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Cheap Meal Ideas - Recipes for Leftover Food

Left Over Recipes


Food costs are rising so quickly, it is hard to keep up. There are many ways to save money with cheap meal ideas But a way to save even more, and to reduce waste, is use up left over food. Leftovers can be simply and quickly turned into new dishes with a little thought and here are a few recipes for left over food to help.

1. Bits and Bobs of Bread

Bread and Butter Pudding
Photo © RFB photography
Left over bread? Well there's always space on the bird table but I prefer to save it for cooking. Oddments of bread can easily be dried in a warm oven, blitzed in a food processor and used in recipes requiring breadcrumbs like Panature from Italian Food, Herb Crusted Salmon from Home Cooking. Left over fresh bread can be grated and used as in this recipe for Apple Betty from Southern Food.

Sliced bread is a no-brainer, it has to be a Bread and Butter Pudding one of the cheapest and easiest puddings. You can ring the changes by using brown bread, brioche or even stale croissants. The method is the same whichever bread you use. If you want to be really decadent, then smear the buttered bread with a little marmalade or jam.

2. Chunks of Chicken or Turkey

Asian turkey salad
Photo © istock.com
Finished the roast chicken or turkey at Sunday lunch but there's still a lot of chicken on the carcass? Simply strip the meat away and use in a sir-fry or a salad like this Asian Spiced Turkey, Cranberry Salad. Parenting Teens has a lovely selection of Left Over Chicken Recipes , or a tempting Left Over Roasted Chicken Soup from Busy Cooks.

Don't throw the carcass away. Chicken and turkey carcasses have tons of flavor in them and make great stocks. Save the carcass in the freezer until you have enough to make a big batch of stock . Making stock is so easy and makes a far superior product than any stock cube ever can.

3. Dry Cake

Photo © istock
Maybe you don't have much left over cake, but there are those times when a pound cake, sponge or chocolate cake has gone a little dry and not quite as delicious with a cup of tea. Use the cake in a quick and simple Trifle or Tipsy Laird pudding . Dry cake actually makes a better trifle than fresh! Even if you don't want a trifle right there and then, cake freezes very well, so pop it in the freezer to use later.

For an even quicker pudding, crumble left over chocolate cake and use to sprinkle on a dish of ice cream, delicious.

4. Morsels of Mince or Stew

Photo © istock
Small portions of left over cooked ground/minced beef or lamb, even Chili Con Carne can easily be transformed into a tasty Cornish Pasty. Though not a true 'Cornish' the method is the same. Instead of using fresh (and costly) steak, simply fill the pasty, as in the recipe, with the left over meat sauce or stew. If the the meat sauce has a lot of gravy, strain first before filling the pastry; you can use the strained gravy for serving. Cornish pasties make a great, and cheap, dinner with fresh vegetables and are equally delicious cold in a lunch box.

If you have more than a small portion of meat sauce or stew then place in an ovenproof dish and top with mashed potato, sprinkle with grated cheese and you have a quick and easy Shepherd's Pie .

5. Odd bits of cheese

Blue Cheese Tart
Photo © RFB Photography
If, like me, you end up with scraps of cheese in the refrigerator don't throw them in the bin. Grate hard cheeses and freeze. Use the ready-grated hard cheese straight from the freezer for sprinkling on Shepherds or Cottage Pies, Lasagna, or any dish which needs grated cheese before cooking.

Odd bits of soft or blue cheese I use up in a Pear and Cheese Tart or a lovely Cheese Souffle .

My favorite tip is left over Parmesan rind. It's impossible to get that last bit of cheese next to the rind. Don't worry. Freeze the rind until needed, then add to a soup 15 minutes before the end of cooking. Any Parmesan on the rind melts into the soup, giving it a lovely flavor and reducing the salt needed for flavoring. Remove the rind before serving!

6. Vegetables - Cooked

Irish Colcannon
Photo © RFB Photography
One of my favorite dishes and a great way to use up cooked vegetables is a Bubble and Squeak. Just where the charming name comes no one really knows, though there is a thought it comes from the cooking noise of the vegetables in the pan. Traditionally Bubble and Squeak is eaten for lunch or dinner but it also makes a great breakfast dish with a fried egg, bacon, or meat leftovers.

There is no specific recipe for Bubble and Squeak as it is simply a way of using up whatever you have left from dinner. Usually one main component is mashed potato to glue all the other vegetables together.

Irish Colcannon is similar to Bubble and Squeak and made from mashed potatoes, Kale and onion, as is Rumbledethumps in Scotland.

7. Vegetables - Fresh

Pick Me Up Soup, Spinach Soup Recipe
Photo © istock.com
Any leftover vegetables lurking in the drawer of the refrigerator or vegetable basket don't need to be thrown away, simply transform them quickly and easily into a hearty Left Over Soup.

Sort vegetables into types (root vegetables, leafy greens, peppers and soft vegetables like tomatoes) and decide what goes with what then head to the stove.

I always like to start my soups with a base of sauteed onion, garlic, carrots and celery and a good stock then quite literally almost anything else added to the soup pan is OK. Occasionally I will add a few spices to root vegetable soups for extra flavor.

Another great favorite in my house is a Frittata . Frittata isn't a British dish but has become increasingly popular because it is so good.


Photo © stockXpert.com
Make sure whenever using left over food in any recipe that it has been stored properly (not left sitting on the kitchen counter for days on end) and cooked right through on reheating.

Danilo Alfaro, About's Guide to Culinary Arts , has all the information you need on food safety.

Tips on Left Over Food?

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