Using Leftovers and Saving Money!

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January 27, 2011 by Flora Dawn

Let’s face it feeding our families costs us a lot of money. If you have any major dietary restrictions it can become downright scary to see the grocery bill. And unfortunately, it is often cheaper to eat junk food than real food.

One of the biggest ways to save money on your grocery bill is to not waste. I know that sounds obvious, but I read recently that the average American family throws away over $1300 in food a year! Okay, that is a LOT of food going in the garbage. I am not suggesting eating food that is old or expired, I am merely suggesting that we use the food up before it goes bad or gets tossed out.

Some people have an aversion to leftovers, others just don’t like to eat the same meal over and over again. Whatever the reason, I think it’s time to get creative in the kitchen and save ourselves some hard earned cash.

Growing up I never starved, but I did complain a time or two about being served leftovers. I try to get creative for my family, so there are no “Not that again” groans at the dinner table. Here are some of the ways we like to use leftover in our house:

Fried Rice– I mean really, what’s not to love about fried rice? Leftover rice is a must and you can throw in virtually any veggie or meat, or go meatless for that matter, and have a meal in literally minutes. Brown rice, white rice, quinoa… it all will work here.

Salad Rolls – This is another great way to use up leftover meat, veggies, rice or pasta.

Nori Rolls – We are partial to cucumber and salmon, but really almost any thinly sliced vegetable or cooked seafood would be great. You don’t want to overfill these, so it’s a great way to use up small portions that might otherwise get tossed.

Soups- Need to clean out your vegetable drawer? Soups like Quick Corn Chowder or Beef Stew are great for using up leftovers, and you know, truth be told, recipes are merely suggestions. Adding different or more vegetables than a recipe calls for is simply being creative.

Rice- I purposely make extra rice. It takes the same amount of time and energy to cook 4 cups of rice as 2 in my rice cooker, so I just do myself the favor and make extra. We like to eat rice with milk and dried fruit warm for an easy breakfast, in soups like Chicken & Rice Soup (which also works wonderful with turkey & wild rice), and of course in the above mentioned dishes. Did you know you can even freeze rice and use it in fried rice or soups later? Yep, I do it all the time.

Omelets, frittatas and quiches were invented for leftovers! You can use a basic recipe and add almost anything. I am not making any promises, but I have never had any major disasters. Eggs, cheese, and just about anything is bound to taste good.

Cake Balls – If you have a cake that is dry, crumbly, or just didn’t turn out perfect, add some canned frosting and ta da you have cake balls! This recipe is for pumpkin cake balls, but the idea will work with any cake/frosting combo. If you want to use homemade frosting, make sure the consistency is like that of the frosting in those little plastic tubs.

Herb Butters– Herbs cost a small fortune at the grocery store, but most recipes only require a small portion. Instead of tossing them out, think about using them to flavor butters. There is no need to use the butter immediately, they freeze incredibly well.

The Freezer- The freezer should be your friend. Bananas, ginger, pureed pumpkin, applesauce, and even citrus can be frozen and used later. Peppers and most veggies can also be frozen and used in soups, stews and chillies or to simply make a broth. Unfortunately, gluten free baked goods don’t stay fresh very long, so wrap up those muffins or cookies and freeze them as well. Oh, and my favorite freezer tip is whipped cream. It freezes like a charm.

What is your favorite way to use leftovers?

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