Growing up as a kid, this👆🏽 is how I felt about leftovers being on the menu - sorry mom 🙈 Leftovers never tasted as good as they did when they were first prepared, they were always sort of mushy and lifeless too - although, I'm sure part of this was due to the fact that we would reheat leftovers in the microwave.
SIDE NOTE: I haven't owned/used a microwave in over 6 years. I prefer to avoid them at all costs and will simply reheat my food on the stovetop or repurpose my leftovers so that I don't require reheating. I want to retain as much nutritional value as I possibly can and microwaving essentially zaps nutrients from your food. You can read more about the dangers of microwaves here or watch this video here.
Although I know many people who will happily repurpose their leftovers, I know there are also many people who find leftovers sub-par, boring and questionable. I think it's about time we change that outlook!
In our home, we almost always rely on leftovers from our dinner to create our lunches.
Because It is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to stay on track with our healthy eating goals. Not to mention, it makes meal planning a breeze because I essentially only have to meal plan for one meal - our dinners. What about breakfast, you wonder?! We keep breakfast pretty simple around here: smoothies, chia seed puddings, hot cereal and eggs - all things that can be thrown together in 5 minutes and we always have the ingredients we need on hand. Planning my meals like this, allows me to focus my efforts on one meal each day - our dinner.
I prefer to avoid having my leftovers sit in the fridge too many days in a row. From a food safety perspective, leftovers should never be eaten past 3-4 days. Truthfully, on this point I'm fussy myself. I try to plan our dinners so that we can enjoy the leftovers the very next day. Food is best eaten fresh in my opinion.
So, how do I do this exactly? How do I create leftovers out of my dinner and still make them feel fresh and exciting?
1. Make Plenty
I always double up on my dinner recipes for the week. Making extra means that we both have leftovers the next day for a healthy lunch. If I'm going to the effort of making a proper dinner, I might as well make twice as much - it's minimal effort to double the recipe in the moment and cuts down on my time in the kitchen the next day.
TIP: With any of my dinner recipes that include veggies, I'll take the extra and roast them off on a large baking sheet with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh black pepper.
One way to make your leftovers feel fresh and exciting is to dress them up in a whole grain or lettuce wrap. Leftover chicken? Veggies? Even a dish like veggie curry can feel brand new when you repurpose it in a wrap and add a few new toppings and maybe even some condiments.
TIP: I like to keep my favourite brand of wraps on hand. Unless, I know I'll be using them straight away, I'll freeze them and take them out as needed. I also like keeping romaine hearts in our fridge - they can double as a lettuce wrap and salad greens.
Another way to lend some excitement to your leftovers is adding it to a bowl of grains. If my dinner calls for steamed or roasted veggies, I'll make loads of them and use the leftovers to make a grounding bowl of veggies and grains with a delicious dressing (more on this below).
Pressed for time during the week? I like to use Sundays to prep a few things ahead of time. I'll cook off a few different things like millet, quinoa or brown/wild rice to have on hand. Store them in an airtight container and voila! Lunches made easy.
TIP: I make sure our pantry is stocked with quinoa, brown rice and millet.
What's fresher than a salad?! Take your leftovers, whether it's veggies or protein or both and add some greens to the mix. Top it all off with a delicious dressing (that you can make in advance) and boom! Another fresh and exciting way to make your leftovers feel new.
Make a vinaigrette and/or creamy dressing ahead of time that you can store for up to a week in a mason jar, refrigerated. It'll go a long way in repurposing your leftovers - over top grains, salad and as a dressing for your wraps.
TIP: I always have a variety of greens on our grocery list. Depending on what I'm making, I'll buy mixed greens, spinach, romaine hearts, kale, etc.
5. Vary Your Protein
Adding a new protein to your leftovers can help it feel fresh and exciting. I like to keep a variety of the following on hand:
- canned beans/lentils
- raw nuts/seeds
- nut/seed butters (for dressings)
- sprouted tofu/tempeh
- organic free range eggs
- organic grass-fed beef
- organic pasture raised chicken
For example, maybe you have some veggies and chicken leftover - add some black beans, raw organic cheddar and now you have the makings of a Tex-Mex inspired meal.
Roasted veggies leftover? Add some grilled sprouted and organic tofu and enjoy it over a bowl of grains. OR whip up some scrambled eggs to accompany your veggies or create a quick veggie omelet. The possibilities are endless!
TIP: Stock your pantry with canned lentils/beans.
It's possible to make your leftovers feel fresh and exciting with some planning, a little creativity and a strategically stocked fridge/pantry.
What are some of your favourite ways to make leftovers feel fresh and exciting?