Monday, July 11, 2011

Extreme Leftovers

Sometimes I feel like I'm a little too extreme about leftovers, like last Wednesday when I ate a leftover container of white beans for breakfast. Yeah, for breakfast.

But let's talk about making leftovers manageable and useful. Leftovers are a thrifty and green way to make your life easier! First, there are really two kinds of leftovers. The first kind is the little bit of food remaining after a meal. The other kind of leftovers are the kind you planned to have, by making a double batch of food, for example. 

Why are leftovers thrifty? If you are eating remnants, then you are saving money by making the food you have last longer. You can save your other food for later. If you are making double-batches, then you are saving money in heating/cooking costs, in labor, in time, and also in ingredient costs.

Why are leftovers green? You are probably going to be spending less energy re-heating leftovers than you used to cook the meal in the first place. That's saving energy. If you are eating food that might otherwise have been thrown out, you are reducing waste.

In my house, we make a double batch of every dinner. That way we each only have to cook once a week! (There are 3 adults in my house and we each cook double batches of dinner once a week. That leaves one day for eating out or having a "fend for yourself" night.) I really feel like this system has made our lives easier. We also have an easier time at the store because we have to buy fewer unique grocery items (that also makes it cheaper!).

So are you thinking that you'd get sick of eating the same thing two days in a row? Here are two solutions: 1. Stagger your meals and leftovers so that you don't eat the same meal on consecutive days. 2. Make your leftovers a variation on a theme. Can you do burritos instead of taco salad? Can you make your leftover rice, chicken, and vegetables into stir fry? There are many cookbooks designed with this system in mind. You cook X on day 1, and then on day 2 you turn those leftovers into Y. See if you can find one of these cookbooks at your library!

One last suggestion for all those little bits of food remaining at the end of the meal: turn them into a vegetable soup! Keep a resealable container in your freezer, and anytime there are leftover veggies or meat, toss them into the container in the freezer. Even if it's just one bean! When the container gets full, make up some broth, pour in your vegetables, add whatever else you have around in your fridge or cupboards, and you've got a great veggie soup! Although I have thought that this was a great idea for a long time, I have never tried it yet. My goal for this week is to get a veggie soup container started in the freezer. Will you try this with me?

Here are some dinner ideas that make good double-batches:
Anything in the crock pot. Meat + Potatoes + Carrots
Spanish Rice
Pancakes (they freeze really well!)
7-Layer Bean Dip
Stir Fry
Fried Rice
Taco Salad
Baked Potato Bar
Lentil Salad
16 Bean Salad
Tikka Masala

Happy Leftovers!

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