Planning for Leftovers

Planning for Leftovers

I know some people who put leftovers into plastic containers and then put them into the refrigerator.  Then, as the days go by, those plastic containers slowly and magically migrate to the back of the fridge.  Then, months later, these people find these mystery containers, wonder where they came from, open them up, make some variety of a retching noise, and throw the whole business away.  Are you one of those people?  I think we all have been at some point.

At least you, or they, were trying to save the leftovers.  We err when we don’t plan for the leftovers, so we forget about them, and then they end up going to waste. 

But there are several ways to deal with leftovers.  You might even learn to enjoy and appreciate them!

The most obvious and maybe the most common:  tonight’s dinner is tomorrow’s lunch.  Whatever is leftover in the evening goes to work or school with someone the next day.  This will not work 100% of the time, because some things need to be kept cool, some things need to be reheated, some things require knives, etc., but it will work often.

Another option is to create what my dad used to call a “kitchen sink” meal.  (As in, he said he threw in everything except the kitchen sink!)  Are there leftovers in your fridge that could work together?  I recently had some leftover tater tots, and some extra mushrooms I hadn’t used yet, and those were easily transformed into a tasty cheesy casserole.  (Of course, I didn’t tell my children that leftovers had any part.)  This one too, isn’t 100% effective.  You’re probably not going to mix leftover fish chowder with the leftover chili.  Sometimes, things don’t work together.  But when they can, be sure to cash in on the opportunity.

And lastly, have a leftover night.  Designate one night a week for a leftover buffet.  Clean out the fridge and have everyone grab what they want.  This one works great for older children who enjoy having a say about things.  If you don’t have enough leftovers to feed the family, you can whip up something quick and easy to go with the leftovers, and have the principle of the evening remain the same.  This idea works especially well if your schedule offers one night that is crazier than others, and you can mark it in your meal planning calendar on Say Mmm. Is Thursday the night that you will be at Yoga class?  Then Thursday gets to be the leftover night. 

Paying close attention to your leftovers can help you with future planning.  If you weren’t able to finish the veggie lasagna (and you weren’t excited about it the second time around either) then make a smaller batch next time, or scratch the veggie lasagna out of your meal plan reservoir.