It seems that we always have leftovers from dinners or large lunches, but rarely enough for both of us to eat another meal out of them. What I’ve found is that by thinking outside the box, a small amount of leftovers can become a completely different meal by adding a few other ingredients. I’m sure you all have your own tricks to stretching your grocery bill, but here are a few of mine.
Spaghetti is a main staple in our house, not just because it is easy to make but because it is relatively inexpensive. Typically I only use half a box of noodles, which means when two adults eat a meal there is usually enough for a little more than one person to have leftovers. However, add a can of chili, a little sour cream and some shredded cheddar and parmesan cheese, bake until bubbly and you’ve got Chilighetti. It may seem odd to combine those particular flavors together, but the results are delicious.
Fajitas are another main dinner in our household for the same reasons as spaghetti. Now sometimes we are so hungry there aren’t any leftovers, but most of the time there are enough to turn into another meal. Fortunately the ingredients I use, chicken, red bell pepper, onions, garlic and jalapeños, work well in a variety of dishes in the Tex-Mex menu options. For this reason it is easy to work the filling into quesadillas or with the addition of either refried or black beans into a topping for nachos. However, one of my favorite uses is for Black Bean Soup. I cheat and buy a large box of black bean soup and heat it along with the leftover fajitas and a can of black beans for substance. Topped with sour cream and sliced green onions and you’ve got a delicious and filling soup.
Pulled pork is another dish that is relatively easy to make in a crock pot, but can be utilized for a plethora of other dishes. I cook mine for thirty-two hours in a special blend of spices I create and rub the pork with before cooking. But aside from pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw, the meat can be used for enchiladas when combined with black beans and my homemade enchilada sauce, wrapped in tortillas, covered in cheese and baked until bubbly. Other uses are tacos, burritos, pretty much any dish that you’d use shredded beef or chicken you can use pulled pork for. It also works eaten cold in salads.
Of course there are plenty of other ways to make a small main course work again, either by adding an extra vegetable dish or two and some bread. We typically eat a lot of salad with our meals, especially in the summer, but canned or frozen veggies will work in a pinch, and we always have those on hand. We almost always have bread of some sort in the house, but English muffins make great cheesy garlic bread.
Alas, the best way to utilize leftovers in new ways is to plan ahead. I typically plan three meals a week when grocery shopping and use the leftovers for the remaining days. While this doesn’t always work out as planned, I make sure I’ve got substitute meals on hand just in case… like a box of macaroni and cheese with half a pound of chopped broccoli.