This weekend I was hunched over my computer working when Cassie slid a bowl in front of my face. It was filled with our leftovers from the night before — a Budget Bytes recipe for Creamy Spinach Artichoke Chicken. We had run out of egg noodles, so to beef it up, she made a box of white cheddar mac and cheese and mixed the leftover chicken and sauce in.
I swear to you, it was better than the first night’s meal.
I love leftovers, and I think you should too. They are easy and delicious. They are there for you when you need them. They are the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, really, they should be called lifesavers.
If a recipe won’t make enough for there to be leftovers the next day, I will either seriously consider not making it, or double or triple recipe. And if I go out to eat, leftovers always help me feel like I’m getting more for my money.
There’s nothing better than knowing you already have a delicious meal prepared for the next day that doesn’t require more than heating up and will result in almost no new dishes.
Leftovers help you make the most of the ingredients you buy by letting you make larger quantities, and they set you up with convenient meals down the road to avoid some of the last-minute take out decisions for convenience. If you have more leftovers from a dish than you really want to eat in the next few days, freeze them for an easy convenient meal sometime down the line. We use wide-mouth, freezer-safe mason jars to freeze leftover curry, meatballs, various sauces, and soup.
Not to mention, eating your leftovers helps cut down food waste!
To make your leftover experience as great as possible I recommend the following four things:
1. Invest in a set of quality glass Tupperware
Having a nice set of varying size glass Tupperware will make sure you always have the right container to keep your leftovers in. Plus, glass Tupperware makes heating things up much easier (some are even oven-safe) and they are super easy to clean for those times your leftovers get lost in the back of the fridge (no fighting to remove spaghetti sauce stains).
We have a set by Rubbermaid that we love, but it doesn’t seem to be available from Amazon or Target anymore. We also have some by Pyrex, which are great. But word to the wise: The Pyrex options with the snap and lock lids are great, but the ones with the plain lids suck. The lids chip and slowly fall apart.
2. Know how long things stay good for
If your someone who gets nervous about things going bad, check out stilltasty.com. It’s a website that lets you know how long things stay good for and how to store them. Knowing the proper way to store your food will help it stay better longer, whether it’s leftovers or fresh produce!
3. Make leftover-friendly recipes
I love leftovers, but I also know that some things don’t make great leftovers. Soggy second-day french fries, anyone?
If you’re looking to simplify your week, plan just two or three meals for that week that you know will make delicious leftovers. There are plenty of recipes that I think actually taste better on the second day once they’ve had time to really soak in all the flavors.
Stews and soups tend to make great leftovers, and also pretty much anything you can make in a crockpot.
Here are some of my favorite recipes to make for leftovers:
- Chicken Tamale Pie
- Taco Soup
- Beef Shakshuka
- Creamy Spinach Artichoke Chicken (we put this over egg noodles or macaroni shells)
- Salsa Verde Chicken (Chicken, onion, jar of salsa verde, and a few spices in a crockpot)
- Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach
4. Get Creative!
Yes, leftovers are meant to be simple, but don’t forget you can also revamp them if you’d like some more variety.
If we have leftover chili, we’ll make chili-cheese fries or loaded baked potatoes one night. We’ll use the creamy spinach artichoke chicken leftovers for a decadent grilled cheese filling. Salsa verde chicken will be used for tacos one night and then top a baked sweet potato the next. And sometimes, all it takes is throwing a fried egg on top to make it something new.
I hope this post has rekindled a love for leftovers, or got you thinking about leftovers as the gift they truly are.