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Frugal Leftover Cooking Ideas

by Nikki Willhite

 

Everyone has leftovers. How you deal with leftovers will determine whether they are a plus or a minus, and whether you lose or save money. There are many kinds of art, but taking leftovers and turning them into something new and different is one of the most practical and pleasing types of art.
 
When you throw leftovers away, it is the same as throwing out money. Many years ago I remember a man talking about his wife and saying the she had never fed him the same meal twice.  You can bet she was not throwing away food.  She obviously had a great talent for reusing food in new and different ways.
 
Use all the food you buy and you will save money.  If you become a great creative leftover cook, some of your favorite meals may be created out of leftovers.
 
Every family has different likes and dislikes, but here are some basic ideas for using leftovers.

Sandwiches

Almost all meats can be put in the blender and then mixed with a little mayonnaise or other liquid to make a sandwich spread. Spreads can be made more flavorful with the addition of seasonings, chopped vegetables and eggs, mustard, pickles, and spices. Spread the mix on a piece of whole grain bread; add a slice of cheese and your favorite lettuce. Youíve got a delicious sandwich with just a small amount of leftover meat.

Soups and Stews

Leftover meat and vegetables can find a home in many types of soups and stews. Keep a container in your freezer for leftover vegetables. When you are ready to make soup or stew, just add them.
Pot Pies
This is a very economical way to make use of leftover meat and vegetables. Just add a little sauce to your diced up meat and vegetables and your filling is done. You can put it in a pastry crust, or you can just put a layer of biscuits on top or mashed potatoes.

Casseroles

There are many casserole recipes that will take leftover meats and vegetables.  Very speedy casserole dishes can be made into fast skillet meals by adding leftover meat and vegetables to boxes of Rice-a-Roni, or Macaroni and Cheese.
Omelets 
 
Fill omelets with a blend of cheeses as well as cut up meat and vegetables. Longhorn and cottage cheese blend together well. If the vegetables are fresh, you can sautť them before adding them to your omelet. If they are already cooked, add them at the last minute.

Uses for Leftover Ingredients

Meat  
Casseroles, Soups, Stews, Stroganoff, Sandwich Fillings, Stir Fry, Quiche, Enchiladas, Tacos, Hash, Meatloaf, and Meatballs.
Onions, Celery and Green Peppers
In addition to the above suggestions, considering juicing these items and freezing the broth. This is how sauce is made for spaghetti and lasagna in restaurants. The broth adds a wonderful flavor to tomato-based sauces. Add to your Mexican food such as Enchiladas and Chili.
Potatoes
Potatoes are one of the most inexpensive and versatile foods you will find in the produce section of the grocery store. They are abundant, and always available. If your family doesnít like them, you just havenít found a way to cook them to their liking.
 
They also have the virtue of being easily reused. There are so many ways to use leftover potatoes. They can be mashed, double mashed, hashed, made into pancakes, baked, and used in everything from soups and stews to potpies.
 
Make potatoes cakes out of leftover mashed potatoes. Mix them with buttermilk, eggs, and spices, and fry in 1/2 inch vegetable oil until they are golden. 
Misc Vegetables
All unused vegetables should be saved in the freezer to add to soups, stews, and potpies.
Serve cold as a salad with Italian dressing.
Fruit
If you have leftover fruit you know you will not eat, put it in the blender and puree it. Then freeze it, preferably in ice cube trays. You can add these cubes to gelatin, as well as soups and sauces.
 
Fruit can also be made into delicious deserts. You can make pies, cobblers, or you can just top the cooked fruit with a little flour, oatmeal and sugar (like apple crisp).
 
You can also put fruit in cakes and muffins. Just make allowances for the fruit juice and decreased the liquid in the recipe.
 
Layer fruit in a dessert glass over cake, and add syrups and whipped cream and have an English type trifle dessert.
 
Freeze syrup in Popsicle molds. Add a little milk if you want more of a pudding pop.
 
Use the syrup from canned fruit to baste ham or marinade food.  I had a wonderful plum tree at my last house. I canned them whole. Then when I wanted to make jello,  I would puree them and add them to the gelatin. It was delicious, and so simple to do.
 
Eggs
Use leftover egg whites to make angel food cake, or meringue.  Use leftover egg yolks to make pound cake, custard, or macaroons.    
Bread  
Try making bread pudding. People donít make it much anymore, but it was once very popular.
 
Make breadcrumbs to be added to the top of casseroles or to ground beef.
 
Make croutons for salads.
 
French Toast. French toast is not limited to just white bread. You can also use quick rise breads, like banana bread.
 
Toast and cover with scrambled eggs.  
Misc
All baked products can usually be frozen. If wrapped well, they come out as fresh as they went in the freezer. Buy in bulk and freeze some for later.
 
Fresh leftover waffles and pancakes can also be frozen for easy use later.
 
Freeze leftover pasta, or serve cold as a salad, with chopped vegetables and an Italian dressing.
 
Bits and pieces of piecrust can be frozen and used later for small quiche dishes or tarts.
 
Save the water you boil vegetables in. It is full of nutrients and has flavor. Use it as the base for soups, stews, and gravy.
 
Always serve meat separately from the pasta with Spaghetti. Leftover meat can later go in chili, tacos, Sloppy Joes, and other tomato based dishes.
 
Save leftover bits of cereals, crackers, and cookies. Crush them to make a crunchy topping for chicken and casseroles. You can also add them to homemade granola.
 
Use add leftover bits of cheese to hamburger or add to salads. You can also add to any tomato based sauce.
 
Make it a goal this year not to serve your leftovers to your trash can.

About the Author: Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at www.frugalhappyfamilies.com - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! 

 

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