Throwing away uneaten food is like throwing away money, and none of us can really afford to do that; yet leftover foods often languish in the refrigerator, slowly moving past the point of edible. This is generally because nobody wants to eat the same meal over and over again. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Fortunately for frugally-minded moms and dime-pinching dads, there are plenty of tricks to turn leftover food into completely different meals, reducing waste and saving money. Below is a list of 8 tips recommended by smart cooks who know how to keep the food budget low and the flavor factor high.
Top Tips to Give Leftovers a New Life:
1. Consider a Casserole—
If your meal last night involved separate meat and vegetable dishes, don’t be afraid to combine them into a casserole by chopping them up, and then adding cheese, bread crumbs, eggs or whatever else sounds like it might work.
Some of the best recipes your family will love come from impromptu experiments such as these, so don’t be afraid to get creative. And if it works well, quickly write down the ingredients so you can recreate the magic again another time.
2. Contemplate a Quiche—
Extra veggies leftover, such as broccoli or cauliflower? A vegetable and cheese quiche is a great way to get healthy food into your family while using up side dishes that might have been thrown away.
As eggs are the main ingredient, a quiche offers plenty of protein, but if you want to include meat, such as bacon or diced ham, this will only enhance the cheesy deliciousness of your fluffy fare, so add ingredients freely.
3. Super Sandwiches—
To give last night’s meat dish a new life, dice it into small pieces or use a food processor if desired, add mayonnaise and seasonings, and… voila! You now have chicken or turkey salad, or perhaps even a fancy version of tuna salad featuring salmon or tilapia.
Hardboiled eggs, pickles, olives, celery or even capers can be added to give new life to meat-salad sandwiches, and don’t forget that lettuce and tomato can add a nice, fresh element.
4. Bring Back the Bread—
Breathe new life into stale bread by using it to make French toast: extra can even be refrigerated or frozen for later breakfasts.
When seasoned, cubed and toasted in the oven, bread you might have fed to the birds can now be added to salads for crunch and flavor.
Bread can also be dried, blended into crumbs and saved to use for coating chicken and fish. Making kids homemade chicken nuggets with your leftover breadcrumbs is an excellent way to not only save money, but feed them a healthier version this usually-processed favorite.
And don’t forget bread pudding, the old-fashioned dessert created expressly to use up bread before it expires. There are plenty of modern versions of this recipe out there—or you can always make up your own awesome new one.
5. Tortillas to the Rescue—
Whether you’re making wraps, fajitas or burritos, tortillas can serve as a wonderful way to present last night’s leftovers in an entirely original manner.
Adding salsa, cheese, avocadoes, tomatoes, lettuce, or sour cream to diced pieces of steak or chicken can turn baked, boring cuts of last night’s meat into a fun family fiesta!
Also: If you’ve turned leftover meat into a chicken, turkey or tuna salad, layer it with lettuce and tomatoes to make a fresh, healthy lunch wrap.
6. Pass the Pasta—
By keeping spare jars of marinara and Alfredo in the pantry, you can dice up last night’s dinner meat and vegetables and add them to a red or cream sauce. Feel free to throw in the mushrooms that need to be used before they go bad, or any other soon-expiring vegetables in your crisper to prevent waste.
By serving your saucy creation over good old affordable pasta, you’ll give your family a nutritious Italian-style meal that tastes nothing like last night’s dinner.
8. Bring It to Breakfast—
Scrambled or in an omelet, plenty of dinner items like cooked vegetables and diced meats can make a hearty and satisfying breakfast for the whole family.
Baked or grilled potatoes from last night’s dinner can be cut up, then fried or baked to create hash-browns or diced breakfast potatoes that go great with eggs, bacon, or biscuits and gravy.
With a creative mind and some crafty culinary moves, it’s easy to use up leftover food that might have been thrown away. Save money and eliminate pointless food waste with the helpful tips above to give leftovers a chance to become a new meal.