Budget Living: What to Do with Leftovers?

Waste not, want not.

That’s what our grandmothers used to say. It’s the basic premise that if you use up what you have, you won’t find yourself in need. While I am not sure that one exactly follows the other, it is true that avoiding waste is good stewardship and will save you money. There are lots of ways to do this, particularly if you’re practiced at recycling and repurposing items that might otherwise hit the dumpster.

Using up leftover food is a great way to conserve. If your family can consume extra meal items before they go bad, you will avoid throwing money away. It’s that simple.

But, what do you do if your family doesn’t like the sound of “leftovers?”

Here are some guidelines to using up leftovers:

** The food must be fresh. Back in my food service/catering/restaurant days, the rule of thumb was three days. Throw it out after three days. It’s not worth food poisoning. If you don’t remember how old it is, then chuck it. Or as my bosses used to say, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Having a meal plan on your frig will help you remember. If you don’t already have a day by day plan, at least mark when you had what so you can be sure to eat it up quickly.

** Pack lunches with leftovers. This is a great way to practice good stewardship and save lunch money.

** Make your own TV dinners. If you know you made too much, as soon as dinner is over, package up meal-size portions, wrap well for freezing, and pop them into cold storage. I do this often with meals I know only I like. Then I have lots of lunches that only I like.

** Make something new with what’s left. And I’m not talking about Mystery Meat or Hamburger Surprise. Lots of delicious meals can be made from a previous meal. Leftover veggies and meats can be incorporated into casseroles, quiches, soups, and stews. Leftover roast chicken or beef make a fantastic fillings for tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. Leftover rice and chicken or pork go great in fried rice. Grilled chicken and roasted veggies will top a pizza or fill a sandwich beautifully. Blend fruit salad into a smoothie, leftover veggies into a pasta sauce. Tonight’s taco meat can go into tomorrow’s chili or spaghetti sauce. The options are virtually endless!

Think through what your family likes to eat and chances are you can find a way to make last night’s dinner new again.

Home Ec 101: Soup from Leftovers

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  1. Great ideas–thanks!

  2. JessieLeigh says:

    I almost always plan my meals based on what I know will be leftover, reusing the foods in new ways. I do occasionally hit a speed-bump when my family eats more than I expected though!

  3. These are some great ideas for leftovers! I like the Grilled chicken and roasted veggies for pizza. One thing that me and my husband do alot is we always make single size portions of the leftovers and freeze them in small containers. My husband can then just pop one in his backpack (he’s still in school) and by the time it has thawed out it is lunch time and he can just pop it in a microwave at school for a minute or two and he has a cheap, healthy, fast lunch.

    Another thing we do alot is with leftover white rice we turn it into sweet rice in the morning. We just put cold rice in a bowl and pour a little milk over the top and then add some sugar or I really like it with cinnamon and sugar. Its a great way to get rid of your rice, my kids LOVE it!


  4. Mrs. Pear says:

    Okay, this is too funny, I just blogged about wanting to do a better job using up leftovers and generally cutting back on waste in the kitchen!

    THanks for the refresher of ideas and thoughts!

  5. keeperofthehome says:

    Oh gosh, that picture is just too funny! I love that big hunk of meat just staring at me through the question mark, LOL!

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