How to maximize your use of leftovers and save money

A vintage sign depicting “The Army Chef” sprucing up some leftover food.

You can spice up your leftovers and save big. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/National Archives/Wikipedia)

Wasting food is considered to be a personal affront to the maker in many cultures. That doesn’t mean that you have to consume things with the verve of Beldar Conehead, however. It simply means learning how to maximize your leftover food use. Here are some tips for using leftovers that will save you money and time.

But first, time to shame you into better leftovers use

OK, not everyone responds well to passive-aggressive shaming, even when it comes to leftover food use. But dig these statistics anyway. Over the course of a year, those few slices of bread and food scraps thrown out here and there amount to a lot. Collectively, Americans dispose of millions of tons of perfectly good leftovers.

The Environmental Protection Agency notes that leftovers and similar food wasted amounted to 14 percent of all municipal waste in the U.S. in 2010. That’s leaps and bounds above the rate the U.S. experienced during the Great Depression, when throwing away leftovers was anathema. As food today costs about 6 percent of the average American’s annual income is spent on food, the thought of throwing it away is truly depressing.

So without further ado, learn how to maximize your leftover food use now!

Tips for using leftovers No. 1: Bread pudding

While you can get exceedingly fancy with different types of bread pudding – ask your favorite gourmet restaurant if you doubt the veracity of this – the true purpose of it is to use bread leftovers. If you have some tasty liquor to soak your leftover bread parts, go all the way and make bread pudding with some butter and eggs, New Orleans style. You’ll have a tasty desert in no time, or even something savory, depending upon the type of recipe you use.

Tips for using leftovers No. 2: Rice pudding

Pudding is a versatile beast for the frugal purveyor of leftovers. Leftover rice needn’t be tossed after you’re done with the stir fry. It can be quite tasty in a pudding. Do it with vanilla, with pumpkin, in popsicle form or even with Indian spices. Risotto or fried rice are other options if you don’t have a particular predilection for pudding.

Tips for using leftovers No. 3: Chicken, turkey, ham or beef pot pie

Need it be said that you shouldn’t throw away leftovers of the meat variety? Come on, that protein is life-affirming. Make a pot pie, with a fine sauce, buttery crust and more. They’ll never know it’s the same old meat, potatoes and veggies. If you don’t go for meat, veggie or tofu can work in a pinch.

Tips for using leftovers No. 4: Banana, apple, sweet potato or pumpkin bread

Want something you can turn around and use in bread pudding later? Or are you simply a fan of tasty fruit bread? Either way, use near-rotten fruit like bananas and apples to concoct fresh banana or apple bread. Add chocolate chips and whatever spices you prefer. Fruit purees are also great as an add-in, along with time-tested favorites like apple, sweet potato, pumpkin and zucchini.

Tips for using leftovers No. 5: Fish cakes

Who doesn’t love crab cakes, I ask you? Those of you who are allergic, assume that was a rhetorical question. Crab, cod, or whatever fish you have at your disposal can be caked up into something that’s great as an appetizer or an entree. If you have leftover potatoes, go to town, frugal leftover user!

Tips for using leftovers No. 6: French toast

Old bread can be used not just for bread pudding, but also French toast. It’s much easier to whip up than pancakes or waffles. Simply take some stale bread, dip it into a mixer bowl full of egg, milk and some cinnamon and fry up the gooey slices. Serve with your favorite breakfast toppings, from sliced fruit and berries to whipped cream, if you have a sweet tooth that needs exercise.

Tips for using leftovers No. 7: Casserole

Leftovers of the pasta variety can make a great casserole. Since the pasta is already cooked, all you have to do is follow a recipe. Chicken and veggies are great add-ins, with cheese and your other favorite casserole ingredients.

Tips for using leftovers No. 8: Soup

Leftovers don’t tend to get more basic than soup. Any leftover meat can be made into a soup, as can just about any vegetable. Who doesn’t love split pea soup after Christmas, for instance? If you’re ever stuck with a few ingredients in the refrigerator and you aren’t sure what you should do with them, find a recipe site with an ingredient plug-in engine, like Big Oven, below.


Big Oven

Left Over Chef


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