Sunday, February 14, 2010

Menu Planning: Creating New Meals from Leftovers

Do you ever feel stuck in a rut when it comes to planning lunches for your family? Maybe it's the constant rotation of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ham/turkey sandwiches, macaroni and cheese that's got you looking for new ideas. I've been there.

One thing that has really helped me in this area is to find creative new uses for leftovers. Think of it as planning an entirely new meal from what didn't get eaten.  I'll show you how I do this as I share my plan for the week.

  • Oatmeal, brown sugar, Craisins
  • Leftover lasagna or Chinese food (not getting creative yet--it's Monday, what do you expect?) :)
  • Roast Chicken, sweet potatoes, cauliflower in bread crumbs

  • Overnight Caramel Rolls, fruit salad
  • Italian Sausage Soup and rolls (last week, I made Stuffed Green Peppers. I scooped out what was not eaten and made a soup out of it the next day, chopping up the green peppers, adding chicken broth and some leftover rice. It was really good! I froze what we did not eat for that meal and will reheat it for this lunch)
  • Chicken and Noodles, peas, rolls (using white and dark meat from leftover roast chicken)

  • Oven Baked Omelet (adding in some leftover cauliflower if there's any left)
  • BLT's, salad
  • Roast, potatoes, carrots
  • Breakfast potatoes (leftover from roast), eggs, any leftover bacon, toast, grapefruit
  • Chicken Salad wraps (white meat from leftover roast chicken), oranges
  • Spaghetti Bolognese and salad (I will saute some garlic and onion, add some crushed tomatoes, a splash of olive oil, and some Italian seasonings and parmesan cheese along with some of the beef--shredded thinly--from the leftover roast).

  • Blackberry Cream cheese coffee cake
  • Pasta Fagioli -- take leftover spaghetti, add a can of chili beans (undrained) and some shredded cheddar cheese. Warm through. Serve with more cheese. (This is actually really good, and a great way to use up spaghetti leftovers. My boys love it too!).
  • Pizza night & popcorn
  • Pancakes and juice
  • Leftover pizza and other snacks for lunch
  • Pork Chop Casserole with Scalloped Potatoes and Chinese Cabbage Salad

So there you have it! If you are new to the whole "turning leftovers-into-new meals" thing, start out small. Pick one meal where you have leftovers and think of a way you can turn them into something new--a soup? A pasta? (Spaghetti Carbonara comes together super easily with a little leftover bacon). A vegetable salad? Try to vary it, so you are not serving the same leftover source all in the same day (I saw I had chicken salad wraps and chicken and noodles planned on the same day, for example, so I switched that around).

I'd love to hear if you've found any creative ways to use leftovers and any great standby recipes you turn to when you have a certain kind of leftover (beef roast for example)! 

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  1. Oh, I love planned leftovers! I intentionally make extra of some meals just for the leftovers. Chicken works so well for this. I plan four meals out of one chicken - wrote about it a few weeks back:

  2. Great ideas. We usually eat leftovers, as is, for lunches. But tonight I'm making pork fried rice to use up leftover pork chops. I have some leftover broccoli that I might try to sneak in there, too. :)

  3. I'm always on the lookout for yummy menu choices. We're still having to watch our pennies.

  4. Mmm overnight caramel rolls sound yummy!