Yeah, it bugs us too. You know, those half cans of tomato sauce, or that partial box of pasta that is left over after making many recipes that seem kind of lonely and unloved in your fridge or cupboard. But sometimes using leftover ingredients seems like more work than it’s worth, right? Some of you might remember Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride” really losing it over leftover hot dog buns. It’s such a funny scene because so many of us can relate.
First, why do we end up with leftover ingredients anyway? Why don’t recipes just use the full 14.5 oz of canned beans in the first place? Turns out there are good reasons. First – recipes are created with good nutrition in mind – a good balance of calories, fats, protein, etc. And so that people who are keeping track of their diets can be confident of the nutritional content of a “portion” of the meal prepared. So that oftentimes means not using the full purchased portion. But there are lots of ways of using leftover ingredients that we’ve outlined below in our handy list.
9 Tips for Using Leftover Ingredients in Meals
Leave fresh herbs on the counter or in the fridge, in a glass of water. They will keep just like fresh flowers will keep, just change the water now and then. Then, you will not only keep them fresh longer, but they will be in your view so they are not forgotten (and eliminate the soggy mess in the bag a few weeks later).
Enjoy leftovers in a different meal. Add those diced tomatoes or baby spinach to your breakfast eggs this weekend. And all those prewashed greens we love to buy? There are tons of opportunities to use up greens that are looking less than perfect in your fridge. For example, I add handfuls of baby spinach or greens to skillet meals towards the end of cooking regularly. Great way to use them up and a great way to add nutrition. You can also add them to soups right before serving, stir into casseroles (who cares if the original recipe did not call for it). And one of my new favorite ways: add them to my am power smoothies.
Freeze them in a small container or ziploc bag. You can do this with chopped fresh herbs, canned tomatoes, canned beans etc.
Toss extras beans, chick peas, or raw veggies to your everyday salads, or again soups or casseroles. Small quantities of fresh veggies and are easy adds to soups and casseroles. It will add color and interest, as well as keeping your crisper drawer clean. So that bag of baby carrots with just a few left, or the one or two crowns of broccoli come to mind here. And those leftover olives and capers sitting in the back of your fridge? Add them to your salads to give them a flavor boost.
Observe the expiration date and don’t throw things out before you need to. The extra chicken stock I have in the fridge right now says it is good for 14 days after opening. I keep a sharpie on my kitchen counter so I can mark the date I opened up the carton of chicken stock before putting back in the fridge. No more wondering “how long has this been in here??”
Vary the recipe to use up what you have and to suit your needs. If you LOVE chick peas, or diced tomatoes, or fresh parsley, or another ingredient, feel free to add extra. If you want to change things up and finish off that can/package/jar etc, just go for it. In most cases, this will be just fine.
Enjoy the first meal again. If you are using leftover ingredients from a specific recipe, perhaps make it a second time to make use of what is left. And making it a second time will be even easier since you know what to expect.
Replace ingredients with what is in your kitchen. Here are some examples of easy replacements:
- Use leftover stock instead of water for cooking. For example, rice cooked in chicken stock is delish!
- Replace dried herbs with the fresh herbs you have on hand.
- Simply replace the green vegetable asked for in the recipe with the leftover green vegetable you already have in your crisper drawer. If you have broccoli in your fridge, but the recipe says cauliflower, could you substitute? In most cases, the answer would be yes.
- And those leftover hot dog buns? They make delicious bread crumbs or croutons! Too bad the Assistant Manager didn’t suggest this to Steve in the our funny little video snippet above.
Spice up another meal. Add that extra fresh lemon to your salad, to your glass of water on the table, or even to soup to change the flavor. Throw leftover fresh herbs into your soup or stew, salad or rice. Our bodies crave variety in taste sensations and possibilities to use up leftover are endless.
So those are our suggestions for using leftover ingredients by giveing them some love and getting creative. Those are a few of our ideas. Got others? We’d love to hear them!
And if you are curious how The Dinner Daily can help you better manage your grocery purchases so you make the most of every ingredient, give us a try! Take a look at the video below, or check out our How It Works page, which explains everything you need to know.
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