It seems like every time Friday comes around, I’m staring at the fridge contents trying to solve pre-grocery shopping end of the week what to have for dinner puzzle. There are usually bits and bobs from the week’s meals left in the fridge. They are usually in smaller portions like one or two servings and not enough for the whole family. That’s why I wanted to put together some leftovers ideas.
We’re trying very hard to reduce our food waste so I came up with some ideas on how to use the leftovers. Obviously, exact recipes will depend on the ingredients you have left but most of these option are quick dinner ideas. Here are some ways to think about the leftovers as opportunities to re-invent your normal recipes.
10 Leftover Ideas
This is perfect if you have a lot of eggs too. (Check out my post on What to Do with A Lot of Eggs or 15 Delicious Egg Recipes.) The basic recipe to any quiche is a 9 inch pie crust, 6 eggs, 3/4 cup of milk, then 2 cups of whatever you have in your fridge (ham, roasted broccoli, sauteed kale, asparagus, etc.). Bake at 350ºF until set, about 45 minutes.
Pizza dough is a super versatile things. You can pick up some pre-made dough at your regular grocery store and freeze it. Pillsbury also makes a dough option in a can. It out through on some olive oil or marinara sauce ten toss on whatever leftovers you have. Get creative!
Cheese makes everything better. (Unless of course you’re vegan or allergic. If so, try Daiya cheese, it melts really well.) Tortillas, cheese, and leftover vegetables under the broiler. Easy peasy. It’s also a good way to use up sour cream or those last dregs of salsa in the jar.
I make soup almost every week in the winter. Start with chicken or vegetable broth, add some protein like beans or chicken, toss in your vegetables and let simmer for 30 minutes. For a tasty Mexican-style soup, add chicken, tomatoes, onion, and corn and top with fresh cilantro. For an Italian flavor, try white beans, celery, garlic, and sausage.
Most sandwiches follow the simple formula = Wrapping material + Main vegetable/protein + condiment + savory/umami flavor. So if you have leftover hamburger, put it in lettuce cups, add some tomato sauce, sprinkled with parmesan, and add mushroom or onions. Or sourdough bread + ham + sharp cheddar + broccoli + sharp mustard.
SOS or Stuff (or another word) on a Shingle is a great way to transform your leftovers. You make a simple gravy or roux with melted butter, flour, and broth. Throw in your leftover protein and complimentary vegetables from the freezer then pour it over toast. One of our favorites is shredded chicken with mixed frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, and beans) over crusty bread. A traditional way is with ground beef and onions. If you don’t have any bread leftover, try it over potatoes, a friendly pantry item.
If those won’t work, try these techniques:
1. Try a new recipe.
Let supercook.com assemble the puzzle for you. You just enter your ingredients (e.g. cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and diced chicken) and the website suggests what to make. You can scan through the recipes to see what else you have that would work (pasta, tuna fish, salad dressing, etc.)
2. Invite friends over for a relaxing potluck dinner.
If you have some close friends or neighbors that are happy to share a meal, give them a quick call and see if they want to join you for dinner. Put your leftover protein over greens and pick up a nice crusty baguette to dig in sauce or make garlic bread. Presto! Dinner!
3. Freeze the components.
When in doubt and without dairy, try freezing it. This work really well for leftover proteins and small grains like rice or quinoa. Freeze them in 1 cup to 2 cup portions.
4. Freeze the meal.
Ok, ok, maybe this should be 3b but it is really a separate concept. If your leftover is already a meal like pizza slices, lasagna, or Eggplant Parmesan, feel free to freeze the meal. Just make sure to wrap it well, label the contents, and add directions. There’s nothing worse than sifting through your freezer and playing “guess the contents”.
If you liked this post, check out my list of ways to use leftover ham.
Tell me about your most inventive way to use leftovers in the comments below!