How do you make leftovers feel less leftover-y?

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By: liz westCC BY 2.0
A lot of the Offbeat Home tips for cooking at home to save money, save time, and be more healthy require making a big batch of food and then eating part of it throughout the week.

While I’m totally fine with eating the same thing every night, my partner kind of turns up his nose at leftovers. He says he’s bored by the same meal the next day. Even if it’s not exactly the same — like using the same chicken but in enchiladas one day and in a salad the next.

I want to stop buying so much takeout food and frozen food a la Megan’s frozen pizzas.

Got any tricks for mixing your leftovers up MORE without making tons more work? -B

I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who aren’t so thrilled about leftovers, or eating the same thing over and over. Since ending the second challenge I think I might have found a possible solution to that…

I had often made too much of one certain ingredient — bulgar wheat, rice, and fake beef — for each one recipe. Because I had so much of one main ingredient for three different meals, I just mixed it up when it came to leftovers. One night I’d re-make the bulgar wheat salad, one night I’d re-make the vaguely Middle Eastern dinner, and one night I’d make the taco salad again. If I had more skillz I might have been able to make different recipes with the same main ingredient.

But the tl;dr version is make a large amount of ingredients (that keep well) for several different recipes so you can stagger your leftover usage throughout the week.

So Homies, what advice do YOU have for making leftovers feel less leftover-y?

Comments on How do you make leftovers feel less leftover-y?

  1. “Even if it’s not exactly the same — like using the same chicken but in enchiladas one day and in a salad the next.”

    What would he rather have? Something other than chicken? Or is there something about knowing it’s the same chicken that puts him off?

    If I have leftover meat, sometimes I’ll put the extra in the freezer and use it the next week instead of the next day. (If it needs to be shredded or whatever I find it’s easier/less aggravating to do that before you freeze it.)

  2. What if you cook the chicken (or whatever you’re going to have a lot of) relatively unspiced and then only add your herbs and spices to the portion that you’re going to be using for that meal? Then you could use different spices when you reuse it the next night. Maybe that would fool him into thinking it’s something totally different. Alternatively, you could just take on the job of leftover eater yourself and take the leftovers to work for lunch.

  3. Could the leftovers be blended with some stock and lentils and called soup? Or boiled with a bit of stock and called stew? Depending on what it is this might be a good way to make something feel different. This would mean the meal looked completely different and would be served in bowls rather than plates.

  4. I think salad and enchiladas are pretty darn different but I’m going to fight the urge to just say he should “get over it” ha ha. My family are leftover fanatics, though, so I might not be too much help (we literally have “clean out the fridge night” regularly where everyone just picks one of the leftovers out of the fridge).

    For one thing, stuff keeps a long time in the fridge – longer than you might think. I usually make the leftovers of the original thing a few days after we had it and have something different on the days between.

    I think the suggestions already made are also good, especially about spicing things differently for the second meal.
    I’m pretty proud of my recent leftover feat, so I’ll share it as an example: A couple weeks ago, I made some mixed veggies (garlic, onion, bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms), really thin beef filets (just seasoned with salt and pepper) and a side dish of spelt made like rice but in broth. Each was served separately, traditional-meal style. I remade the leftovers into a fried-rice kind of stir-fry by cutting the beef into little strips and then just throwing everything into a pan/wok with some soy sauce and sweet thai sauce (you could also use peanut sauce, teriyaki, whatever). Of course it was a bit chewier because it was spelt instead of rice but I could have used rice to start with. Anyway, what started out as a kind of Mediterranean thing turned into basically Asian-style fried rice.

    Some other tips:
    – adding cheese always makes things better (that’s why my family likes Goulash better AS a leftover – the original version doesn’t have cheese on it)
    – no one needs to know that ingredient xy is a leftover (I mean, you don’t have to lie if they ask, but sometimes what we don’t know won’t hurt us)
    – strong flavors can be a help
    – changing the format might help, though I think you’re already on that (i.e. chicken breast is served whole in the original meal, then in small pieces in a soup)

    I think leftovers always worked well in our family because my mom is a kick-ass cook and we just grew up with them. Everyone was always happy to eat that delicious meal a second time. That said – if you didn’t grow up that way, maybe it’s just hard to get accustomed to.

    • Haha… I’m on the ‘get over it’ side, too. I grew up in a family that had at least one ‘scrounge night’ every week wherein we cleaned out the fridge of leftovers in whatever combination each of us wanted. I’ll never forget how scandalized I was the first time I watched my fiancé’s mom throw out half a pot of spaghetti. I would have eaten it for days!

      In our household, I don’t do the throwing-perfectly-good-food-out thing. Even if it’s half a can of chicken broth, I can use it to cook delicious rice, lubricate some drier meat, or make a lunch-sized portion of soup. And since I grew up eating leftovers, I’ll happily make a giant recipe of soup for the two of us and finish it over the week. Pack it in our lunches one day, eat it again for dinner with homemade croutons and some pasta two days later. My fiance is getting better about it; as you say, when you don’t grow up with something, it’s a challenging switch.

      Speaking of soup, though, that’s a great way to deal with leftovers. Soup is never not delicious. If you have a bunch of random half-used veggies, throw them into some tomato sauce and chicken broth and you have minestrone! Add some pasta, beans, or meat to switch it up. Fajitas work similarly.

      Other suggestions:

      Reuse the food two or three days later, not the next day. Almost anything will still be fine if stored properly, but having chicken on Monday and Thursday feels a lot better than Monday and Tuesday. Introduce something new to the meal, too.

      Make sure the texture hasn’t changed too much. Nothing says bad leftovers like dry meat or droopy veggies. Use broth or cranberry jelly or applesauce to revive meat, toss veggies under the broiler to crisp a bit, etc.

  5. I’m also fighting the urge to tell you to tell him to “get over it”. My husband gets whiny about leftovers too, though, and me pointing out that many people don’t have someone who prepares food for them every night and worries about the health of said food does not seem to make him any more enthused about eating the same thing twice. 🙂

    I do make lots of things in bulk though. Especially things like rice, and if I cook chicken it is usually a whole one that I re-use in lots of ways. (Roast chicken for meal one, shredded chicken tacos for the second, chicken salad for lunch sandwiches, chicken soup made with the bones, etc.) With the chicken I’ve found that it’s really easy to freeze it in portions to re-use whenever, and eating leftover chicken two days later is more palatable for my spouse than having it every night. For stuff like rice, it helps to really change the taste of it up. So, say, if you have plain brown rice with your roast chicken on night 1, doing a curry dish over leftover rice, or an Asian fried rice dish, feels more different than plain rice again. If there is still rice leftover for the next few days, you can even do something like turn it into a dessert; rice pudding is easy to make and very yummy and can even be made vegan with coconut milk or almond milk instead of cream.

    Also…eggs are my friends. Leftovers are way better to my hubby when incorporated into an omelet, no matter what they are. I’ve made roast pork and collard green omelets, taco omelets, corned beef and cabbage omelets…you can get really creative with it. You can also make a frittata instead of an omelet, it’s pretty easy to do and delicious. Casseroles are great, too…my mom used to make them with leftovers all the time and I actually usually liked them better than the original meal. Anything you have+rice+cream of mushroom soup and cheese=yummy!

    If you have just a little of something left (like cooked veggies or a little portion of meat) you can keep a large freezer bag in the freezer and just toss that stuff in as you accumulate it. Once you have a full bag…thaw, add some stock, and it’s soup time!

    And finally, when I’ve made a big batch of something and don’t want to waste…I freeze individual lunch-sized portions for later in the week or even month. Just make sure you label what it is and when you froze it. It’s good to have healthy home made options for lunches when things get hectic, just as important as good food for supper. And having the leftovers several days later for lunch is less boring than having them the next night.

    And also (and I may be wrong about this, so someone correct me if I am) you should be careful about how often you heat leftovers. You wouldn’t want to, say, make a fritatta out of leftover chicken and squash, and then toss the leftover fritatta in the fridge to heat up again for your lunch the next day. At least according to my mom, leftovers should only be heated once, not heated up and cooled down over and over again. So be sure that you portion out your leftovers so you can cook with them accordingly rather than heating a large portion up more than once.

    • I’m slightly on the ‘get over it’ team too… or at least, assuming that you live together and spend food money together, ask him politely what exactly are his ideas for saving money if he doesn’t want to use leftovers.

    • According to my brother, who’s in culinary school, what you lose when you reheat food several times is flavor quality, not safety. Consider, if you shop in a regular grocery store, all that meat you buy was once frozen. Then you go home and freeze it again. And you’re still here. Though I admit I get a little anxious and try not to reheat things too many times, I’ve never been sick from heating things up a couple times.

      Refreezing seriously breaks down cell walls, too, so it will do awful things to texture. I don’t personally think carrots or potatoes freeze well at all

  6. The trick is to do a variety of meats/proteins over the course of time, not serving the same meat-type three or more nights in a row. That creates boredom for the brain, no matter how differently it’s served – it’s still chicken no matter what you throw it in.

    The freezer is your friend – it’s perfectly okay to freeze leftovers in whatever serving size is appropriate for your household, put dates on it, and have an arsenal of “frozen dinners” ready for next week or three months from now.

  7. I echo the suggestions for freezing. I don’t mind eating the same thing a few days in a row, but even I have my limits. So when I’m making a really big batch of something, I try to keep it freezer-friendly. Then I freeze small portions. Soup that may get dull three days in a row is enjoyable again three weeks later.

    Even if you need to get an additional freezer for this, it could be worth the money it saves you. I know that the cost of our second freezer was quickly made up for with the ability to stock up more when things were on sale, freeze more produce and leftovers, etc.

  8. Our leftovers are used for lunch rather than dinner. I send my fiance off to work with extra that I made the night before. I know that if we tried to have it for dinner he’d object (and I probably would too, I like variety!) but for a quick lunch he can heat up at work, for some reason it doesn’t matter so much. We also freeze extra batches in individual portions, but on the whole, they are used for lunch. This means we both look forward to something new and nice each evening when we sit down together to eat and talk about our day, but the leftovers aren’t wasted and we don’t just have boring sandwiches for lunch – we don’t have to think about making it as it’s already made!

    • Yeah, for whatever reason, the psychology of lunch (at work) vs dinner/ home meals is really different for me too.
      For work, I’ve already chosen what to do and carefully packaged it and lugged it around my morning commute. So even if it’s a “meh” choice, it’s an already-done meh choice. So I just scarf it down and continue about my day.
      For dinner I could theoretically cook or buy anything, so my “meh” options are a lot less appealing.

  9. In all honesty, there is no way to make 4 nights of chilli seem like anything other than 4 nights of chilli. I get the appeal in making a big batch of food and having it there for you for the rest of the week, but if you arent consuming it, that’s money down the drain. If you aren’t enjoying it, then what’s the point? Food shouldn’t just be fuel for your body, it’s a sensory experience that is supposed to make you feel alive, and there’s something about the same pre-cooked slurry 4 nights in a row that makes that harder.
    Leftovers aren’t for everyone, but you’re on the right track with cooking at home. I think that you, like most people these days, has built up cooking a meal every night to being this huge ordeal that it really isn’t. Think about eating in a mid-level family restaurant. Not the fine dining kind, and not the mostly-pancakes-and-bacon joints, but the places that turn out meals from more or less real ingredients in about 15 minutes, almost every time. Think about the systems they have in place to bring you a full meal only minutes after asking for it! The biggest reason* isn’t that food is cooked before it’s ordered, but that the ingredients are prepped. Prepping is the key to making meals that taste fresh but come out fast. It’s not as hard as you think, all you need to do is take the time you have been spending making one big meal, and spend it being your own prep cook!

    Instead of taking one day to prep a big cooked meal, prep ingrediants for small meals that will feed two people without any leftovers. When you buy meat, freeze bags of two chicken breasts, half a pork tenderloin, and some reasonable ground beef portions. Chop a few up for stir frys and curry dishes, or even go a step further and freeze your meat with a marinade in the bag, so it tenderizes as it thaws! Cut a tupperware container worth of mirepoix (carrot, celery and onions chopped) and keep it in the fridge for easy sauce making. Keep pre-chopped veggies in the fridge so you can steam/sautee/roast them a different way each day without getting bored. It takes only a few minutes to steam veggies and toss them in seasoning, and the taste is brilliant. Make a batch of rice in advance if you need to, but with my rice cooker I rarely find that 20 mins is too long to wait for good rice. One cup of rice seems to be perfect to feed myself and my boyfriend. Peel and chop a couple potatos and keep them in a container of water in the fridge, and you can toss them in a roaster easily all week. Instead of making pasta sauce and tossing the pasta in it before storing, make your sauce and store it on its own. Cook some pasta ahead of time until it is just a little underdone, and then submerge it in ice water to cool. When you’re ready for dinner, plunge the pasta back into a hot water bath and let it go for maybe a minute. The difference in taste and texture is monumentally better than leftover tossed pasta, especially if it’s been frozen. Sauces freeze well and heat fast, but try to keep any rice, veggies or meats sepperate until serving.

    Homemade fridge/freezer meals are a great alternative to frozen pizza, don’t get me wrong, but after years of working in restaurants, and watching empty plates turn into meals in 15 minutes or so, cooking a meal for yourself really doesn’t seem so hard. Using time-saving tricks like being my own prep cook allows me to get home from work, pull out a few ingredients and produce a healthy meal in a half hour or less. It’s just routine to me, and to be honest I’m willing to put in that effort. What else is on your busy schedule that is so important that it supercedes taking care of yourself and fueling your mind and body? Because those things don’t tend to go very well if you are undernourished and full of distain for flavourless and boring food.

    *as a note, some restaurants totally swear by pre-cooking food and plating it to order, it just hasn’t been my experience in places that I have worked.

    • I’m also from the diner trenches, so I can verify this! Without prep-cooks, there would be no “home cooked fast food”. Prepping everything to be ready throughout the week at home on a Sunday afternoon will save you through that week. Trust us!

    • Thank you so much for this! I really really really hate leftovers (trauma from childhood leftovers I think!), and would rather cook exactly what I need for the night than eat it leftover (though hubs will eat any extras lying about). I love the idea of spending time doing all the prepping ahead of time, and then making the dinner each day you want it. Such a great idea, and one I think I can get behind!

      • Anytime, I’m always happy to impart the wisdom of the food industry, so others can spare themselves the horrifying nightmares and rampant alcoholism that go along with the job.

  10. When I was growing up, my mom made the most of every single thing we ate. Now that I’m a grown up/old lady, I can see that she was planning ahead. She cooked things with a complete mission in mind for how she could re-serve them as leftovers. For instance, mom would make spaghetti sauce and cooked spaghetti – keeping them separate. She would freeze any leftovers sauce and serve with seashell pasta, sort of like goulash later a few weeks in the future. She would take the leftovers spaghetti pasta and make homemade mac & cheese with it (our FAVORITE way to eat mac & cheese is with spaghetti pasta and even today my brother and I request “spaghetti & cheese”).

    My mom used leftover taco meat in chili, leftover mashed potatoes as potato cakes, leftover roast or round steak in vegetable soup.

    One of my recent successes was that I really wanting something homemade for supper. Definitely something saucey! I had in my freezer some leftover taco meat. I also had in my fridge a little dabble of leftover spaghetti sauce and a half of a bell pepper. I combined the taco meat, the leftover spaghetti sauce, a can of diced tomatoes & a little bit of chopped bell pepper in a pot and heated until the pepper was softened. When I make white rice, I put leftovers in my freezer in freezer bags because it warms up so great, so I served this saucey combination over rice. It was a FEAST! I’ll definitely do that again.

    I also have recently started making pizza boats with any leftover buns we may have. I slice and toast the buns in my broiler. Then add sauce, toppings, cheese, and bake until the cheese melts. These are just terrific.

    I use leftover/stale bread and make my own freezer french toast, rebagging cooked french toast in the bread bag and storing in the freezer.

    I think planning ahead for leftovers is key. Make something that you know how to reuse as leftovers and you don’t even realize they are leftovers, but they are stretching your grocery budget that way.

    It’s actually pretty fun to combine the stuff you have in your fridge “on the fly” and create a delicious supper that is almost free!

    Other things I make to remake:

    * a pot of pinto beans BECOMES chili, taco pizza, freezer burritos
    * little bits of vegetables saved in the freezer BECOME free soup
    * leftover taco meat BECOMES chili, freezer burritos, etc.
    * leftover round steak BECOMES vege/beef soup
    *leftover beef/roast BECOMES hot beef plate (brown gravy/beef served over bread/mashed potatoes)
    *leftover chicken BECOMES chicken salad, chicken soup, enchiladas, chicken nachos
    *any leftover vegetables can BECOME quiche

    Thanks for the great post. Love that it gets my brain working!


    • YES YES YES! Planning is key. I use to freak out and overwork myself making a “meal” for my husband’s lunches for each day of the week, and it dawned on me that leftover could be dinner. So I plan Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday dinners as potential leftovers. So here are my tips:

      1) Start big- go smaller. If you are making chicken, then going to use the leftovers later in the week, I would shred it. Or if I make a huge pot of beans I might use whole beans at first, then make hummus/dip or refried beans later in the week.

      2) Learn to how to roll a burrito. If you do you can learn many ways to rework wraps and burritos. So if I have leftover stew or soup, I might strain the liquid and use the veggies and beans in it. So I might wrap it up with lettuce and veggies one day, then maybe rice and beans to the next day.

      3) Stratas are another way to use left over veggies. It can be used for breakfast, which is pretty tasty.

      4) Freezers are your friend. Freeze some of you leftover chicken, rice, or beans. That way you can use it when you want and you don’t have to have leftover chili all week. Because that will eventually drive you crazy.

  11. What about an every-other-night leftover schedule? Say you do something with ground beef on Monday and Wednesday, then something with chicken on Tuesday and Thursday? Your leftovers will be totally fine in the fridge for that long, just keep them sealed nice n’ tight to prevent moisture loss.

    • This is what we typically do. Also we’ve been lucky enough to find about 20 or so meals to rotate through that we LIKE enough to eat more than once! Honestly, I’m sad when the veggie pesto pizza, veggje lasagna, mushroom black bean tacos, or the dal is gone.

  12. I try to make double of items (twice as much chili as needed, two lasagnas instead of one) and freeze the second in individual portions, or even as a whole. Or if I’m using the grill, I tend to cook several meats at a time, and even throw on a grill pan full of veggies. That way I make the most of the charcoal I’m using, and I have variety for the next several days ahead.

    I second the comment above about omelets, but often I use leftover meats and veggies to make a breakfast scramble without eggs. I often serve this over some type of greens. This morning it was some leftover pork roast mixed with leftover grilled onions and peppers served over pak choi greens.

  13. Have him cook every night for a couple of weeks and try to come up with something brand new everyday! I imagine his appreciation for leftovers will grow.

    And/or freeze things :). I love having a back stock.

    • Seriously! My husband doesn’t eat leftovers hardly ever, and he’s going to be off for a few weeks soon (the lull between summer school and regular school). I think I may have him do this. If he would understand the difficulties of coming up with each meal, planning for the ingredients, taking our budget into account while grocery shopping, so on and so on, I think he might be more willing to go for leftovers.

    • My husband was a total leftovers-bigot until our son was born, then he took over about 90% of the cooking for our household.
      Now we eat leftovers several times a week. We still don’t eat them as often as we could, but for the most part he tends to cook dinners that are just enough to feed our little family of 3 without much leftovers.

  14. TeaCake is so right! We are evolutionarily programmed to seek variety in order to ensure we receive proper nutrition and don’t overload on any single micronutrient. I’m the person in my household to become bored with food very quickly, so I make every effort to change my daily diet.

    Salads are my (and hopefully your) friend: it’s incredibly easy to change the toppings and dressing daily to increase variety. You can make your dressings in advance and keep them in mason jars in the refrigerator. Things like jarred olives, artichokes and sundried tomatoes as well as carrots and celery keep for a very long also. You can buy dried fruits and nuts in bulk, and they last (nearly) forever. You can make your protein ahead of time and change it up as needed. Soup is also your friend, because it freezes so well. Eggs, especially in the form of omelettes and frittatas, are a great way to use up leftovers (as enigma said, adding cheese makes everything better!). Good luck!

  15. My dad and sister have actual hyper-sensitivities when it comes to taste and other senses. Both of them, very literally, can barely stomach leftovers. I’ve watched both of them take a mouthful of chicken or soup from the night before and spit it out because they say “it tastes old.” They can detect the tiny, minute changes in taste and texture that happen when something sits, and they can’t stand it (my sister has ASD, and that can apparently be one of the symptoms in some people). The absolute only way my family has been able to work around it is to basically take something and smother it in new flavors. Mainly sauces. That’s it. If they eat chicken grilled one night, the next night it gets chopped up and smothered in BBQ sauce. The problem then is that hypersensitive people often can’t handle spices and strong favors either, so it’s been a struggle on that end too.

    In my experience, you basically have to totally change the ingredients. If you want to reuse, say, chicken, if it’s the main thing on the plate the first night, if you reuse it, chop it up or otherwise incorporate it into something where its not the main event. For example, like if you have grilled chicken or something one night, you can reuse the small pieces in something like an arroz con pollo, where chicken is in the dish but the rice and veggies really make the meal.

    But just an aside – I wouldn’t presume he’s being picky or snotty or tell him to “get over it.” I didn’t know for a long time that there are actual physical conditions that can impact how things taste to people. If he’s open to it, he can always get a medical evaluation to make sure there isn’t anything that might be impacting his sense of taste in a way that makes his (and your) life harder! It was a big help to our family when we realized that my sister, in particular, wasn’t being picky but really can’t eat a lot of things we were enjoying.

    • That’s super interesting – thanks for sharing!

      In that case, it seems like SmashedTogether’s suggestions would be the way to go. Basically storing the leftovers while they’re still raw ingredients instead of cooked ones.

  16. I hate leftovers. Hate them. There are certain things that I can re-heat, but otherwise I’m not a fan – except for reimagining them. I’ve gotten pretty creative with how I do things – and sandwiches/wraps are my go-to. I do love grilling up chicken at the beginning of each week and then heating some up for lunches to go on salad, in wraps, or just as grilled “nuggets” with a dipping sauce. I like to take roast beef and then chop it up for an Arby’s inspired sandwich the next day. Those types of remakings make it easier for me to eat leftovers. The other thing that has helped is that we have slowly learned that we don’t have to eat the same things. So, if I make sloppy joes, my husband will eat those for a week straight, while I mix up my leftovers very strategically to limit how often I eat the same thing.

  17. Step 1: If you have room for it, GET A DEEP FREEZE. It will be awesome.
    Step 2: Intentionally make at least twice as much food as you want, especially for chili, casseroles, enchiladas, soups…. OR just acccidentally make too much stuff, that works too
    Step 3: Freeze! If you have the foresight, freeze half your food before you even cook it. If you don’t, freeze your leftovers
    Step 4: Wrap those leftovers well, and make sure to label and date them. Put cooking directions if needed.
    Step 5: Next time you’re in the mood for chili or homemade mac and cheese or whatever, just pull it out of the freezer!

    Don’t go crazy freezing until you figure out what tastes good thawed and what doesn’t (most stuff is good, but my paleo lasagna with zucchini noodles was awful, too much moisture in the noodles) and I wouldn’t make quadruple servings of a new recipe cuz what if it sucks? But if you made a big pot of chili or shredded chicken and you just can’t look at it day too, toss it in your freezer. Bonus points if you stock up on individual serving sized Tupperware and dole everything out into little containers, those work great for lunch. You don’t need an extra freezer for this, the standard size works too, you just can’t have quite as much of a backlog. If you get into a rhythm of freeze two extra meals a week and thaw two frozen meals a week, you can have a lot more variety in your weekly diet without too much work.

  18. My recommendation is think outside the box, and back to basic ingredients. My leftover hamburgers got turned into the meat in my spaghetti the other night. Leftover spaghetti sauce has in more than one occasion been put on bagels for shameless pizzas. My mother keeps sending potato salad home with me every time I visit her so my new thing is putting the potato salad in a non-stick pan and basically making tangy has-browns.

  19. My apologies if someone already suggested these, but here is how my mom (the expert in my family) did meals in our house.

    First, grocery shopping and recipe planning was based on what was on sale. Once the ingredients were obtained, all of the meals for the week were cooked on Sunday. She usually did about three or four meals at a time. I am still impressed with that. We would rotate through eating them for dinner and taking them for lunch. Because there were four of us, we only had to eat the same thing maybe twice. Maybe you could just cook one or two meals, if it’s just the two of you? Then at the end of the week depending on what was left, she would make soup, fried rice, or a frittatta for the weekend dinners. Some poultry and root vegetables turned into soup..just some smatterings of protein turned into fried rice…and if we had a lot of potatoes, we usually did a frittatta. Beef Stew can make a really good frittatta.

  20. We usually plan our weekly meals (based on sales, wants, and schedules) then I set aside one night that is “leftover” night. It usually later in the week and it’s one day where your plate is a weird mishmash of vegetables, various proteins, a slice of lasagna, etc. My mom always did this before trash day as a way of cleaning out the fridge.

  21. I have a couple of go to dishes for left over containment. My favorite is risotto. You can put anything in this. I start with a rather plain, no frills base and then stir in the flavorings/left overs. Sautee some onions and/or garlic in olive oil, add your rice (Arborio rice works well and is easy to find in most supermarkets), some wine (there’s usually a little left in the bottle around my place), and start stirring in the chicken or vegetable broth. As the risotto nears completion, you can stir in left over meat or veggies. You can serve risotto as a meal or a side dish depending on what you put in it. I tend to load it up for a one-dish meal.

    Hash is another good leftover user. This is a great way to use left over potatoes or other starchy vegetables. If I do a meal with baked potatoes, I’ll sometimes intentionally do a few too many with the plan to make some hash. Again, start by sautéing onions and/or garlic in oil. Chop your veggies into bite sized pieces, add to the onions, and sauté until warmed through and crispy. Season to taste with whatever fresh or dried herbs you have on hand (add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for some pleasant heat). You can stir in left over meat if you want, just chop it into bite sized pieces. Serve with a poached egg and you’ve got a full meal.

  22. I will also add that pesto is a nice way to use up fresh herbs you have lying around your crisper drawer. The basic recipe is aromatic herbs, oil, (usually) garlic, cheese, and nuts. Traditionally pesto is basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. I have had luck with a variety of herb/oil/nut/cheese combinations. One of my favorites is spinach/basil/walnuts. Use pesto as a sauce for pasta, spread it on sandwiches, or use it to top roasted or grilled vegetables.

    Chimichurri is pesto’s South American meat loving cousin. It’s another herb and oil combination. Traditionally it’s parsley based, and used as a condiment with red meat. Like pesto, you can use almost anything. One of my favorite combinations is cilantro and mint chimichurri sauce with lamb chops.

  23. I usually incorporate leftovers from the previous night into my bento lunch for the following day. Sometimes it’s pretty easy the components are very general (ie extra lasagna noodles from one night meats extra ground turkey from another) and sometimes it lets me come up with rather unique and tasty creations. For instance, we had leftover sloppy Joe meat to use, but no buns. So I look some corn tortillas from another meal and invented sloppy Joequitos for lunch. I post stuff on my tumblr page if you want to see how they look (spoiler they tasted great).

  24. The only cooked leftovers I ever have are meats (mostly from Sunday roasts), and I have found that curries (and other Asian dishes) are *amazing* for using up meat that is no longer exciting on its own. So much of the flavour comes from the spices that it’s easy to mix things up from one meal to the next, without changing any of the main ingredients.

    I am one of those annoying people who is squeamish about cold leftovers and will never, ever eat them straight out of the fridge, but have really come round to them as cooking ingredients. Trying to turn a single chicken into three or four completely different meals is always a fun challenge!

    (Also, useful tip for anyone who finds themselves with leftover cooked rice: egg-fried rice actually works better with cold rice cooked the day before. I didn’t believe this until I tried it, but it really does seem to produce more consistent results. Sadly, I lack the necessary self-control around rice to have any leftover…)

    • …Freezing stuff for later, on the other hand, tends to work out less well, as my freezer is essentially the Valley of the Lost where bags of frozen stuff go to die. If society crumbles but the electricity keeps working, I will be living well on long-forgotten soups for *months*.

  25. Two meats or no meats! My house has this same issue with most foods. So when I know I am going to have lots of left overs, I pack a few of them up in lunch sized containers for me to take or for hubby to grab. I pack everything else separate so I can add it to other things later in the week. I also know that if I make a whole chicken, I need to decide what I am doing with the left overs a head of time. We could have tacos one night, then casserole a day or two later. in between then I have to have a different meat otherwise they will still “know” it’s the same chicken. And making something completely different and changing the spices helps. So does telling the snubbing spouse that if they want something else they can buy and cook it themselves… just sayin’ you should see the photo of my hubby’s fail burgers. They were so cute.

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