One area that can create a slow and steady leak in the budget is in the kitchen. Our intent is good. We buy good foods to feed us several meals and somewhere after the first and perhaps second day, we're faced with leftovers that sit there and spoil because no one will eat them, everyone groans when you announce that it is dinner, and you yourself groan thinking of eating them once more. That's if you even eat leftovers. I've talked to many people and I'd say that roughly 75% of those I spoke with tell me the same thing over and over again: "We don't eat leftovers. I just throw away whatever is left." Seriously?
I confess that I occasionally 'lose' a leftover in the fridge. Just today I found a cup of cooked summer squash and a half cup of broccoli salad. I don't like to toss foods but I don't PLAN to toss them!
This is where I hope I can help you to re-think leftovers.
The number one mistake people make about leftovers is thinking they must serve the same meal repeatedly. No! You do not have to have the same meal over and over again, not if you plan meals rightly. Always look at leftovers as pre-cooked ingredients for another meal (or two or three!). Roast chicken is a prime example. First meal: Roast Chicken with vegetables. Second meal: Chicken salad in Tomato cups. Third meal: Chicken pot pie. And you still have the carcass to make a yummy broth, the bones to pick over..so you might find you have enough basic ingredients to make a pot of Chicken Noodle soup! Would any one of the last three meals make you think you were eating leftovers? I'd guess that answer would be 'No.'
Yesterday we were out and about running errands. John needed a hair cut, we'd run into love bugs on our trip down to see the grandchildren and the car had to be washed once more, and I needed to go into the grocery to pick up the fruits and dog food I didn't get last week. We filled the car up again... I looked at the checkbook balance after and told John "That's it. No more spending for us this pay period." "Remember I don't have overtime on the next check so it will be short," he replied. We both checked our wallets for cash and realized we were on a self imposed budget diet until our next allowance. It was 3pm and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We looked steadfastly AWAY from the fast food places and headed home.
Thankfully the night before I'd had a sudden inspiration for using the leftovers in the fridge and I wrote them down (key for memory for me). We had one for our dinner last night and we're eating another for our dinner today.
Meal 1: Sweet and Sour Chicken Kebabs with Pineapple Rice and Corn Muffins
My leftover ingredients: 1 leftover BBQ chicken breast half
4 slices juice packed canned pineapple
1 1/4 cups cooked white rice
3 corn muffins
1/2 cup homemade BBQ sauce
Additional ingredients: 1/2 large red onion
Stem end pieces of four green bell peppers (peppers to be used as stuffed peppers)
I cut the chicken into cubes, and cut large pieces of pepper, onion, and pineapple. Since the vegetables were raw and the chicken wasn't, I knew that I needed the extra moisture of the pineapple to help the vegetables steam as they broiled. I alternated the meat, vegetable and pineapple on the skewers then added a bit of the pineapple juice to the BBQ sauce to thin it a little and spread that over the skewers:
In about ten minutes time we had this on our plates:
and we were ready to eat. It took about 20 minutes to assemble and cook. It tasted very much like a Sweet and Sour Chicken. Mmmmm mmmm!
Makeover II: Chicken Parmigiana with Green salad and Croutons
My leftovers: 1 very large fried chicken breast half
1/4 jar of dried tomato pesto
1/2 jar Pizza sauce
4 slices ripe tomato
and from the fridge:
from the cupboard:
4 ounces Angel Hair pasta
I stripped the meat from the bone (and some of the excess skin and breading, too) then sliced the breast.
I diced the tomato and mixed that, garlic, dried tomato pesto and pizza sauce together.
After cooking the pasta, I drained well, put in a casserole dish and layered on chicken slices, pizza sauce and cheeses, then baked until bubbly.
I'm not sure John even realized it was leftover fried chicken.
Now that's just two meals from a handful of leftovers. I could have left any of that to just sit in the fridge and regretted the 'loss' but instead I used my imagination and made two entirely new meals from them.
I'll be posting ideas such as these periodically to help those of you who are Leftover challenged. I hope I inspire you to think of leftovers as more than just a meal to repeat.