Thursday, May 24, 2012

Leftovers Can Be Fun

Leftovers Can Be Fun

With household finances trimmed to near anorexic levels, getting the most out of every dollar is critical.  Grocery budgets especially need to provide good nutrition with limited funds.  Needing to make every penny count can be a major challenge.

One of the best ways to stretch your food dollars further is to waste as little as possible.  Planning meals around weekly sales and specials is a good start.  Making sure your pantry is stocked with basic items that can quickly be turned into healthful side dishes is also wise.  And learning to use food that remains after a particular meal is also an excellent way to maximize your food dollars.

This may seem a simple concept, and yet many people today have a hard time following through.  Sometimes leftover food isn’t eaten because having the same meal twice is unappealing.  Sometimes there isn’t really enough food left to make another complete meal.  These obstacles can be easily overcome with some advance preparation and creative thinking.

Whether beef or ham, a large roast is a great family meal.  Easy to prepare, all that’s needed to make a complete meal are some side dishes.  Whatever is left over can then be turned into an equally delicious second meal.  If, for example, it was a beef roast, the remainder can be sliced, wrapped in flour tortillas along with some onions, peppers and seasonings and used in fajitas.  Although traditionally made from ground lamb, leftover beef can be substituted in a Shepherd’s Pie.  Combine the cubed meat with a package of frozen mixed vegetables, top with mashed potatoes (homemade or instant) and bake until golden.  

leftover ham

In addition to having it with eggs for breakfast, leftover ham easily becomes a creamy casserole when added to traditional macaroni and cheese.  Try grinding it up in your food processor and using it for an out-of-the-ordinary meatloaf.  Or use all the leftovers, meat and bones as well, to make a hearty split pea soup. 

A whole roasted chicken is a traditional Sunday dinner in many homes.  Use what’s left over to make a hearty chicken salad to use for sandwiches during the week.  Try it cubed up with carrots, celery and pieces of potatoes in a nourishing chicken pot pie, which can be top it with a homemade or store bought pie crust, or even biscuits, and bake for a meal that’s quick and complete.  It’s a great way to use whatever’s left from your Sunday dinner. 

But what happens when there isn’t enough left over from a meal for a second meal?  This is when having a well-stocked pantry comes in handy.  Not enough green beans from Sunday’s dinner to have it again as a side dish?  There are some leftover carrots from Tuesday but what now?  With some simple additions from your stockpile of supplies you can create a delicious soup.  Try taking your leftover vegetables and combining them with a small chopped onion, a can of crushed or diced tomatoes and some chicken stock and simmer.  Soon you’ll have a healthful dish with lots of flavor and very few calories.  This is a great time to use up any fresh vegetables in your refrigerator that may be a little past their prime.  Experiment with the seasonings to get a customized flavor.  Feeling a little adventurous?  Try some white wine in addition to the chicken stock (or whatever liquid you’re using).  Many wines lend themselves well to cooking.  Try a Chablis or a Sauvignon Blanc for a little kick of flavor.  Don’t worry – there’s only a small amount of alcohol which cooks off, so the youngsters will get only the flavor.  

Making the most of your food dollars doesn’t have to make you crazy.  With some anticipation and planning, you can make making the most of your budget delicious!
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