Everyone is looking for more inventive ways to use the food they cook. Besides not wanting to eat the same thing every day, home cooks are looking to save money and reduce waste. Cooking can be exhausting, especially if you’ve just come home from a long day at work. But if you embrace using leftovers to plan your meals, you’ll not only save money and reduce waste, you’ll also save time - our most valuable commodity.
Using everyday foods in innovative ways can bring out your creativity, and you may create new dishes to add to your recipe book at the same time. Boost your creativity and expand your palate as we let you know our tips on how to reuse leftovers like a chef.
The Basics of Leftover Usage
Using leftovers can often become a habit for people; many basics become a part of daily life. Besides feeding leftover scraps to the dogs, here are some basic ways to use your everyday leftovers in the kitchen.
Turn dinner into lunch: it’s a common one used by many. You’ve defrosted too much meat, you’ve cooked too much pasta. Finding a way to make these leftovers into tomorrow's lunch is a sure-fire way to use your leftovers. Cooked too much meat? Toss it with some lettuce and fresh vegetables to create a protein-rich salad. The same goes for pasta. A pasta salad can refuel anyone halfway through the day.
Soup, soup, and more soup: if you’ve ever had a cold day in winter where all you wanted was a warm bowl of soup but you didn’t feel like cooking it, here’s a great way to prepare. If you have any cooked vegetables leftover, blend them with whatever broth you have and freeze it for a cold day. When you’re ready, defrost it and warm it up in a pot.
Here comes the purée train: if you have a little one at home, you can always throw your leftover veggies into a blender and pop it in the fridge for later, or freeze for another day. This saves you hours on preparing purée.
Innovative Recipe Ideas
With the basics covered, there are some more innovative ways that you can use your leftovers and create interesting and delicious meals. Many of them will make you feel like a chef at a five-star restaurant serving a gourmet meal. The key is to know what ingredients you’ll be using, and what you want to do with them at a later stage (or right then and there, depending on how much energy you have).
Bread: we all love bread. It’s a hearty side to a delicious soup, an excellent base to a pan-fried sandwich, and some people will eat it by itself (no judgement from us). There are many ways to make use of bread before it goes mouldy. You can make French toast and freeze it (wrap it in aluminium foil and put it in a freezer bag to keep it fresh), or dive into it immediately. You can also cut it up into squares and fry it with some olive oil and seasoning to create delicious croutons for your soup or salad. You can also freeze bread crumbs for future chicken fillets or meatball dishes.
Pickle your vegetables: you can use a range of vegetables, including cucumbers, summer squash, red onion, carrots, or green beans. Put them in a glass jar along with the flavourings and spices you want (thyme, rosemary, black pepper, etc). Fill the jar with homemade brine and remove the air bubbles by tapping the jar gently against the counter. Pop them in the fridge and wait at least 48 hours before opening them again.
Pizza and smoothies: All your leftovers can essentially become pizza toppings, and who doesn’t love pizza night? It’s an easy dish that you can get the whole family to make. Have any leftover fruit? Blend them up with some yoghurt, milk, or water, and make a delicious smoothie for your morning breakfast.
Storing Your Leftovers
Food storage is the most crucial part of using your leftovers. If stored correctly, your fridge leftovers will be good for up to four days. Keep that in mind before you put something in the fridge when it should be in the freezer. Of course, freezer-stored foods can last for a couple of months.
Plan your food storage correctly, with the correct containers, to keep your leftover foods fresh and ready to use. Ensure that your containers are tightly sealed, and freezer safe. Things like soup, french toast, and pizza toppings are great things to freeze for a rainy day. While smoothies and pickled vegetables should be stored correctly in the fridge. Smoothies should be used soon while pickled vegetables can last 2-3 weeks unopened.
Using leftovers will not only help in your day-to-day life but making a conscious decision to use leftovers instead of creating food waste, is a great way to be environmentally conscious. Repurpose your leftovers to help the planet and become food-savvy at the same time. It’s just smart cooking.