How to love leftovers

9 Ways to Love Leftovers

We all know that food waste is a problem. We see it in our everyday lives. It is disheartening to know that so many people in this word go without a sufficient amount to eat. This is not just the “there are starving people in Africa” guilt trip that was laid on us as children but an issue that happens in our own communities. Solving these issues is definitely a community effort that is ongoing. But you may ask what you can do in your everyday life to cut down on food waste? One way is to actually eat your leftovers. Too often we have leftovers that go uneaten. 

So let us be apart of the solution  and make those leftovers more appealing so they don’t go to waste as often. Some of us already love leftovers but for those of you that don’t, this post is for you! We are talking 9 ways to love leftovers. Loving leftovers leads to less wasted leftovers which in turn, leads to less food waste! You know what they say, waste not want not! So let’s jump right into the 9 ways to love leftovers!

  1. Heat leftovers up correctly

Most people don’t enjoy leftovers because they don’t taste like they did when the meal was first made. It is a hard point to argue. However, heating leftovers in the microwave hardly does the food justice. When heating leftovers, think outside the microwave. Leftover pizza? Try heating it in a skillet. It will crisp up the crust while heating up the toppings without burning them.  Leftover pasta is another great leftover to heat in a skillet. Heat the pan over medium heat and either spray with cooking spray or very lightly grease with oil. Sauté pasta for a few minutes until warmed through. Leftover meat can be tricky. You want to heat it up without drying it out. I’ve found the best method is to slice the meat into thin pieces and moisten with either water or some other liquid. It could be the juices it was originally cooked in or a little barbecue or hot  sauce, whatever will complement the meat. Wrap it in foil or parchment paper and heat in the oven. Depending on your time constraints, you can bake it at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or broil on low for 5-7 minutes. Either way keep an eye on it. Since it is thinly cut and wrapped, it will heat relatively quickly. The toaster oven is another great appliance to heat up leftovers. I like to use it to heat up sandwiches and vegetables. If you do use the microwave, place a shot glass of water in the microwave. This will help keep the food from drying out.

2. Store leftovers correctly

Storing leftovers correctly is just as important as heating them up. If you have made something like burgers or tacos, storing the hot and cold items separately is vital to a good leftover. I would suggest storing the protein and toppings in separate containers or at least in separate sections of a larger container. This way you can take out what needs to be heated without heating what doesn’t. Using air tight methods is also really important in storing leftovers. Separate pizza into slices and stack on top of one another. Then, wrap in foil or plastic wrap tightly do it doesn’t dry out and get stale. If you have leftovers form a restaurant that you won’t be eating for a day or so, transfer to air tight containers to keep as fresh as possible.

3. Use leftovers to make other meals

One of the best ways to love leftovers is to use them to create another meal. Cooked vegetables are perfect for making a quick scramble in the morning. Just heat in a pan, pour egg over and scramble. Leftover tacos make great salad the next day. Layer the salad and keep salsa, guacamole, or sour cream in a separate container to make sure the lettuce doesn’t get soggy. Also, if you want the taco meat hot, put in a separate container for easy heating. Leftover chicken is great on salads, wraps, or sandwiches. Leftover pork and beef are perfect for sliders. Have rice, veggies, and chicken, beef, or pork leftover? Why not make a quick and easy stir-fry. Using a wok or large skillet, heat a little oil and stir-fry all the ingredients and when warmed through, add stir-fry sauce of your choosing. With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless!

4. Be mindful as to why your eating them

The simple act of being mindful of why leftovers are great can make you like them more. Understand how big of a problem food waste is and how important it is to do your part to cut down on it. Think about how grateful you are to have such an abundance of food that you actually have leftovers. Once you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

5. Some food actually gets better with time

This is mainly true for sauces. Something about having extra time to marinate the flavors together make sauces to much better after a day or two. Soups are also better leftover. So don’t be shy about making a big pot of soup and eating it for the rest of the week. Reheating in a pot on the stove is best for soup.

6. Freeze what you can

The Freezer is definitely your friend when it comes to leftovers. If you made my Irish Pasties, the recipe makes a ton and freezing them is a great option. Leftover rice and grains freeze really well. I would recommend freezing them in individual portions so you have a quick and easy carb on hand for the busy weeknights. Soup also freezes great. It is so easy to reheat in the crockpot if you want it ready to eat as soon as you get home. If you made a big batch of tomato sauce and meatballs, freeze the leftovers for future use. Herbs can be frozen. Just rinse, dry, and place in a freezer bag. You can freeze a lot of things you wouldn’t expect like cheese, pesto, even fresh ginger.

7. Share with friends or give to the needy 

Sharing leftovers with friends is a great way to make sure they don’t go to waste. This may not apply to a leftover slice a pizza but more if you make a big batch of something. Who doesn’t like receiving a nice container of homemade stew, hummus, or  potato salad. You can also offer to bring a friend lunch. Tacos in the office? Sounds like a winner! Another option is to share with the needy. This mainly apples to people who have direct exposure on a daily basis. I went to college in Philadelphia and when I was asked for “a little help” I would give whatever food I had on me. Sometimes it was a granola bar, or a piece of fruit. Sometimes it was leftovers from a restaurant I had just eaten at. It was a nice feeling that I could give my leftovers to someone who would appreciate it more than I would. A couple of things about this; only give food that you would eat yourself. The needy are not garbage disposals. Giving food that is not fit for consumption is simply unacceptable. Also, I’m not saying that you should take your leftovers and run around town seeking out someone who would want them. I am saying that if you know that you will most likely encounter someone in need, it would be nice to share your leftovers with them.

8. Take for lunch

I feel like this one is almost a given but you would be surprised at how many people don’t do this. Take those leftovers for lunch!!! It saves time from not having to pack lunch and money from not ordering out. It is totally a no brainer. 

9. Get over it 

Lastly, for those of you that still “don’t do leftovers”, get over it! It’s a delicious meal that you just have to heat up! Like who are you? The queen?! You eat 3 meals a day seven days a week, a couple of those meals can be leftovers. It is a win-win. You save time, money, and energy. So don’t be afraid. Jump on the leftover bandwagon! 

I hope you enjoyed this post, shedding a little light on the forgotten leftovers. What is your favorite leftover? Mine is cold pizza for breakfast! Be sure to share this post with someone who needs to show leftovers some love!

Until next week my friends!

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