Leftovers for dinner! A statement that has been met with cheers and applause by no busy mom ever. Nonetheless, having a weekly leftover night is key to limiting food waste and saving time and money at the grocery store.
At my home, we typically get takeout on Fridays, and grocery shop on Saturdays. Thus, Wednesday or Thursday is “leftover night,” when we attempt to gobble up anything left over from previous dinners.
There is, however, one problem with this efficient little system: my husband is a self-proclaimed leftover hater. I like a challenge (and sometimes even a little trickery), and found a little sleight of hand can go a long way with leftovers.
Here are five staples I keep in my kitchen to reinvent a meal or ingredient…
I always have a pack of these in my freezer. Their thin shells defrost quickly, and any leftovers you have that can be broken down to tablespoon-size can turn into pot stickers.
I typically dice up a leftover protein such as chicken, pork loin, or ham, then mix in some cooked rice and veggies. Cooked ground meat or sautéed veggies of any kind also works great. Simply moisten the edges of the wraps, place a scant tablespoon of choice leftovers in the center of the wraps, and seal up in a triangle shape. A quick sauté in a pan, plus your favorite dipping sauce, and your set!
I buy the giant pre-washed pack of romaine lettuce every week. This hearty veggie keeps in the fridge much longer than its leafy green counterparts, and I love its crisp crunch.
It is also often a weeknight warrior for me when it comes to leftover night. Depending on what’s in the fridge, I will make some version of a Chop-Chop salad. Bacon and hard-boiled eggs end up in and inspired Cobb, leftover deli meat and cheese can turn into an always popular Chef Salad; really any protein, veggie, cheese combo you’ve got in the fridge can become something scrumptious atop romaine.
I’m sure the addition of this beloved, versatile, and inexpensive protein to the list will surprise exactly zero of you lovely readers. Leftover veggies, protein, even starches like potatoes and pasta can find their way into an egg dish.
Depending on what I’m working with, I’ll do an omelet, frittata, scramble, and if there’s frozen pie dough, even a quiche! Mixed greens and fresh fruit are always a lovely addition to an egg-focused dinner.
Any form of grilled bread is heaven to me. I always have a pack of Italian rolls in the freezer, typically either focaccia or ciabatta. Even better if there’s half a loaf of sourdough or hearty dinner bread that needs to be consumed ASAP.
The possibilities for a delicious panini sandwiches are endless. Have a jar of pesto or roasted peppers, any leftover protein slices or deli meats and cheeses? Even produce such as onions, spinach, tomatoes, and peppers are great panini additions.
A fun twist is to set all these out and let each family member design their own panino. Don’t have a panini press? A heavy pan such as a cast-iron skillet work fine, just weigh the top down of the sandwich with another heavy pan in between flips.
Rice is a frequent dinner guest at our home as it’s one of a few starchy sides that everyone in my family loves. I buy it dry in bulk, and also have the frozen packs from Trader Joe’s that are amazing in a pinch.
It has helped me breath new life into leftovers in numerous ways over the years. Some examples include leftover chili or any hearty stew over rice, fried rice (any cubed protein that needs using, eggs, and frozen peas star in this show), or combine some cooked with leftover proteins and/or cheeses and stuff into a lovely pepper for a stuffed pepper bake.
To up the freshness factor of any dish, especially ones with ingredients that have been around the block, a touch of acid, be it a splash of lemon, lime, or vinegar and a sprinkle of fresh herbs tends to do the trick.
I hope these ideas help you streamline your meal planning and also cut down on wasting food! Let us know if my ideas help and if you have other left over tips!B