April 25, 2012

Wasteless Wednesday: Eat Your Leftovers!

It always amazes me when someone says they don't eat leftovers. I mean, if you ate it the first time, what's wrong with the second time? To me the argument is pretty lame. They tell me, I just don't want to eat the same thing twice in a row. Okay, fine. So change it up~ Upcycle your leftovers! You'll save money and waste less...

I know that it's important to eat healthy foods. Pinterest is full of recipe ideas that would make our moms and grandmothers ask 'What in the world is that?'. We've come a long way, baby! Most of us don't have meatloaf night anymore, and canned tuna and soup recipes are something we joke about. But I love my comfort food! I live in the south and learned to love grits a long time ago. We eat gator, frog legs and a lot more things that would make some people cringe and horrify a vegan. My sweetie wants a t-shirt that says PETA, but this one stands for People Eating Tasty Animals. I know, that's awful. But you can't help but snicker just a little, can you?

Okay, some of you might not. Anyway, my point is that no matter what your personal food choices are, you can find a way to eat your leftovers if you use some imagination and throw in a few new ingredients. I can throw together hundreds of variations of stir-fry from just about anything left from the night before. So that's my first tip:

1. Stir-Fry! Anything goes in a stir-fry. Whatever meat (or meat substitute) you have left can be thinly sliced or cut into chunks, mixed with fresh or leftover veggies and a bit of seasoning to become a new dish. If I have leftover sides like baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta or rice, it goes in too! Or put the stir-fry on top of it. Yum.

2. Real Men Eat Quiche! Okay, we've heard that joke, but it's true. And kids will too. We're not talking Quiche Lorraine or fancy schmancy (is that a real word?) quiche. But a variation of something more like what I ate when I was a kid. My uncle would take leftover hamburger, onions, potatoes and scrambled eggs, throw it all in a skillet and that was supper. We lived off food like that, and many loaves of white bread from the Piggly Wiggly. But you could take it up a notch by not scrambling the eggs ahead and adding cheese, whatever leftovers you have, then pour it into a pie crust, bake it and voila! Quiche! Or you can tell your kids it's Scrambled Egg Pie. Whatever.

3. Speaking of Pie~ Shepherd's Pie. Another of my all-time favorite comfort foods. And the old-fashioned beef style is just one version. Try it with anything! Just start with a layer of cut-up chicken, turkey, pork or even fish, add gravy, white sauce, cheese sauce, etc., put it in a casserole dish, add a layer of leftover veggies and then some fresh or leftover mashed white or sweet potatoes on top. Then a layer of cheese, or if you used sweet potatoes, try some crushed pecans with cinnamon and brown sugar. Bake it in the oven. Now that's some seriously good pie. Nom, nom.

4. Everyone loves a good casserole dish. I can't imagine anyone that doesn't have a favorite recipe for at least one. But to me a recipe is just an idea I can run with. It's like when we see a DIY we like. You say, yeah, that's really cool, but if it were me I'd do it like this. Recipes should be the same way. Don't be afraid to substitute ingredients. It's not like a chemistry experiment that might blow up if you put the wrong thing or amount in. Usually anyway.

Here in the south, every event is an excuse to bring a "dish". And I don't mean a date. I attended one recently and there were ten different styles of macaroni and cheese! Some with broccoli, peas, some with ham, bacon and even spam (I know some of you are freaking out just at the mention). Some had toppings like onions, french onions, bread crumbs, bacon bits and more cheese. I tried them all (yes, even the one with spam) and couldn't decide which was my favorite (the spam one wasn't a contender). Point is: Experiment!

5. Toss a salad together. Just about anything can be put in a salad. Leftover meat can be the topping of Caesar, Cobb or Taco salad. Leftover steamed veggies can be tossed with pasta and hardboiled eggs. Leftover spaghetti or any noodles can also be used for a pasta salad!

6. Soup. Who doesn't remember one of the all time favorite episodes of Seinfeld? Yes, you know the one..."The Soup Nazi". "No soup for you!" Too funny.

Soup has to be one of the easiest things to make from leftovers! You can make your own broth if you have meat left with the bone in. Or use canned or packaged broth. Add leftover veggies, potatoes, noodles, rice, etc. Season it to taste. Homemade soup. If you have leftover bread, make your own garlic bread to go with it, or try cubing it and making your own croutons. Simple and delicious!

7. Freeze it! This has to be the best solution to your finicky leftover eaters. Save it for another time! One way is to make a casserole from them and then freeze it. Another is to follow a tip from About.com and put a "Scrap Soup" container in your freezer. Add ingredients to it whenever you have a little something, something left. When it's full, throw it in a pot and make soup!

I've added links to a variety of sites for leftover ideas, so look closely! They're not all the same, so you can find lots of ideas and the sites themselves have hundreds, if not thousands, more! Food is a terrible thing to waste, so many have none, do your part to Waste Less!

Remember the poor and hungry, especially during holidays and either donate items or time to food kitchens or pantries. Help in community gardens or donate surplus from your own garden.

Have a great Wasteless Wednesday and week!


  1. Thanks for posting this. I have a personal 'thing' about wasting food -- I just find it very 'distasteful' (heh ;-)) to do so, and will go to the ends of the earth to avoid it! As such I've become pretty ingenious in figuring out palatable ways to use up leftovers -- many of them you have listed here. Great advice for all!

  2. Living alone you learn how wonderful leftovers can be! Usually I cook a dish on Sunday and have enough for my weekly dinners. Quick and easy. If I don't get around to eating it all I freeze meal sized portions!

    I have been a vegetarian for 17 years but I do not care what others eat and think that PETA people are a bit insane! I make shepards pie using a mixture of lentils and mushrooms in place of meat. Heavenly comfort food!

  3. I was a vegetarian for several years in the 80's and ate a whole lot of lentils~ I even made lentil meatloaf!

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