I think we all know that eating leftovers is the number one frugal food tip; it’s the best way to stretch the contents of your fridge, and therefore your grocery budget, and the more responsible way to consume food. Lately, I’ve found myself surprised at the meals that are concocted from my seemingly bare refrigerator and pantry odds and ends. These are a few meals we regularly make in my house when leftovers need to be eaten or we’re trying to stretch the groceries just a bit farther.
Pizza: Pizza does not always have to be topped with pepperoni. I make pizza almost once a week and it’s a great way to use up any leftover meat and vegetables. Veggie pizza is prominent in our house in the summer, when so much produce is in season. When tomatoes are in season I bypass pizza sauce altogether and put a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes where the sauce would normally go, before adding cheese and other veggies. Pizza is also a great way to use up any bits of cheese too small to stand alone in a meal. To make it easier, I usually make enough for two crusts when I make pizza dough; one goes in the freezer for next time or for when I’ve run out of flour and yeast (one pizza is enough for our family of two).
Salad: Some of our best leftover dinners have been salads. My husband is a pro at warming up some leftover meat and adding it to salad greens, along with some cheese (strong cheese like gorgonzola or feta helps fill the meal out), dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins), and nuts or sunflower seeds. Dress with a vinaigrette dressing, which you can make yourself with oil and vinegar from the pantry. With the meat, a salad becomes a full meal instead of a side. The savory, sour, and sweet flavors from the meat, cheese, and dried fruit complement each other very well. I don’t order salads at restaurants anymore because we make them better at home!
Pasta: Pasta is an easy starting point when you have several small servings of leftover vegetables, or fresh vegetables that need to be eaten, or meat. Or sauce or pesto or just about anything that you have in the fridge. Start adding ingredients to your cooked pasta, or three pasta mix if you’re combining the remains of several kinds of pasta, taste, and keep adding ingredients until is tastes the way you like it. If you don’t have a sauce for your pasta dish, a drizzle of olive oil works well.
There are two great things about these three dishes: they can be different every time based on the contents of your fridge, and you can serve them to guests. I have recently come to realize I can serve meals made from leftovers to people other than ourselves. We have friends over for meals quite a bit and this revelation has been most helpful. For so long I thought a meal for “company” had to be above and beyond what we normally eat and it was wearing me out. We still serve special meals on occasion, but it’s nice to know I can serve frugal meals that taste good, both for guests and for just myself and my husband.
Candace Spain-Smith writes about cooking and other domestic adventures at thewhirlygirl.blogspot.com.