The only pain worse than footing a huge grocery bill is having to throw away food that has gone bad after you bought it.
We can only imagine that the latter pain is a bit worse when you’ve gone to the trouble of preparing the food, but it wasted away as a leftover in a forgotten container somewhere in the fridge.
Fortunately, those days will soon be over.
Here are seven ways to make the best use of your leftovers so they don’t go to waste — and they taste as wonderful as the day they were freshly served.
You’ve probably seen one of those fancy omelet bars in a hotel, where a chef has a bunch of prepared ingredients ready to throw in at your whim. With your leftovers, you can become that chef for yourself.
You can whip up fancy omelets with leftover roasted veggies, sliced meats, shredded cheeses — whatever you’ve prepared that would go well with eggs.
- Soup Bowls
That loaf of bread that just went bad might seem too hard to chew, but that means it’s the perfect consistency for a homemade bread bowl.
You can cheat and buy your favorite canned or store-made soup, or whip up a recipe of your own that’ll fill the void inside your day-old loaf.
- Cheese Dip
No party would be complete without a plate of fancy cheese — but what happens when the night’s over and you’re left with a handful of pieces of each variety? You whip out your blender, of course!
Throw all that leftover cheese in, add some garlic, butter and (leftover) wine, and voila! You have a French favorite called fromage fort that’s perfect for further dipping and snacking.
- Empanadas or Quesadillas
Depending on what type of leftover you have, you could scoop it into an empanada and seal it closed, or spoon it into a quesadilla where it’ll be held in place by cheese.
A perfect leftover to fill an empanada would be chili, for example. The pastry’s crimped edges would keep the spicy stew in place, and it would also make it a bit more exciting to eat after having it for leftovers a few nights in a row. If that doesn’t quite work, leftover roasted chicken, veggies and cheese — obviously — could become a delicious quesadilla.
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- Breakfast Bake
It’s always hard to gauge how many potatoes you’ll need per diner when you make mashed potatoes — meaning you might just be left with a bunch of starchy leftovers. If you’ve got enough mashed potatoes left to fill a pie pan, do that. You can also mix some more flavorings into your potatoes, such as onions and pancetta, before filling out your pan with them.
Then, create a few divots in your potato pan. Crack an egg and drop it into the divot. After the whole thing’s baked, you’ll have a seriously hearty breakfast.
- Kitchen Sink Salads
Much like the aforementioned omelets, you can do so much with leftovers when it comes to salads. It’s unlikely you’ll take the time to chop up a smorgasbord of unique ingredients on your own, so take it as an opportunity to make a fancy salad in your very own kitchen.
You can seriously put anything on top of a bed of greens: meats, beans, veggies, fruit slices, cheese, final drizzles of oil, the last few almonds at the bottom of the bag — and so on.
Smoothies won’t use your typical leftovers. Instead, they can help you get rid of the last few scoops of yogurt in a container, a final scoop of chia seeds, a dash of almond milk or a tablespoon of protein powder.
On top of that, you can use a smoothie to clear out any produce that’s still good but nearing the end of its life. Pop your menagerie of ingredients into the blender, and away you go.
Create Your Own Recipe
Of course, not every leftover will quite fit into one of these seven categories. In that case, get creative and make up your own new recipe based on the leftovers you have. You can even use websites to help you — you’ll list out the ingredients you have, and they’ll come up with something easy to make from them.
No matter how you repurpose your leftovers, the point is that you’re trying to reduce your waste, save a few bucks and eat tasty, satisfying meals.