over garlic, onions and cheese, so this is a good way to use them all up. It goes well with garlic bread, which fortunately works well with slightly old dry bread.

  7. Jane says:

    No problems for us. We only buy tomato puree and tinned tomatoes or passata. Spaghetti with mushroom, onions, garlic, sweet pepper and plenty of tomatoes in it. (Make half to go with the spaghetti and the rest to go with a lasagne.) There’s also a great Middle Eastern spicy chick pea and tomato soup (The Eden Project’s version is online.) Ratatouille. Add them to lots of things including cottage pie and curry.

  8. Hazel says:

    We eat a lot of tomato-ey dishes, and I don’t tend to buy ready made sauces, just tinned tomatoes that I whizz or crush up to make sauces. Italian sauces always seem to have dried basil in, which I really don’t like.

    A hundred variations on the tomato sauce with pasta – add tinned tuna, mashed tinned mackerel or sardines, cooked chickpeas, leftover cooked meat etc etc. Even the last bit of red pesto- 2 empty jars in one go 🙂 Add fried cubes of aubergine on the top to make Pasta Alla Norma (my favourite). Add chilli, capers, olives and make Pasta Putanesca.

    Cook with sliced peppers and a bit of chilli if you like it, when it’s nearly done break an egg per person in the top, cover and cook gently until cooked to your liking (we like the yolks runny in our house). You can also stir the eggs into the sauce, but we prefer them whole.

    Pour over pancakes or pasta stuffed with ricotta/yogurt cheese and spinach (or chard or beetroot leaves). Sprinkle with cheese and bake until golden.

    Dilute and add rice- cook until done: rice and tomato soup. Or add red lentils and make lentil and tomato soup. This is nice with some rosemary and garlic added, and a squeeze or two of lemon before serving. or make it thick, with a good slug of red wine and use it as a veggie ragu sauce.

    Curry, casserole and anything mince based, like Jane said. I make a really quick curry with tinned chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, maybe some spinach and some curry paste or powder.

    Baked Beans- tomatoes, beans, molasses/brown sugar, bacon/pork.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Maritza: Maritza; it is clear from your comments on the site that you are incredibly artistic and creative; I love all the ideas you are sharing – thank you!
    @Sooz: @Julie Day: THe freezer is something I don’t make the most of – thanks for the reminder !
    @Mummy Zen: great idea, Mummy Zen; soup is a wonderful way to use things up!
    @LJayne: YOu know what? I’ve never blended a tin of tomatoes, but it sounds like the perfect base for a quick pasta sauce – thanks Lesley 🙂
    @Ben: nice tip about making garlic bread – thank you! My challenge too is that the passatta jars (which I prefer) are so huge!
    @Jane: never thought of adding tomatoes to cottage pie – thanks for the idea and the chickpea dish sounds lovely.
    @Hazel: I like the rice, lentil and tomato soup idea; that sounds very quick and easy to do and I should make baked beans more often as my two prefer them – thanks for all the lovely suggestions 🙂

  10. carolinep says:

    I’m just amazed you ever have left over tomatoey stuff – it is all used up here! Mind you I do have 4 children and the one thing they all eat is tomato sauce 🙂 Basically I make enough to feed the family – and any leftover is frozen – if I’m chopping up onions and making a sauce I make a big portion so I have plenty to eat another day.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @carolinep: Hi Caroline, ahhh, maybe having 3 more kids is the answer then LOL! Or maybe I should invite more friends to tea 😉

  12. Lisa Ueda says:

    I have to agree this is one thing that gets away from me. The small jars of pasta sauce aren’t big enough for my family of three, the large jars are too big, and I rarely remember to freeze the leftovers. Most of the time I like making my own sauces, but when I’m in a hurry my children enjoy the taste of jarred sauces, and I like the convenience. I wonder if part of reducing waste is simply allowing yourself to slow down. It’s when I’m in the biggest hurry that I go for convenience which is usally a bit wasteful.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Lisa Ueda: Hi lisa, GREAT point about slowing down. Isn’t this the answer to many of our modern life struggles? Like you, I reach for convenience when I’m pushed for time – it’s all in the planning 😉

  14. Bene says:

    I’m in the same boat: too much tomato paste sitting in the fridge. However, risking the groans of others, may I just say that lifting the furry green coat off the paste reveals the tomato for further use. We do this regularly, have no problems – after all, the tomato paste is going to be cooked.

  15. Jane says:

    When I had a freezer and before I bought tomato paste in a tube it used to be in little tins. Freezing it a teaspoonsful at a time on a tray meant it was easy to use bit by bit.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Bene: Good for you, Bene. Some foods are ok when you scrape away the mould. maybe the acidity in the paste stops the mould going right through?

    @Jane: Great idea Jane. We’ve now given up the freezer, not sure how I will feel about that when it comes to harvest time in the garden!

  17. Natalia says:

    I always inmediately freeze tomato sauce leftovers in ice cube trays.
    Once they are frozen, I take them out of the ice cube tray and put them into a freezing bag.

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Natalia: Good idea Natalia; using our freezers wisely can prevent a lot of food waste.

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