When you’ve got extra food sitting around, you might be tempted to toss it out or donate it to charity, but there are so many more practical uses. Here’s how to save money and get creative with your food that’s already been cooked.
1. Make a meal out of it
If you have a lot of ingredients in your fridge or freezer that don’t fit into any one recipe, try combining them together to make something totally different. You can throw all kinds of things together, even if they aren’t meant to be combined. Try making soup with noodles, stir-fry with vegetables, or spaghetti with meatballs. Just keep in mind that this will take some time to prepare.
2. Use the leftovers as snacks or side dishes
Leftover rice is great for a quick snack, and you could also add some veggies to it. If you’re using other ingredients, such as beans or meats, you can easily turn that into a healthy side dish. Another option is to reheat your leftovers in a microwave or oven, then serve in a bowl with lettuce, tomatoes, and a little salsa or hot sauce on top.
3. Freeze them in individual portions for future use
This is another great way to eat leftovers without spending too much money. You can either freeze them individually in freezer bags or place them in a storage container for easy access. This way, when you need to use them again, you’ll just have to defrost them.
4. Share with friends and family
You should never waste food or let anyone else go hungry because you aren’t sure what you’re going to do with it. So if you have some leftover food that isn’t meant to be eaten right away, you can share it with your neighbors, coworkers, or whoever lives nearby. It doesn’t have to be fancy; just put it on a plate and say that it’s yours if someone wants some.
5. Turn into an appetizer-like dish
If you don’t want to eat the same thing every day, you can always try turning your leftovers into an appetizer or side dish. For example, if you have breaded chicken or fish that you haven’t used yet, slice it thinly and pan fry it. Then sprinkle it with salt and pepper before serving it with a tasty dip.
6. Add some spice by adding chiles, herbs, spices, etc.
The best way to use your leftover chile peppers is to roast them first. Roasting brings out their flavor and makes it easier to remove the seeds and membranes. The next step is to cut the peppers up and sauté them in oil until they become slightly charred. Then add garlic, onions, cilantro, oregano, thyme, cumin, and/or chili powder and cook until everything becomes fragrant. Finally, season the mixture with salt and pepper. Your delicious spicy roasted peppers are now ready to go!
7. Cook up your own “fancy” salad dressing
A good homemade salad dressing can cost you less than $1 a bottle at most grocery stores, so why not make your own? If you love mayonnaise, start with it and add in olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and whatever herbs and spices you prefer. If you want to try something different, check out these 10 superfoods to add to your diet.
8. Use the leftover meat/fish on sandwiches
Sandwiches are always a good idea, especially if you don’t have enough time to cook a full dinner. A sandwich made with leftover meat or fish is especially filling, whether you pair it with some pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mustard or add sliced avocado, spinach, and a fried egg.
9. Pair with other foods (e.g., pasta)
Pasta is one of the easiest ways to combine leftovers. For instance, you could mix leftover meat with leftover pasta, or use leftover vegetables with leftover pasta. Whatever combination you choose, you’ll end up with a hearty meal that will satisfy everyone.
10. Reheat frozen meals like pizza, lasagna, macaroni cheese
When you’re low on time or don’t have the energy to cook a big meal, you might find yourself reaching for the microwave instead. However, there are tons of things that you can rewarm in the microwave, including pizza, macaroni & cheese, lasagne, and even breakfast. Just remember to check the packaging first so you know what type of food you’re supposed to heat it up.
11. Create new recipes from old favorites
Old favorites can taste amazing when you give them a new spin. Instead of microwaving your favorite chicken wings, marinate them in your favorite barbecue sauce, and grill them over high heat. Or you can try baking them instead of frying them. Even classic dishes like beef stew and shepherd’s pie can be turned into interesting variations.