Leveraging Leftovers
January 24, 2011 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Looking for weekly meal plans that make the most of leftovers.

What I am looking for is weekly meal plans that re-use your leftovers in later meals. In theory this should be cheaper and require less cooking than making several meals from scratch. Every time I come up with one of these it's pretty much a variation of what's above, so I'm interested in seeing what meal plans others use.

For instance: Mon: Roasted Chicken with Vegetables, Tue: Roasted Veggie Soup, Wed: Leftover Chicken Enchiladas, Thurs: Tortilla soup, etc.
posted by xammerboy to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I tend to reuse my leftovers as themselves. That is, I'll buy enough ingredients to feed four instead of two (which is generally easier to do anyway) and then we'll have the same meal twice in the week with possibly minor side-dish variations. If the meal is something happily re-heatable like stew or curry we have genuine leftovers, and if it's something that isn't, like fish, we have "leftovers" where I re-create the entree and have leftover sides or vice versa. So, for a given week I'll buy food for three or four recipes, not seven, which is efficient financially and also gives me a break from real cooking half the days of the week without forcing us to resort to take-out. I make sure to switch things up week to week so that we don't get tired of, say, Italian food, but your boredom level may vary....
posted by LadyOscar at 2:12 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

SOSCuisine will send you a weekly meal plan that uses leftovers from meals early in the week for meals later in the week. You can tweak the menus as you please. I often use their 'cook for one' plan, and have been wasting a lot less food.
posted by trip and a half at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I spent all last week finishing off a huge pot of vegetable chili. Since I don't even really like veggie chili all that much in the first place, I did a lot of conversion.

It went something like this: Vegetable Chili > Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos > Migas > Bean Soup. Then last night there was some infernal concoction of scrambled egg, the last of the pureed chili, extra black beans, tomato paste, and sauteed onion and garlic. Huevos LeftovereƱos? It occurs to me now that I could have factored it into some kind of enchilada casserole, but I didn't think of it at the time.
posted by Sara C. at 2:25 PM on January 24, 2011

We don't reuse "leftovers" so much - our leftovers get eaten up in lunches - but we often cook extra of a component to use in a different way later in the week, especially if we're turning on the oven or heating up a lot of water. For example:

Butternut squash: Cube and roast several, for use the first night with sage in risotto; the second in a gratin with goat cheese and nuts; the third pureed into soup.

Potatoes: Boil/bake/roast plenty, for use in a lot of different ways. For example, if you're boiling potato wedges to toss with butter and herbs, scoop out some halfway through cooking to bread and roast the next night for quick oven fries. Leftover cooked potatoes make great hash and fried potatoes, too.

Lentils and legumes: if you're going to cook some anyway, always cook more than you need, to be turned into soup or salad later.

Pasta: Always make more pasta dough than you'll eat that night. Cut it, flour it, and dry, or freeze/refrigerate the dough.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:28 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Make a huge batch of turkey (or ground beef) mixture. Add spices, binder, bread crumbs, etc. I like to add fresh basil and sundried tomatoes, along with the usual.

Then use the batch to make meatloaf on Monday, meatballs with spaghetti on Tues, and patties for hamburgers on Weds. Etc.
posted by np312 at 2:30 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Meal plans that cook up extra of a component to be used later in the week count. I wish I had written that into my question.
posted by xammerboy at 3:01 PM on January 24, 2011

Generally any protein is a good bet for this. I routinely cook up extra dried beans or throw an extra few pieces of chicken on the grill, and these can then be flavored differently or used up however you like. I am a big fan of chicken salad (which can also be turkey or ham salad), but of course you can also do things like stir-frys, etc. Beans can be put on top of a green salad, made into soups, etc.

Leftover rice is great for fried rice. Leftover cooked pasta can be thrown into a frittata, it's quite yummy! Actually frittata is a great way to use up all sorts of leftovers, veggies and protein and random bits of cheese.

A general rule of thumb would be to cook up a lot of one ingredient using very minimal seasoning (like a roasted chicken with just salt and pepper). Then you can add appropriate seasonings for each subsequent dish, making the leftovers feel more new!
posted by Bebo at 3:53 PM on January 24, 2011

Monday: 4-6 chicken breasts wrapped in bacon or proscuitto or parma ham plus tomatoes, a jar of artichokes (or mushrooms), garlic, etc. etc. roasted for 30-40 minutes, served with mashed potatoes, carrots, a green vegetable.

Tuesday: sliced chicken & ham on lettuce in sandwiches for lunch;
leftover chicken etc. reheated and served with pasta for supper.

Wednesday: reheated chicken & ham with potatoes and vegetables or salad and baked potato.

Thursday: roast chicken with vegetables, carcass stripped for stock, some leftovers frozen.

Friday: chicken sandwiches for lunch; leftover chicken in stir fry*, curry or risotto.

Also, I make huge batches bolognese style sauce for the freezer that can be served any number of ways - with pasta, topped with mashed potato for a pie, as a filling for baked potato, etc.

* stir fries are wonderful for using up all sorts of ingredients.
posted by ceri richard at 3:54 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cheap Healthy Good just did this with a chicken.
posted by dogmom at 4:54 PM on January 24, 2011

This is just for two meals, but I like to make a frittata with leftover pasta. You can add other veggies and cheese as well and it has an entirely different feel from the original meal, and is good for a breakfast, lunch or dinner.
posted by sumiami at 7:34 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love turning leftover risotto into "arancini." Basically you form risotto into little balls or cakes, maybe adding a cube of cheese, and pan-fry. Here's where I got the idea.

Yes, leftover rice is perfect for fried rice, but have you ever made it with kimchi? Also, topping anything with a fried egg makes it better.

Finally, You could always do what the cafeteria does in Freaks and Geeks:

Nick: You know, I always noticed that the day after we have Salisbury Steak, we always have hamburgers. But then the day after that we always have meatball heroes. And a few days after that we have meatloaf. So is it the same meat? Are you guys recycling the meat?
Lunch Lady: It's different meat.
Nick: I guess you would have to say that, right? I'll have the salad.
posted by therewolf at 7:49 PM on January 24, 2011

I generally use the countertop grill to make about half a breast of chicken per person per day, a week in advance. I grill it with lemon and black pepper, which goes with all kinds of things. Then that chicken can go into chicken quesadillas, alfredo pasta, or be nice grilled chicken eaten alongside potatoes or veggies. Sometimes it gets slathered in BBQ sauce and cheese and baked until the cheese melts. Since the messy stuff with the grill has already been done, it's really easy to just pick whatever we're in the mood for and make pasta, or quesadillas, or whatever.

The grease collected from the grill gets turned into gravy, which may go over the chicken or may go over rice to go with the chicken. At some point during the week. Chicken is good stuff.

I also make a slow-cooker pot of chili every so often. This is chili with rolls, then burritos in tortillas, then beans and rice.
posted by galadriel at 7:49 PM on January 24, 2011

Chili turns into Chili Mac (toss with spaghetti and parmesan) and Tamale Pie at our house. For Tamale Pie you could use store bought polenta layer on bottom of dish, then leftover chili, layer of corn, shredded cheddar cheese, top with more polenta and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
posted by fyrebelley at 7:52 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

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