Using Leftovers

Everyone has leftovers to use up every once in a while. Finding a way to make use of leftovers in other meals is a great way to prevent food waste. This is a guide about using leftovers.
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February 12, 2016 Flag

I've made reference in other posts to the fact that, when I was a child, we were quite poor. We didn't have a car. Few families in my neighborhood, did. I think we were the last to get a television.

We had two sources of heat. One was Mama's Red Mountain cook stove in the kitchen. The other was a tiny, poorly designed fireplace in the 'living room'. More heat went up the chimney than into the room. You might ask, why the single quotes encasing 'living room'. Well, our home was a tiny three room house. There were beds in every room. Our 'living room' had two full size beds in it.

As it neared bedtime, both fires were allowed to burn out. We couldn't afford to heat the house through the night and, of course, there would be no one up to tend a fire. In mid winter, if it was zero degrees outside, it was zero degrees in the bedrooms.

I slept under many heavy, homemade quilts. I woke up tired from being under all that weight all night. But, children are resilient. In a flash, I would grab my overalls and run to the kitchen in my long johns (you know, the ones with the trap door in the back).

Mama would have a roaring fire going in the cook stove. I would hold my overalls close to the stove to get them above freezing before putting them on. The same with coats. Taken from a freezing bedroom, you always held your coat near a fire before putting it on.

I will be honest with you. I was envious of other children who had more. Sometimes, I managed to put together enough pennies to make a dime. That dime would get me into the 'theater' on a Saturday morning. I would watch movies starring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and other heroes of the day. Comedy was my favorite genre, though. Judy Canova could make me do a belly laugh right there in the theater, something an inhibited child such as myself just didn't normally do.

There was no ride to town. Bus fare was ten cents, each way. Twenty cents, I didn't have. I walked the four miles, there and back. Once inside the theater, the scent of hot buttered pop corn was almost overwhelming. It sure made my mouth water. No popcorn for me, though. That was another dime I didn't have.

It's hard for children to count their blessings when it seems that most all those around you are blessed with more than you. But, in retrospect, I now know I was more fortunate than many. I always had enough clothes to wear. I never went hungry. I had a Mother's love.

I remember some of my friends came from broken homes. Some did not have proper clothing to walk three miles to school in 20 degree weather. At age eight and nine, many had decayed front teeth. I think what I remember most about these children was how pale and thin they were, a sure sign their diet was inadequate. I even remember seeing a few children with bowed legs due to rickets, a result of vitamin D deficiency. So, while I was born to a poor family, I was more fortunate than many around me.

There were beans and potatoes on our table every day, yet we were a healthy lot. I guess that was because Mama supplemented those 'beans and taters' with lots of greens and such. And milk. Mama bought two gallons of milk a week from a farmer who delivered it to our home for the price of 50¢ a gallon.

The beans I ate for supper may well have been leftovers from 'dinner' (lunch). And you know what? They tasted just as good at the evening meal. I was a growing child with a big appetite. Of course they were good. I 'put away' so much food, some of the older folks would ask me if my legs were hollow.

Sometimes, leftovers were made into an entirely different dish. Mama used leftover black eyed peas to make little fried cakes. They were called 'pea sausage'. I think that was because they were flavored with sage. They were different and quite good.

We never had store bought desserts. Cakes were usually reserved for holidays. Between special occasions we had homemade pies and cobblers. Mama could turn leftover biscuits into a delicious bread pudding. Warm and fresh from the oven bread pudding, washed down with a tall glass of cold milk straight from the country. My, my, my.

Many years later, with Mama and Daddy gone, I still lived at home. Not the original home place. Somewhere along the way, we managed to get another house with a couple more rooms. I remember a married sister coming to spend a Sunday afternoon with me. We had a nice visit. It was one of those rare days when everything seems to go 'just right'. After visiting for a while, we both were hungry. Neither wanted to go out for burgers and neither wanted to cook a meal.

I went to the kitchen and looked around. Leftovers. I found a little of this, a little of that and a little of the other. I could heat these up and make a salad. I did, and I made a pan of biscuits. Those biscuits and those leftovers turned into a meal. A good, satisfying meal. My sister is gone now, but I'll never forget her saying "I believe that's the best meal I've had in a long time".

Even more years later, a customer offered me some cake. She had baked a nine inch, four layer, sour cream, fresh coconut cake.

Jackie: 'Doug, we will never eat all that cake. I want to bring you half of it'

Doug: 'Thanks Jackie, but I can't eat half a cake before it goes bad'.

Jackie: 'You can slice the cake and wrap each piece and freeze them. Just thaw a piece when you want some'.

Doug: 'Freezing will ruin the cake. It won't be any good'.

Jackie: 'No, you're wrong. It will taste even better than fresh'.

Doug: 'We'll see'.

Well, people, every time I thawed and ate a piece of that cake, it was better than the last. I couldn't believe it. Jackie, bless her heart, was right.

I still use leftover stewed potatoes to make potato cakes. Creamed or mashed won't do because there should be many small 'hunks' of potato in the cakes. Sometimes I crank 'em up with chopped onions or shredded cheese. Humble fare, yes. But I prefer them over Chateaubriand.

A lot of people will throw away perfectly good food rather than eat leftovers. They do it as a matter of principle."I don't eat leftovers". Well, I don't have a lot of time or respect for those people. With so many hungry people on this ship, wasting food is one of the greatest sins against mankind.

These wasteful people don't know what they're missing, anyway. I used to make an apple cake with pecan and cream cheese icing. It was always better the next day. Most of us are in agreement that potato salad is better the next day. So are pinto beans.The best onions for your hot dog? Don't use white. Don't use red/purple. Both are too strong. Use yellow skin, sweet onions. Chop them finely. And most important of all, chop them yesterday. The flavor will have mellowed, and you can pile all you want on that dog. That's right, yesterday's onions make the best hot dog.

Yes, as a child I was poor, but never went hungry. Except for the occasional meat or dessert we had, I could eat as much as I liked, and I did. There was just one rule. You were never to put more on your plate than you would eat. There was no scraping the plates before washing. There was nothing to scrape. Each of us had broken off a piece of biscuit at the beginning of the meal and placed it near the edge of our plate. That piece of biscuit was the last thing we ate, after we used it to sop up every last morsel of food on the plate.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I'm hoping what I've written will give pause for thought to those who are a little too quick to throw away perfectly good food just because they wouldn't want it two times in a row. They might discover that many foods actually taste better the second time around.

I won't burden you with all the current statics on world hunger. One person going hungry is too many. Multiply that by 805 million to get an idea of how grave the situation is. Now, take that figure and put it in the back of your mind. Let it sit there, quietly. It will know what to do and when to do it.

Please, enjoy your food, all of it.

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March 27, 20160 found this helpful

J'Marinde

I can't recall getting a notice that you had posted a comment to this post. I just happened to run across it, today. I am sorry for the delay in replying.

I don't remember actual 'pounding parties'. I do remember small groups getting together and going door to door asking for food and other items. These things were collected and given to a family in the village that had run cross a streak of bad luck and were pretty much penniless. To go door to door like this was called 'goin' a'poundin'. It's hard to believe such an act of neighborly love and kindness would ever take place in this day and age.

We were fortunate enough to have milk most every day. We rarely had meat, though. When we did, it usually was fried chicken on Sunday. And even more rare were the times Mama could afford to cook country style steak. We sopped up every last bit of the gravy with Mama's biscuits.

I don't remember cooking at the age of two, but with Mama often working first shift, at age six I would cook my own eggs rather than let a sister cook them. I wanted them just so, with the 'yellow' unbroken. Again, I sopped up all that 'runny yellow' with biscuits. I would not eat an egg cooked that way, today.

I dearly love your account of you mama. You must have some wonderful stories to share with us. Please do.

We grieve over our losses, but there comes a time when we say to ourselves, 'I have grieved enough. It is time to put away the grief. I will never cry over this loss, again'. And then... I read the last sentence of your comment. I'm sorry, the tears are so many, I cannot write more.

Thank you, J'Marinde.

Doug

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11 found this helpful
September 11, 2014 Flag

Congratulations Casserole

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Why the silly name? I put this together with leftovers and pantry items for dinner. My 6 year old asked me if I followed a new recipe or I made this one up. When I told her it was my own, she quickly responded; "Congratulations, it's very good!" I just thought that was too cute.

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24 found this helpful
October 6, 2010 Flag

Need a fun way to get your family to eat leftovers? We have a "Leftover Cafe" night once a week. We decorate the table with fake flowers and candles, and play some music in the background.

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14 found this helpful
March 25, 2009 Flag

This is how two people made five meals out of one roast this week, and didn't get tired of it even once. This is one of those meals that keeps on giving and changing into something new.

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1 found this helpful
March 5, 2007 Flag

Organizing and Using Leftovers

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Tips from our readers for organizing leftovers and ways to use them. It is possible to use every bit of leftovers in a different way so there is no waste.

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January 15, 2015 Flag

Living frugal? Try making two meals for the price of one. I make the commonly known American Chop Suey. We have that for two nights, it's always best the second night. Then we still have leftovers.

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February 6, 2013 Flag

Pasta.

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I had leftover noodles from last weeks mac 'n cheese, and sauce and cheese from homemade pizzas sitting around needing to get used up, so I came up with this tasty dinner.

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February 16, 2015 Flag

Save containers from: Chinese Won-Ton Soup, frozen dinners, cold cut meats, to go meals, whipped topping tubs, dollar store plastic ware, etc. Perfect for packing leftover dinner for lunches the next day.

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10 found this helpful
October 18, 2011 Flag

When we have salad night, we put out leftovers like corn, carrots, chickpeas, cold meats such as roast beef or chicken. We put them all in separate bowls and put out the salad lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, pickles, and onions, whatever you like in a salad.

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1 found this helpful
September 12, 2011 Flag

I like to make up a boxed mix like Rice-a-Roni, then with leftovers I can always add more veggies, next time to what's left. I can also add the appropriate liquid, like tomato juice, milk, or mushroom soup to make soup.

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0 found this helpful
September 26, 2008 Flag

Have a "clean out the fridge/freezer" meal. Go through your cupboards and fridge and combine foods. I use old Salsa on noodles with left over cheese. This cleans out your supplies and rotates your cupboards.

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3 found this helpful
March 20, 2011 Flag

When cooking a meal, look for ways that you can extend or incorporate that meal into other meals. For example, I boil my pork ribs before baking them with barbecue sauce.

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May 8, 2011 Flag

While growing up, I watched my mother as she always made food for all of us. Somehow she always had enough even if extended family or friends showed up.

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0 found this helpful
June 27, 2007 Flag

When out running errands, it is so easy to think about going thru the drive thru at my favorite restaurant, on the way home or halfway through my errand trip. If I've finished my errands and am going home, I try to remember what's in my fridge as leftovers.

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April 23, 2010 Flag

I already had leftover pot roast to which I added cooked carrots and heated all in thinned leftover gravy. To this mixture, I added the cut up leftover french fries. Voila! The fries were just like regular potato pieces in the stew.

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1 found this helpful
January 17, 2007 Flag

Last night for dinner, we all used leftovers with a baked potato as the starter. I had several leftovers in the refrigerator. You can come up with you own leftover toppings. We will continue to do the same at our house. I covered my baked potato with leftover broccoli and cheese.

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December 28, 2007 Flag

Here are some strategies for leftovers: For pasta leftovers, like spaghetti, beat with eggs and cheese for Shipwreck. It doesn't take much pasta to make a meal of this.

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December 8, 2006 Flag

I had a lot of small containers of leftovers after Thanksgiving; and wanted to heat everything at once with not enough pans to do the job.

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0 found this helpful
December 22, 2011 Flag

How many times have you opened the refrigerator and stared at an assortment of leftover items that needed to be used before they spoiled? I have a tight grocery budget and don't want to waste any of the items I purchase.

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2 found this helpful
December 30, 2013 Flag

Use leftover white gravy in dishes that call for white sauce. Extra benefit, if your gravy is the seasoned type, your white sauce will already be seasoned.

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1 found this helpful
November 4, 2005 Flag

I had a friend who used to call her meal leftovers "Encores". She said the word "leftovers" sounded bad and would make others dread having it for the next meal...

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February 17, 2009 Flag

My children have always enjoyed snacks and would gladly eat them for a meal if I would allow it. Occasionally I do indulge them in a snack lunch or dinner and they think they are really getting a big treat!

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October 25, 2010 Flag

Make a big batch of stew, enough for leftovers. For a quick and easy meal pick one of the following and serve the leftover stew on top of cooked rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes. Super good and filling.

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0 found this helpful
October 27, 2006 Flag

When ever we have pizza, we get it with onions, green peppers, olives, pepperoni, sausage, ham, cheese, and tomatoes on it. We save the leftovers to use the next morning in omelets.

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1 found this helpful
April 22, 2001 Flag

Plan weekly menus with two large cuts of meat to roast and then plan leftover dinners with the leftover meat. Also, use leftovers for sandwich meat for lunches. - Joan

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January 16, 2007 Flag

After raising my four children, I am now "down" to one (and one who keeps coming back!) My daughter and I don't eat meat, so it's always a challenge to come up with good, fast, healthy, and yummy meals. I made this concoction last night, and it's a hit! I call it Junk Pie

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February 2, 2005 Flag

Before putting something in the fridge as a leftover make sure it is in the smallest container it can be, so it will take up less space and cost less to keep cool. No sense in keeping cool a whole crock pot when there's only one bowl left of soup. By Melanie

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February 2, 2007 Flag

Soups are a great way to use up small amounts of meat and left over veggies. Fresh herbs that are starting to wilt can often be salvaged in these dishes.

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