Tasty Trash: The $55 million Squawkfox Food Waste Challenge is a series aimed at helping your family save up to $1,500 this year by reducing food waste. The environment may also thank us. To start from the beginning, read the introduction.
Leftovers. Those uneaten consumables, odd pieces, and surplus scraps can often raise eyebrows, upturn nostrils, and elicit stink-eyes. I’m not sure why leftover food causes so much grief and disdain amongst the masses, ’cause personally, I love leftover food. Here’s why:
1. Buck pinchin’ money savers. Cooking meals while planning for leftovers can save you big dollars throughout the year since you’re taking advantage of economies of scale — one big batch of food can take less time and cost less to prepare than several smaller meals. Preparing larger portions also saves on energy costs associated with cooking food.
2. Clock tickin’ time savers. What’s for dinner, mom? A little bit of weekly meal planning and creative leftover reuse can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing meals. Cooking on weekends and freezing meal-sized portions for future family dinners can save you time.
3. Brain defreakin’ sanity savers. Planned leftovers are a big win for busy families because they can be taken to school or work for lunches. Deciding what’s for lunch is easy, and cuts the costs of eating out at restaurants.
But there are rules when it comes to reviving and surviving those once slighted leftovers, people. For starters, the Mayo Clinic advises you toss leftovers when they’ve languished for four days to help prevent food poisoning. Check out 5 Steps to a freshly frugal fridge for more food-safe leftover rules.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) sold you on the awesomeness of leftovers, let’s look at the many ways of making those odd pieces tasty for the many taste buds in your family. Here are 20 ways (with pictures) to love your slighted leftovers today.
1. Stretch ’em.
Whether you bake a chicken or braise a roast, finding ways to stretch that meat into multiple meals can be a tasty (and fun) money-saving adventure. Anyone can wing it and stretch a chicken until it clucks, and I proved that delicious things can happen if you mix that meat with the right ingredients.
2. It’s a wrap!
Become a rap (err, wrap) star by rolling your leftover bits into a spiral sandwich using a corn or whole wheat wrap. Those odd steak and ham pieces never looked so yummy. Add some rice, quinoa, lettuce, or tomato and call it lunch for less. A dollop of homemade hummus will make your spin on an otherwise plain sandwich a surefire hit!
3. Make a Sushi roll?
Is your fridge filled with too many salad fixings and raw veggie pieces? Get a little creative by rolling the raw in a Sushi Nori Seaweed Sheet. Dip in a little soya for fun and taste.
4. Egg it up.
Rescue last night’s meal by topping it with a simple hard boiled egg. Scrambled eggs make a great side for many dishes.
These two meals use the exact same ingredients: beef, spinach, cabbage, quinoa, and an egg. The first meal mixed an egg with leftover quinoa to create a funky pan fried quinoa cake. See How to cook quinoa (the tasty way) for the quinoa-cooking steps.
This second dish simply tops a hard boiled egg onto the reheated ingredients. Easy peasy thanks to my ridiculous gadget, The Egg Cooker.
5. Pizza pieces.
Could your leftovers become pizza toppings? Turkey, raw veggies, olives, cold cuts — layer ’em on a pizza shell (or an English muffin) and add a little tomato sauce and cheese.
6. Pasta perfect.
Simmer everything together in a cream or tomato sauce, and presto you’ve got pasta! OK, you’ve gotta cook some noodles too. Vegetarian options can be topped with beans.
7. Super salads.
Toss those pieces and bits with fresh leafy green lettuce leaves to freshen up leftover salmon, chicken, beans, and rice. A little balsamic salad dressing goes a long way.
8. Make a melt.
Make yesterday’s meal ooey gooey good by melting a little cheesy goodness on top. The broil feature on your oven was designed for this dish. Tuna lovers rejoice.
9. A simple stir fry.
Get a pan. Splat a spot of olive oil. Mix in a few fresh veggies and add in your leftovers for an easy-to-reheat stir fry dish. A dash of soya sauce or whatever spice that livens up your life is allowed.
10. Stock ’em in your slow cooker.
Is your fridge filled with carrots, onions, and celery oh my? Before they wilt from neglect, go ahead and soup ’em in your slow cooker and make the perfect stock.
11. Freeze that fruit!
Overripe bananas, strawberries, and any sugary fruit fares well in my tasty twist on homemade ice cream. Just don’t buy those costly Debbie Meyer Green Bags to keep your bananas from turning brown — those Green Bags don’t work.
12. Blend it with greens.
Kermit was wrong — it is easy being green! Spotted fruit can find new life when blended with a few choice greens and whipped up into a breakfast smoothie. Just don’t call it ‘frog in a blender’.
13. Bake some bread.
Banana bread, a frugal and tasty treat, is a great way to use up those brown bananas and ripe apples. Warning: the photos in this post may make ya drool.
14. Sauce it up!
Think outside the holidays by simmering a sweet (or tart) cranberry sauce to serve beside chicken, turkey, stew, or sandwich leftovers.
15. Add a side of Quinoa.
This light and fluffy side is ready to mix with any leftovers in 15 minutes or less. Adding a little curry to quinoa is a tasty variation on this easy-to-make dish too.
16. Brew a simple stew.
Mix those leftover potatoes or rice with chicken, beef or beans and you’ve got a simple stew. OK, add a can of tomatoes to make the sauce.
17. Crock Pots are cool.
Fire up your dusty crock pot or slow cooker to make a hands-free meal. Slow cookers breathe new life into unloved leftovers.
18. Dive into divine Quesadillas.
More like ques-A-delicious, people. Layer your leftovers between a tortilla, melt in some cheese, add a little homemade salsa and you’ve got a brand new meal.
19. Search by ingredient.
Looking for a recipe based on a leftover ingredient? Smart (yet stumped) cooks should check out allrecipies.com to search for the perfect dish for your leftover odds and ends. All the recipes are ranked and reviewed for your dining pleasure.
20. Add a few fresh herbs.
Sprinkle fresh parsley or basil on top of stews, soups, casseroles etc. to spin a second meal into something different. Or just add a few fresh herbs and reheat yesterdays dinner into something tasty for today. Garden-grown herbs can also be dried for soups and stews later in the year.
Your Turn: What’s your best tip for making yesterday’s leftovers delicious today?