Using Leftovers

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 523 Posts
February 12, 2016

Eat Leftovers And Be GratefulI'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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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 153 Feedbacks
March 25, 2009

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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October 6, 2010

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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October 18, 2011

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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May 8, 2011

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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April 30, 2009

Here's a great way to use leftovers that is a lot of fun for kids. When our kids were young, every so often we'd have a Mystery Dinner. The older kids were allowed to use whatever was in the refrigerator or pantry.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 355 Posts
January 15, 2015

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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March 20, 2011

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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September 12, 2011

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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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 170 Posts
October 25, 2010

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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December 8, 2006

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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November 4, 2005

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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April 22, 2001

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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September 26, 2008

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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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 355 Posts
February 16, 2015

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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