Have you ever made dinner and look at the leftovers with huge eyes? You think, what the heck am I going to do with all of this food? I get it! As someone who loves food and doesn’t like to eat the same thing over and over, I am here to help!
Over the years, I have learned how to make new meals with leftovers without much effort and, in turn, saved hundreds on my annual grocery bill. Want to learn how to repurpose leftovers of all kinds?
Let’s go to the Chalkboard.
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Why Learn How To Repurpose Leftovers?
Food waste is a real problem in America. Nearly a pound of food per person per day is wasted! That’s an average of $40 of food per person a month thrown away. Multiply that by a family of four, and you could be saving $160 a month by repurposing leftovers.
Food waste is also a bring drain on our environment– it accounts for the most significant material volume in landfills. According to the United Nations, leftover food makes up 21% of the waste stream.
Learning how to repurpose leftovers will save you time, money and help the environment.
Tips to Repurpose Leftovers
Before You Cook
- When possible, plan ahead. Double an ingredient you are cooking for another night. Are you grilling chicken one night? Throw a few extra pieces on the bbq and for dinner later in the week. Do you know that you are going to have a ton of leftover pasta from a meal? Remember this as you make your meal plan. Precooked food is a great timesaver. Having cooked pasta will save you twenty minutes another night.
- You don’t need to eat leftovers right away. You don’t need to eat up leftovers the next night. It’s easy to get tired of eating the same thing over and over, but if you skip a night or two, it takes the boredom away. You should eat most leftovers within 3-4 days. If you know you aren’t going to eat something within that timeframe, freeze items right away. Put casseroles in three loaf pans instead of a 9×13 baking dish. Cook one and freeze the other two. Cover the pans with foil and write the baking instructions on top. Your future self will thank you.
- Think of the food differently. There is no need to eat the same thing every single night. Change it up and make the main dish a side dish. If you had chicken and potatoes one night, make a soup with some chicken and potatoes in it. These items are now ingredients, not the whole dish.
- Keep an inventory. A leftover list is a significant part of how to meal plan each week. Once you have leftovers, write them down in a place you can easily see them. This prevents them from ending up in the back of the refrigerator, only to be found weeks later. You can then reference your list when packing lunches or deciding on another dinner. It also helps when you have your family asking, “what is there to eat” at all hours of the day. Or is that just my house? Have them look at the list of what’s in the fridge.
- Know when to toss food. You have 3-4 days to eat up most leftovers except for fish and shellfish, which is 1-2 days. Keeping this in mind will help you become more mindful of what food you have. The FDA has this Refrigerator and Freezer Chart listing storage times for various foods. If you can’t eat everything right away, consider freezing it. But when freezing items, think of them as the food you will eat in the next few weeks. It helps you to remember what’s in your freezer.
With these tips in mind, here are some foods we often cook. Read on to learn how to repurpose leftovers.
How to Repurpose Leftovers
Here’s how to repurpose leftovers including turkey, chicken, and beef.
- Make a new side dish to go along with it.
- Soup – Boil some chicken broth, put in carrots, or any greens, and pasta. Add leftover chicken or turkey. Quick noodle soup!
- Burritos – Mix leftover beef, turkey, chicken with some beans and cheese.
- Quesadillas – Another family favorite. Chop up leftovers and have everyone create their own.
- Shred-it! Mix chopped chicken or beef with BBQ sauce and serve it on a bun.
- Sandwiches – look at the protein as a cold cut for sandwiches.
- Top a salad with the protein to bulk it up.
- Use it as a topping for a baked potato or sweet potato.
Pasta, Rice, Ancient Grains, Bread
- Put them in a salad. All grains work! Even a little bit adds some texture, and some even add protein.
- Make fried grains. Day-old is better for these recipes since the firm texture holds up better than frying. You can replace rice with quinoa and other grains in
- Make a casserole. Use leftover pasta or rice and mix it with some sauce and cheese and bake. This time, freeze any amount you won’t get to right away.
- Fry it up! Fried Pasta is delicious! Giada’s pasta nests are undoubtedly worth a try.
- I never met a bread that isn’t an excellent base for homemade pizza.
- Make a breakfast hash. Scramble or fry some eggs and throw the veggies in at the end to heat up.
- Mix with pasta and cheese. Almost all vegetables go with pasta and parmesan cheese.
- Use them as a topping on a sweet potato.
- Make a veggie burrito.
Have A Repurpose Leftovers Night.
- Buy a rotisserie chicken and serve with all of your leftovers as side dishes.
- Have a pizza night and use the leftovers as toppings.
What to Have on Hand to Repurpose Leftovers
There are a few items to have on-hand besides the pantry essentials to set yourself up for success. These will make any leftover into a different delicious meal!
- Eggs. My husband says a fried egg makes almost anything a meal. And there’s truth to that! Eggs are a protein that cooks up quickly.
- Beans. It helps to create your burrito, taco, salads. Beans are a healthy way to make meals more filling.
- Tortillas. Corn or flour. Wraps, burritos, tacos are all great for leftovers.
What Do You Think?
What do you think? Are you ready to save money and the environment and repurpose leftovers? What’s your favorite leftover meal?
Comment below; I’d love to hear all about it.
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