Each week when we go grocery shopping, I think all of us have the intention of using everything we have bought and not wasting any food. Food waste when food prices are high really hurts our budgets and isn’t good for the environment either unless you are putting yours in a compositor in your garden. I know many of us recycle food waste, but wouldn’t it be great for your budget if you didn’t waste any food each week?
The idea of leftovers can bring back some childhood memories of unpleasant meals from leftovers that didn’t taste the best, which could cause you to distance yourself from the idea of using leftovers. Since I write recipes for Tastealotta nearly every month, I thought what a great way to give you some great recipe ideas and help your food budget at the same time! Using what I have on hand has led me on a creative course that has given my family some delicious meals, many of them made from leftovers.
The Art of Using Leftovers
I actually think that the art of using leftovers is an artform left behind by previous generations. I have a cookbook series from the 1940s passed down from my grandmother and one of the cookbooks is exclusively leftovers. I could not believe what foods they repurposed that we would just throw out, but war and rations will make for innovative cooks!
The tips I share today not only will help minimize food waste but will help reduce your overall food costs. With food costs going up, the timing couldn’t be better for learning how to creatively and deliciously use leftovers. I’ve put together a list of great recipe ideas for leftovers by food groups so it is easy to reference when you find you have vegetables and fruit or other foods in plenty or nearing their expiration date.
Leftover Bread Tips
Sometimes the bread we have bought is nearing its shelf life or we bought too much bread for the week and find we have more than we need. We share below some good ideas for leftover bread:
Make croutons out of leftover sourdough or French bread.
You can freshen leftover sourdough bread and French bread by spritzing them with a little bit of water and then putting them wrapped in foil in a low-temperature oven for 10-15 minutes.
Put any kind of bread except bread with fruit or nuts into a food processor and make your bread crumbs. You can mix in your favorite seasonings and store them in an airtight container.
A few-days old French bread or sourdough bread makes the best crostini! Since crostini is toasted and spread with your favorite fixings, it gives new life to a few-days old bread and makes a wonderful appetizer or tasty companion to your soup.
Have you ever made bread pudding? It’s yummy any time of year, but especially with thee days still chilly for a special dessert treat to start your day with a yummy breakfast treat.
French toast or Monte Cristo sandwiches is a great way to use bread that is nearing its shelf life. Since the bread is battered in an egg batter any stiffness will soften up. Funny thing, really fresh bread doesn’t make the best French toast or Monte Cristo sandwiches because it tends to be too soft and not hold its shape as well.
Leftover Cheese Tips
Below you will find some great tips for using leftover cheese that is nearing its pull date or when you have bought more than you could use.
I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love fondue! Fondue is a great way to utilize leftover cheese. There are many types of cheese that work well for fondue, Swiss, gouda, Gruyere, Fontina, and even cheddar. This is a great way to use up leftover cheese and bread at the same time!
Whip up a pot or bake your favorite macaroni and cheese, this is a great way to use leftover cheese, milk, and bread in one great-tasting dish!
Avocado and grilled cheese sandwiches are a great way to use up cheese and it packs a hefty amount of protein to get you powering through your afternoon or for a great comfort food dinner.
Make eggs au gratin or use any leftover vegetable mixture in an au gratin sauce.
Have you ever heard of Fromage Fort? The French make up this blended cheese to use up leftover cheese and it is wonderful as a spread. Try blending your favorite leftover cheeses with garlic, wine, and your favorite herbs for a wonderfully unique cheese spread for crackers and bread.
Leftover Meat Tips
Not only at the holidays, but many times of the year we have leftover meat and wonder what we could create as a tasty meal from the leftovers. I share some great tips below for repurposing your leftover meat into delicious meals.
Make chicken or turkey tortilla soup, it’s also a great way to use up leftover Verde sauce and tortillas chips
If you have leftover meatballs, try your hand at making Italian wedding soup, since one of the main ingredients is meatballs.
Make your favorite chicken or turkey soup using leftover cuts from your meal or submerge the whole turkey or chicken in a large stockpot and let the boiling water do the job for you while giving you a hardy base where all you need to do is add the vegetables and leftover rice too!
Make chicken or turkey enchiladas, you can use up leftover meat and vegetables this way. We have started adding cottage cheese nearing its pull date to our enchiladas and it’s delicious.
Meatloaf can be repurposed in so many ways. We use leftover meatloaf in New Joes Special, we also make stuffed peppers or stuffed cabbage with our leftover meatloaf.
Make burritos from nearly any leftover meat and vegetables for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For breakfast burritos, you can add eggs and leftover potatoes.
Stir-fry is a great way to use up both leftover meat and vegetables at the same time.
Make chili with your leftover meat, nearly any meat can be used for chili. Our newest chili recipe adds a little chocolate to finish it off and makes for more of a Mole Chili.
Leftover ham just begs for mac and cheese, split pea soup, or lentil soup.
Leftover Rice Tips
I think many of us make more rice than we need for a side dish so that we are left with leftover rice. There are so many really great recipe ideas of how to use up leftover rice for side dishes and entrees we share with you below.
Have you ever made rice pudding? Most of us think of grandmothers and a not very interesting dessert, but there are so many wonderful recipes these days for rice pudding that take it to a whole new level. You can have rice pudding for dessert or for breakfast treat your kids will love.
If you like Chinese food, vegetable fried rice is a quick and simple way to use up leftover rice, vegetables, and eggs all at the same time while having a dish that is filling and delicious.
Chicken or turkey rice soup is a mainstay at our house in the colder months and it uses up leftover meat, rice, and vegetables all in one mouth-watering soup.
Have you heard of rice crullers? Maybe not unless you are from the south, these are made with leftover rice and the recipe uses a lot and it makes for a delicious breakfast treat much like Beignets from New Orleans.
Brown rice can be used up in much the same way as white rice, but brown rice lends itself to rice and vegetable burgers really well. Brown rice burgers are great hot or cold and a great lunch treat.
Leftover Vegetable Tips
Leftover vegetables or vegetables that are near their expiration date can be used in a number of great-tasting dishes.
Smoothies packed with nutrients that taste great can use up a lot of leftover vegetables quickly. Green smoothies really lend themselves well to using up spinach and kale, two vegetables that many people don’t love, but are great for us that can be disguised in a smoothie and taste great! Just add your favorite liquid, frozen banana, toss in some berries, and protein powder if you want, and you have the makings of a great smoothie. If you want your smoothie on the sweeter side add in some pineapple. Adding frozen cooked beets is my new way to add great nutrition to my smoothies and your smoothie turns out a great color. This is a great way to get a reluctant vegetable eater to consume vegetables.
Make vegetable soup. This is where you can throw in about any vegetable, any meat, or make your soup strictly vegetarian.
Using vegetables only in enchiladas or burritos is another way to use up a lot of vegetables quickly, add a little refried beans and cheese for protein, and you have a great tasting meal.
I hope these ideas inspire your cooking creativity. Many of the oils, vinegar, and spices we carry at Tastealotta will have your leftover meals tasting that much better. Be sure to drop by and share your newest creative use of leftovers with us!