Recycled Dinners as Easy as 1-2-3

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

As grocery prices rise, the skill of recycling leftovers becomes even more valuable (as if it weren't already crucial in most family meal planning.) To ease the strain of grocery shopping as well as meal planning, try a 1-2-3 recycling plan to lengthen the life of your leftovers.


Step 1

Step 1 involves making a meal large enough to provide substantial leftovers for steps 2 and 3. It wouldn't be frugal to make more than needed; instead, think of meals that already offer leftovers. Roasts, chickens, and cookouts usually put some leftovers in a family's refrigerator.

After a cookout, save the leftover hamburgers from the grill in a large Ziploc bag for a Step 2 meal. The next step will require crushing them, so if one fell apart during flipping, it's perfect for this plan. Grilled chicken can also be used for a meal; just store it in the freezer a bit longer or save it for the end of the week.

After the company leaves one thing always remains at my cookouts - leftover buns. These are perfect for Step 2; save them in a Ziploc bag as well.


Deviled eggs are difficult to save. However, deviled eggs can be utilized later in meals. Save them in a storage container, and don't bother to preserve them intact. Crumbling them or chopping them will work for the recycling. They won't stay long, however, so try to use them immediately instead of waiting for a Step 3 meal. Red beet eggs can be saved and eaten later or recycled into another meal as well.

Step 2

Step 2 occurs a little later in the week. This is the typical 'leftovers' step that uses leftovers from one meal to create another. Use the hamburgers left from the cookout to make chili. Even if the hamburgers were heavily seasoned, it will only add to the flavor of this new meal. Another alternative is to make sloppy joes from the hamburger. Again, the extra seasoning is a bonus.


The next evening, another Step 2 meal can be made from the leftovers of the cookout. The rolls that were saved can be torn into pieces for stuffing. Cook a roast chicken dinner complete with stuffing to create a Step 2 meal. Save the leftovers from this meal to create a Step 3 meal.

The deviled eggs that were saved from the cookout should be used as soon as possible. The extra zest of the devil filling adds to the flavor. Add the chopped or crumbled eggs to tuna, potato, or macaroni salad. If you saved red beet eggs, these add a nice flavor to garden salads, but they can also be added to the previous mixtures for an unexpected surprise and a dash of color. Of course, egg salad can always be made from the leftovers as well.

Step 3

Step 3 meals are made from leftovers' leftovers. While Step 3 meals often are smaller 'quick' meals or even lunches rather than dinners, they can be hearty meals if planned well.


Look at the leftover chicken from the roast chicken dinner (Step 2) or if there was leftover chicken from the cookout (Step 1). This can now be chopped to create a batch of chicken salad, chicken tacos, or chicken Caesar salad. Any extra spices from the cookout won't affect these meals, and the roast chicken works nicely for all three as well.

For a more hearty Step 3 dinner, save the leftovers from the chicken dinner in a different way. Chicken pot pie can be made with purchased pie crusts or even phyllo dough (aka: filo dough). From the chicken dinner (Step 2) save the leftover chicken, vegetables, and gravy. Layer in a baking dish the chicken and vegetables. Add some cooked potatoes and more vegetables if needed (a can or bag of mixed vegetables works nicely.) Pour the leftover gravy on top of the mixture.


If more is needed, a can of cream of chicken soup substitutes well. Finally, cover it with a pie crust and poke holes or layer philo dough on top and coat with butter as directed. Bake at 350 degrees F until it is heated through.

Recycled Dinners as Easy as 1-2-3

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May 12, 20170 found this helpful

Very good article. I have been doing this for years not only to save money but also to avoid waste! I always try to get at least two meals from one cooking session. The leftover grilled hamburger can be chopped and crumbled to make great sloppy joes and the seasoning and that "BBQ" taste adds so much extra flavor. Leftover roasted chicken and stuffing makes a great casserole later in the week. I just spray a casserole dish lightly with cooking spray and pat the stuffing mix down on the bottom of the pan, add chopped chicken meat, some leftover vegetables, gravy and anything else in the fridge that would go and bake for 15-20 minutes.


The stuffing makes a great "crust" for the casserole. Leftover chicken can be made into BBQ chicken pizza, chicken enchiladas, chicken garlic lasagna using bottled or fresh Alfredo Sauce, among many other recipes using cooked chicken. Use your imagination! I have made chicken taquitos, chicken eggrolls, and chicken stir fry with leftover roasted chicken. And all of these dishes freeze very well, so make them up and freeze for dinner later in the month!

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