Friday, October 16, 2009

Love Those Leftovers

Maybe it's the name. Leftovers. Doesn't sound so appealing. It could also be that oftentimes leftover meals disappear into the recesses of the refrigerator and only emerge with a layer of slime and/or fuzzy mold. That would make anyone leery of leftovers, I guess. Does anyone have any ideas of what led to leftover prejudice? Anyone? Anyone? (By the way, I know the leftovers in the background of this picture don't look super-appetizing. Soup never looks good as a leftover. Don't judge. The microwave can do wonders.)

Two things got me thinking about leftovers, thus inspiring this post: 1) Eating leftovers was mentioned as a method for saving on groceries in the book I'm reading; and 2) I was watching The Incredibles this past Sunday and there's the part at the kitchen table, during 'leftover night'. It must be a sign. So here are a few ways to love (and actually eat) those leftovers.
  • The first solution is to adjust your recipes so you don't make nearly as much, thus avoiding too much left over. Sometimes I'll cut recipes in half since there's only so much a family of three can eat (especially when one of the three is a toddler), no matter how delicious the dinner is.
  • The biggest key to using your leftovers is to change your attitude about them. Some people think leftovers are meant for the trash. Be open-minded. Be brave. Food eaten a day or two after it was made tastes just about the same. In my opinion, certain foods improve after a day in the fridge, particularly Mexican food and the lasagna I make. Really.
  • Whenever I make dinner and there are a bunch of leftovers, before I pack it into a container for the fridge, I also put a portion of it in a separate, smaller container for my husband's lunch the next day. The next morning is simple: take the container out of the fridge and go. Doing this not only helps us use up our leftovers and waste less food, but it also saves money because he doesn't have to buy lunch. Plus, my meals are usually a lot healthier than the other lunch options (i.e. fast food). I have to brag a little here: one day at work, my husband was the envy of some of his co-workers when he reheated some homemade mac and cheese. He had a bunch of comments like, "Homemade macaroni and cheese! I haven't had that since I was a kid!" or "I'm going to make that for dinner tonight!"
  • Make 'leftover night' part of your meal planning. Like I mentioned previously, I was watching The Incredibles and it just struck me how Helen (aka Elastigirl) made leftover night sound appealing. As her daughter, Violet, complains about and pushes her meatloaf around her plate, Mrs. Incredible says, enthusiastically, "Well, it's leftover night. What are you in the mood for?" and then gives her options. Make leftover night seem more like a smorgasbord instead of something to be dreaded.
  • If leftovers get lost in your refrigerator, label your containers. Nothing fancy. I use a piece of masking tape and a Sharpie and write the contents and the date. A good rule of thumb is to eat leftovers within three days. I always follow the time-tested rule: when in doubt, throw it out. But having the date written on the container helps, too.
  • Try double-duty dinners. Meat from the night before can be used again in a hot sandwich or soup. For example, last week I roasted a 3-lb. chicken for tacos (sooo good). I had some of the shredded chicken left, so I used it later in the week to make some chicken noodle soup. Use your imagination when it comes to leftovers (or you can look for some good double-duty recipes online).
  • Use the freezer. If you don't think you'll eat the leftovers, freeze them. I do this with spaghetti and make it single-serving size. I'll make a big batch of minestrone soup and immediately put half of it aside for the freezer. Then, a few months later, I can thaw it out in the fridge and serve it for dinner. I just made turkey bolognese last week, froze half of the sauce, and I'm actually looking forward to having it for dinner again.
I wasn't exactly a leftover hater before, but I didn't love them either. That's all changed, though. Once I knew what to do with them (in addition to following my husband's willing example), leftovers have become a part of my kitchen repertoire. And I'm for anything that saves me time, effort, and money.

Where do you fit on the leftover spectrum? Love them or hate them? Use them or toss them?

1 comment:

Abz said...

We happen to LOVE leftovers at our house! :) I have found it is often times a lot cheaper to make a big batch of something. Then we just freeze or throw it in the fridge and have meals ready made when I don't have time to make a big dinner.

Also! I had one of the coolest things ever today. I don't know why I'd never thought of it, and I knew you would TOTALLY appreciate it! :) It was like a homemade hot pocket! It was a roll stuffed with hamburger and cheese, then baked, then frozen. All ya had to do is pop it in the micro for 45 seconds or so and you have a nice little hot stuff sandwich type thing! I'm totally going to make some with like chicken and cream cheese, or pizza sauce, toppings and cheese, or ham and cheese or broccoli chicken and cheese. How great would those be for the hubbies lunch or a lunch on the go or a quick snack or whatever?! I was so impressed. WAY cheaper and WAY healthier than a hot pocket too! :)

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