What do you do with your dinner leftovers? I like to cook, and I like to make sure there’s enough for the next day, because I don’t like fixing lunch. But sometimes I have a lot more left over than I anticipated I would. Usually it is for one of two reasons. Either I tried a new recipe and no one liked it, or it’s something we have fairly frequently, so there’s just always leftovers. I love leftovers, but only for a couple of days. If they look like they’re going to last a really long time (like Thanksgiving leftovers) I usually freeze them right from the start so I don’t have to worry about them going bad.
Things that I tend to freeze and have a lot of success with is first, meat. I like cooking a big roast or ham, turkey, or even double the number of pork chops or chicken pieces that I need. Then when we are running short on time, or I just don’t feel like cooking, I can pull out a bag of already cooked meat and warm it up with other possible leftovers, or even with fresh veggies and some fruit or something, and it’s a really nice, quick meal. How the meat goes in the freezer though, depends on what it is. If it’s a spiral sliced ham, I freeze the slices for things like sandwiches. If it’s pork chops or chicken pieces with bone, I freeze those as they are and know that I may need extra time to heat them up all the way through. Most of the turkey, roast, chicken breast, etc. I chop into cubes and freeze. That way I can use them later in a bunch of different ways, from breakfast items like quiche or breakfast burritos, to soups and stews, to fajitas or add them to beans and rice, etc. It speeds up dinner prep, which is nice as my kids are getting older and busier.
Other things I like to freeze are pasta’s, they heat up really well, although they don’t fall under the category of quick meals as it takes close to an hour to heat, depending on the amount of pasta and how it was packaged to freeze and how soon you remember to take it out of the freezer ahead of time. I usually think about it as I’m starting my dinner prep at 4:30. Freezing fresh fruit salads works great for smoothies, they makes a quick breakfast, lunch, or snack. I also like to freeze leftover homemade breads, especially if there’s a lot from something like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. They heat up quick and always taste better than store bought bread.
There’s a lot of things that can’t be frozen or preserved in some way though, they just have to get eaten, and I hate throwing out good food, so every week or so we have a buffet type dinner. Everything that is a leftover, as well as things that add substance but are always available, like cottage cheese, sour cream, grated cheeses, breads, etc. are set out on the counter, and dinner is whatever you like, but it has to come from the counter, you can’t get out anything new. My kids actually usually really like this as there are way more options than a normal meal, and they find things they had forgotten were leftover from previous meals.
I also have found that if I have several items in my fridge that go together, a casserole, of sorts, works really well. If I have some sort of potatoes, whether mashed, diced, baked, etc., I can combine that with any type of meat, most any vegetable leftovers, and maybe add a little leftover gravy or shredded cheese. This is one of those things my kids always wonder about while I’m making it, but they have never disliked it.
Tonight we had street tacos. We had leftover beef roast from our Sunday dinner, and we had corn tortillas that needed to be eaten. Mexican of any kind is one of our family favorites, and tonight was no exception, there was nothing left to put away in the fridge, so for me that is a win, and I can cook something new tomorrow! What do you do with your leftovers? Do you have a favorite recipe that uses leftovers? I’d love to hear your ideas!