Friday, July 23, 2010

Leftover Help

I am terrible about using leftovers!! Does anyone else have this problem? I keep them around for a few days and then guiltily toss them out. Or I'll defrost a pound of meat, use half, and forget about the other half until it's too late.

I want to work on my meal planning, and be more intentional about finding uses for leftovers and extras. I would love suggestions!

In an effort to improve, this is my meal plan for this week. I'm using the same rice 4 times, the beans twice, chicken 3 times, and mashed potatoes twice. Also splitting a package of ground beef between two meals.

Thursday: Beans, on bread and cheese. Fried potatoes.
Friday: Ratatouille and rice, fried okra (vegetables are from the CSA and my garden, rice is a mix of brown and wild; the ends of two different bags I found in the pantry.) Make lots and lots of rice.
Saturday: Bean burritos (from Thursday's beans, refried) for lunch; dinner out.
Sunday, family lunch: Minestrone, using leftover vegetables from throughout the week. Stuffed peppers with leftover rice, ground beef, and tomatoes from the garden. Mashed potatoes, just because I have a lot. Broiled peaches with whipped cream. Leftovers for dinner.
Monday: Eggplant parmesan (not a regular for me, but I have a LOT of eggplant!)
Tuesday: Fried rice, again with leftover rice. Add squash and bell peppers, maybe some pork and/or shrimp.
Wednesday: Shepherds pie, with mashed potatoes from Sunday and the rest of that package of ground beef.
Thursday: Roast chicken and potatoes.
Friday: Bowtie pasta with Spicy Romano Chicken (chicken from Thursday).
Saturday: Chicken and rice casserole (both leftover).

This list mostly covers dinners; lunch is typically leftovers or sandwiches. This feels good; I like to cook extra and get several uses out of something. And hopefully I won't be throwing much away! I hate that, but yet I find myself doing it ALL THE TIME. I've started pureeing leftovers for baby food as well. (Tonight the kids barely touched their ratatouille, so I just scraped their plates straight into the blender.) He's not quite ready for anything chunky, but they're in the freezer waiting for him.

Here are some other good ways to plan for leftovers:

1. Roast chicken and potatoes. 2. Make broth. 3. Potatoes in breakfast burritos. 4. Chicken in casserole or pot pie. 5. Soup from broth and any leftover meat; throw in leftover vegetables from other meals.

This one's from my mother-in-law: 1. Ham 2. Beans with ham. 3. Chili with beans. 4. Hot dogs with chili.

I never make the exact number of hamburger patties that we need; I always throw in an extra pound (or at least round up) and freeze the extras. Leftover ground beef can also easily go in tacos or pasta sauce.

Other ideas for cooked chicken? Chicken salad. Chicken enchiladas or burritos. Or on top of just about any pasta.

I need more!! How do you use up leftovers? How do you plan your menu to minimize prep work? I want to do more of this, so let's get creative!