Waste Not Want Not


I was listening to the radio a few days ago and the DJ asked his listeners this question, “How do you use up leftovers?” One of the callers said that except for what she could eat herself she throws all leftovers away because her husband and children would not eat leftovers because they did not want to eat the same food they had had the night before; or even several days before

SAY WHAT???????? I was totally flabbergasted to say the least!  I thought to myself, “Try hunger or starvation.”

If it was me in that situation I would put the leftovers on the table and and hubbie and kiddies (how could you tell the difference in that family?) could eat it or not. I wouldn’t fix anything else until all the leftovers were used up. But then I have never been married. Now we may all know why.

The radio discussion got me to thinking though. Leftovers can pose a problem. How can we use them up in new and creative ways?

Throwing food away is equivalent to throwing money down the toilet. Food is too expensive these days to waste any of it. Using leftovers saves  money thus  lowering our grocery bill and giving us a bit extra at the end of the month.

I don’t mind eating leftovers. I love my cooking so if I have to eat something I cooked one day on another day, I love it. Leftover chili is always better the second or third day anyway. I always make a double batch for that reason alone!

Plus I have discovered a way to reheat leftovers so that they taste fresh.

To reheat leftovers I use the defrost setting on my microwave. For most leftovers I use Defrost, level 1 for about 10 minutes. That just takes the refrigerator chill off. Then I do 5 minutes on level 2. Then a minute or so on level 3. If I still need to heat up the leftovers more, then I microwave the dish on regular cook setting for half a minute or more.  I often put the heat level at 5 or lower though. I just play around with it till it is hot enough to my liking.

But there is another issue with leftovers. This problem hits single people:  never married, the divorced, married with no children, and retired couples mostly. Grocery stores often force me to buy a larger size of a product than I need. For instance, sour cream. Sour cream does come in 8 ounce containers. But few if any stores carry that size any longer because the profit margin is not high enough. Just ticks me off!!!

And mushrooms. I don’t normally need a full container. Sometimes only one or two mushrooms will suffice. But no!!!!  I can’t buy just one or two. When I lived in California many stores had individual mushrooms for sale. I really liked that. But I seldom see that here in Columbus, Ohio.

I could go on, but you get the picture. All of us for one reason or another have the challenge of using up food in the fridge.

The task need not be daunting however. There are some time tested ways to use up leftovers.

Some Ways To Use Left Over

Chicken:  Use in salads, soup, casseroles, quesadillas, tortillas, fajitas. Check out my chicken salad recipes here and here, and my chicken fajitas here. They all can be made using leftovers.

Steak:   Use in salads, soups, casseroles fajitas, fried rice. [Question of the Day: Who can afford steak these days?]

Fish:  Use in a salad, make a fish sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, mayo or other dressing, onions, whatever.

Or you can make Fish Tacos, which is the recipe I am going to share with you today. And except for one ingredient I made them with leftovers that were already in  my fridge or pantry today. 

Bread:   Italian Bread Salad, Bread Pudding, make your own bread crumbs and/or croutons.

Veggies: Cut up in chunks or dice and scramble them with eggs, or make an omelet. See also Fried Rice and Spaghetti Sauce below for more ways to use up vegetables.

You can sauté the veggies in some butter and/or olive oil, add a few spices and pour over cooked pasta, like rotini, and add some shredded cheese on top. Or mix the sautéed veggies with white or brown rice. Use leftover vegetables in soups too.

I always have celery in my fridge. I use a lot of it up by eating a rib with peanut butter for breakfast or a snack in the evening. 

Other Creative Ways To Use Up Left Overs

Fried rice is a great way to use up almost any meat and lots of vegetables. Several months ago I shared a Pork Fried Rice recipe with you. You can use any meat in that recipe and you can add left over peas or carrots, shredded cabbage, whatever. I think you could throw just about anything in that recipe except maybe the kitchen sink. The sink might be a little hard on the teeth.

Spaghetti Sauce is another great way to use up leftovers. In addition to the usual ground beef add some ground chicken or steak, pork chops, even fish. Smothered in all the deliciousness of the tomato sauce no one will ever notice the left overs. You can also finely dice or process any left over vegetables and add that to the sauce too. Because I cannot buy just one carrot at the store, but am forced to buy a family size package,  it seems I always have carrots in my fridge. When I make traditional spaghetti sauce I always grate one or two carrots and add it to the sauce. No one has ever detected it.  In fact, some recipes call for diced carrots. My mom’s didn’t. And neither do several other recipes I have. But I have seen it in some cookbooks. So there you have it!

Adding carrots to spaghetti sauce is also a great way to stretch ground beef. Use just half a pound of ground beef instead of a full pound and make up the difference with diced carrots and really save some serious money.

Soup is another great way to use up leftovers. When the weather cools some and throughout the fall and winter I will be sharing some soup recipes with you.

Casseroles are also great for using up leftovers. Take a look at any of your casserole recipes. I bet you will see that you can substitute whatever the meat is in your recipe for a leftover. Same for the vegetables. Be creative.

Potatoes are yet another way to use up leftover. Cut or dice any meats or vegetables and pile on a potato. Add some melted butter or a cheese sauce and eat with a salad and you have yourself a meal. I shared two baked potato recipes with you previously here. The broccoli baked potato is good for when you have left-over broccoli.

How do you use up leftovers in your house? Share with MTTD readers in the comments section below. In today’s economy we can use all the money saving ideas we can get.

Featured Recipe:   Fish Tacos Made From Leftovers

Except for the sour cream all the ingredients for this recipe were either leftovers or already staples in my fridge or pantry.

This is what you will need:

Cooked fish    [I used left over tilapia as that was in the fridge.]

A couple of leaves of lettuce

Some tomatoes     [I used cherry tomatoes as that is what I had in my fridge.]

2-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

2-4 tablespoons of sour cream

4 tortillas

Fajita or taco seasoning    [I used fajita as an opened package was in my pantry and I needed to use it up.]

Chili powder or other seasoning you like

1 lime    [You can tell by the picture that lime had seen better days. But I ran it under some cold water, rolled it back and forth on the counter a bit, and put it in the microwave for 9 seconds to get it’s juices running again and it was just fine.]

1 teaspoon butter to reheat the fish

Here is what you do:

I started off melting the butter in a skillet and re-heating the fish over very low heat.

Then I sliced my lettuce very thin and cut the tomatoes in half.

Then I cut the lime into slices. I then flipped the fish fillets at this point.

Then I made my Baja Sauce. I placed about 4 tablespoons each of mayonnaise and sour cream in a bowl. Then I added about ¼ teaspoon chili powder and ¼ of the fajita seasoning. I mixed well and then tasted. The flavor was not strong enough, nor the color what I wanted so I added a bit more chili powder and a whole lot more of the fajita seasoning and mixed again. Finally I had what I was looking for.

By this time the fish was heated through so I cut it up.

Then I began making some fish tacos. First I put a layer of fish on the tortilla and squeezed some lime juice on it. Then I layered on some lettuce, some tomatoes, and a bit of the sauce. I then squeezed a bit more lime juice over everything.

Tah Dah!!!! I present you leftovers!!!!!!

I served with a couple of slices of cantaloupe, also already in my refrigerator.

This made 4 tacos.

Didn’t taste like leftovers to me. They were absolutely wonderfully delicious!!! And not bad for only 99-cents!!  That was the cost of the sour cream.

Today I wish you happy left-overing!!!! 

Quote of the Day:      I take my pride in making my dinner cost so little.   Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

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