It’s Wednesday evening and you find yourself peering into the back of the fridge, hoping for some inspiration to hit. There’s no inspiration, but instead you find a container with the remnants of a meal gone by. Yup, it’s official: You’ve got leftovers.
Over the years, leftovers have got a bad rap. Sure, everyone wants variety in their food, but using similar ingredients for other meals – or things you cooked once and could eat twice – won’t bore you to tears, I promise.
Why not put all that effort to good use and keep something extra for the rest of the days this week.
There is lots of advice and how-tos out there on leftovers and food storage, but for me I found it was a simple method of trial and error.
You can read all the tips you want, but in the end if the thought of eating re-heated veggies turns your stomach, you’re not going to eat them just because I say so.
In general, I try to reuse as much as possible. I don’t mind eating similar food the next day, so I use the leftover protein from dinner in a salad or wrap for lunch the next day. When you’re doing your weekly meal planning and prep, build in a little time for experimenting with those leftovers to see how to make use of them in your meals.
Here are my top 5 tips on making leftovers work for you:
Avoid container overload: You’ll want to leave room for air and expansion, so the food doesn’t get soggy or stuck together.
Use them up!: Make sure that your leftover meals are on your plan for this week or are heading into the freezer with a date on them. Use them up within 3-4 days, or they’re probably no longer good.
Divide and conquer: Portion out for the fridge and freezer as you’re serving up your meal. this will stop you from eating more than you intended.
Avoid the mush: If you plan to freeze or refrigerate portions, keep the sauce separate from the fresh veggies and grains. This will stop the food from getting mushy and inedible. For example, if you make Pad Thai and want to it eat later, cook up the main parts – sauce, protein and veggies – separate the part you want to eat later and then add your noodles to eat that day.
Make it a date: Label and date what you put into the freezer. This will make sure that you’re using the food in a reasonable timeframe. I use masking tape or painter’s tape, and I often include instructions to go with them taped on, such as “defrost first” or the time it needs to be in the slow cooker for.
Using these tips will ensure that you’re making the most of your food each week – and most importantly, you’re not peering into the fridge wondering what’s in that container on a weeknight when you’re already hangry.
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I’m Kandice-Lee! I am passionate about the impact food can have on your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I help people lead bigger, bolder, and better lives through teaching meal planning, meal preparation, and clean eating.