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20 Creative Ways to Save with Leftovers

20 Creative Ways to Save with Leftovers

Written by Lauren Strouse, Fairfield Office Assistant: I grew up learning to cook in a household where leftovers were part of the menu plan in order to stretch the family food dollar. My mother didn’t waste food. As a young parent, I did the same thing, both to save money as well as time.  Reconfiguring ingredients that are already cooked can save you a lot of time on a busy weeknight. leftoversHere are some ways to save money by turning the food you have on hand into brand new dishes.

  • Use leftover roasted chicken to make chicken and noodle casserole, chicken a la king, chicken soup, or enchiladas.
  • Roast pork, beef or ham can be used in sandwiches, stews, soup, or to stuff a pita.
  • Combine leftover shredded or cubed roast beef with golden mushroom soup, sautéed onions and mushrooms and a little wine or water to make a sauce for egg noodles; add a little sour cream and you almost have stroganoff.
  • Remember hash? Add cubed leftover beef to cubed or sliced sautéed potatoes and onion.
  • Cubed ham can go into pasta and rice dishes, omelets and sandwiches or pair with potatoes.
  • Leftover rice or other grains like barley or faro can be combined with fresh or frozen vegetables and a little cubed pork, ham, or chicken to make fried rice.
  • Create a southwestern style casserole with leftover rice mixed with cream of chicken soup, canned green chilies, a bit of sour cream, grated jack cheese, beans (black, kidney or pinto), leftover chicken, plus seasonings like cumin and chili powder.
  • Combine rice with ground beef or turkey, a little soy sauce, cream of celery soup, celery, onion, green beans or pea pods, and water chestnuts, for mock chow mein. Top with some crispy noodles for crunch.
  • Leftover fresh or frozen vegetables can go into soups or stews and pasta dishes.
  • Cooked asparagus, artichoke hearts, zucchini, fennel, greens like spinach, and mushrooms are great in frittatas and omelets.
  • Toss leftover spinach and other greens straight into pasta sauces, bean and grain dishes to increase the nutritional value.
  • Leftover broccoli and cauliflower can be cooked with a little onion, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and served over spaghetti.  The trick is to reheat the veggies gently so you don’t overcook them.
  • Turn leftover vegetables into soup with sautéed onion and garlic. Cover with chicken broth, add whatever seasonings strike your fancy, cook until soft, puree, and thin if needed with milk (fat free evaporated is great for this and shelf stable).
  • Find yourself with half a loaf of bakery bread? Make a sweet or savory bread pudding or a strata. Layer the bread with leftover meat, veggies and cheese, soak it with an egg/milk mixture, then bake. The sweet version incorporates dried or fresh fruits like apples and cherries or even pumpkin.
  • Turn leftover bread into bread crumbs and keep them in your freezer to use in meatloaf or meatballs, or when a bread crumb mixture is called for in a recipe.
  • Do you have pound cake or angel food cake getting stale? Cube the cake and layer it in parfait or dessert glasses with vanilla pudding and fresh fruit like berries or bananas. Add some almonds or other nuts for crunch along with whipped cream on top.
  • Add leftover beef stew to a deep baking dish, make or buy pie crust, top the stew with pie crust, bake, and you have beef pot pie.
  • Make an easy shepherd’s pie with leftover mashed potatoes.  Cook ground meat with onion, a little garlic and add veggies like peas, carrots or green beans. Spread the potatoes on top and bake until the potatoes are golden and the pie is bubbling.
  • Mix leftover mashed potatoes with an egg and a bit of flour, shape into patties and fry to make mashed potato pancakes. Add shredded salmon or chicken and a bit of onion for potato croquettes.
  • Leftover polenta can be cut and fried or layered in a baking dish with tomato sauce, cheese, sliced cooked vegetables like eggplant and zucchini, spinach or chard, onions and mushrooms and then baked to create a kind of lasagna (just be very light handed with the sauce).

Save yourself some money and learn to utilize your leftovers. Let your creative juices flow and create delicious “planned over” dishes for your family.

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