Using leftovers is important for any household food budget. Most households throw away far too much good food. But, you don’t have to. If you plan in advance to use the leftovers you create, you won’t waste food and can likely double how long your food lasts.
* Plan Ahead – Using leftovers in the most budget-friendly way means that you should know what you’re cooking, when you’re cooking it, how to store it best, and what you will do with the leftovers and when. So, if you’re making pizza tonight, you might want to save some of the sauce and cooked veggies to add to your vegetable soup tomorrow.
* Transform Them – Some things make great leftovers just as they are. But the truth is, if you transform your leftovers based on your plan, you can make meals that do not seem like leftovers at all. For example, if you make rice tonight for dinner, it’s best eaten like it is because it’s fresh, fluffy, and delicious. Tomorrow it will be hard and will not have the same texture. But the new texture is perfect for stir-fry. Throw your leftover rice in a pan with a bunch of veggies, a squirt of sesame oil and it’ll seem as if this is a brand-new meal.
* Know Your Ingredients – The foods that you want to be leftovers are foods that improve their flavor and texture over time. This is true of soups, stews and it’s also true of spicy dishes which get spicier with time. If you know your ingredients, you can know exactly how to reuse them when you cook with them.
* Label Your Leftovers – When you store your leftovers, the best way to ensure that you’re going to use them is to use your plan and then label them. For example, if you’re saving rice for stir-fry, put on the label, “rice for stir-fry”. Include the date so that you know when you need to use something by.
* Know the Best Storage Methods – Each type of leftover has a best storage method. For example, when it comes to beans and grains you should freeze them. This works great for beans since it’s less expensive to make beans yourself than buy them in a can. But, if stored incorrectly they can become mushy. Drain them and rinse them before storing. Then you can simply take them out of the freezer and toss into your recipes.
* Make Soup – Leftovers are almost always good in soup. Leftover broccoli can easily become a delightful creamed soup. Just throw the broccoli in a high-speed blender with almond milk, vegan butter, and use leftover cooked onions to give it even more flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste, make some bread or rolls, and enjoy a fast meal. If you don’t have a high-speed blender like a Vitamix, you can blend it in a regular blender then heat over the stove.
* Make a Wrap – Another great thing to do with almost any type of leftovers is to combine them into a wrap. Get a flour tortilla (or another type of prepared wrap, even lettuce leaves) and add leftover veggies, rice, beans, some salsa, and even throw some leftover salad in it and you’ve got an easy meal – all from leftovers.
* Create a Casserole – These are one-pan dishes that just need a bit of creativity. Mixing any type of starch, veggies, and cheese, with a crunchy topping on top made of breadcrumbs will almost always be good.
If you want to do better with leftovers, think of them during your meal planning. Think about what you’re cooking, and plan for using the leftovers in the meal the following evening. If you plan it right, you can cook once, then just prepare the following day – saving time, electricity, and your sanity.