As a kid, you may not have been very excited when you had to have leftovers. As an adult, though, you might get excited about the idea of not having to cook again for a couple days. Thanksgiving has come and gone- a holiday famous for food and leftovers. Leftovers can be a great contribution not only to your time budget (i.e. time that would be spent preparing a meal) but also your monetary budget.
Before the convenience of grocery stores nearby or delivery services just a call or click away, it used to take some planning and effort to gather ingredients and prepare a meal. Understandably, leftovers were fairly common then. For instance, a roast may reappear as sandwich meat, casserole, soup, and so on, throughout the week. There is still some prep time required to make these ‘repurpose’ meals, but you save yourself a trip to the store and minimize food waste.
Some people have their preferred method for repurposing leftover food,but there’s no wrong way to do it (unless, of course, you’re trying to use food that has already spoiled). As this Business Insider article mentions, having a “go-to” recipe for leftovers can be helpful, and can vary from a rice pilaf to omlette to casserole. Depending on your taste preferences and other materials on hand, you have quite a few recipes at your disposal.
Leftover meat, as mentioned earlier, creates abundant opportunities. It can be made into soups, sandwiches, or pasta dishes. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you will probably have some extra turkey at your disposal. Sharing Thanksgiving leftover ideas has become fairly popular online, including this list of compiled from people all over the internet. With recipe names such as “Hot Turkey Thing,” you may notice that creativity is encouraged in these recipes. You could also go the route of Ross in Friends and make an extravagant sandwich of leftovers.
Meat isn’t the only food group that can be repurposed, however. If you have bread that is stale, or will go stale before you can finish it, you can repurpose it into croutons or breadcrumbs (also referred to as “Poor Man’s Parmesan”). Other ideas include French Toast, Bread Pudding, and French Onion Soup (more ideas from Bon Apetit here). These recipes also work with leftover dinner rolls from your Thanksgiving meal!
Freeze/Can/Preserve for Later
Another idea for saving money is only buying what you need, in order to avoid having to throw food away. Once meats, fruits or vegetables go bad, there’s not much you can do to rescue them. Unless you plan to cook and eat everything you are purchasing within a week, you might want to consider scaling back. Some people will prepare a larger meal and freeze portions of it to be used later on in the week, so if you want to be safe and avoid your food spoiling before you can eat it, this is another option.
If you decide to freeze or otherwise preserve your food, you can save it for later holiday gifting. Bananas are another example of food that can be salvaged when you’re afraid they’re about to live past their prime. In fact, many recipes using bananas actually work best when they’re overripe. If you already have pantry staples, such as flour, sugar, baking powder, etc., then you can create almost any of these recipes. Spare your friends the fruitcake and give them banana bread instead!
Sometimes after a large meal or party, you might find you’ve overestimated the dishes that were actually necessary for the party. If you have untouched pie or other excess food, some organizations will accept donations. Here is a list of local food pantries to consider if you find yourself with food to spare: http://www.foodpantries.org/ci/il-chicago
We hope that everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy your meals (leftovers and all) and loved ones!