11 Ways to Spice Up Leftovers

SAVE MONEY WITH LESS WASTE

Variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to family meals, it's important to break up the routine with interesting new dishes. Avoid burning out on classics like meatloaf and roast chicken by turning them into something new later in the week. Leftovers make excellent ingredients as the flavors meld and deepen in the refrigerator. Cheapism.com rounded up 11 ways to dress up your leftovers and get the most out of any food budget.

QUICHE

This savory pastry dish is a good option for leftover vegetables, roasted meats, and scraps of cheese. Starting with the classic base of eggs, milk, and simple seasonings, add leftovers such as sausage, peppers, and cheddar cheese. Pour into a pie crust and bake. The low cost of eggs makes this an inexpensive way to create a new meal that works for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

SOUP

The oldest trick in the book to get more mileage out of any food is to transform it into a comforting bowl of soup. Simply combine leftovers ranging from pasta primavera to three bean salad with broth and seasonings and voila, you've got soup. Enjoy immediately or freeze for later.

PIZZA

Just about anything tastes good on pizza. At around $1 for the dough and just a few bucks for sauce and cheese, you can turn leftovers into a pizza party. Get creative with off-the-wall creations like mac ‘n' cheese, Moroccan chicken, or taco pizza, or stick with classic combinations like meatballs and roasted vegetables.

STIR FRY

If you're not excited about heating up last night's roast chicken and vegetables, dress it up with Asian flare in a quick sauté with soy sauce, chili paste, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Toss with noodles and you have a new flavor profile for just $1 worth of extra ingredients.

STOCK AND BROTH

Save your leftover vegetable pieces in a bag in the refrigerator, including the tops and ends of onions, garlic, celery, potatoes, turnips, and mushrooms. Once the bag is full slowly simmer the contents in a pot or pressure cooker, strain, and freeze for later use. Store-bought stock and broth can cost more than $1 a cup, while the homemade version has more flavor and is made from food you would normally throw away.
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STUFFED PEPPERS

This recipe is good for leftover rice or grain salads and pilafs, or lentils and beans. Cut a bell or poblano pepper in half and remove the seeds. Stuff the halves with the leftovers, top with a slice of cheese and a tablespoon of tomato sauce and bake in the oven. For less than $2, you have a tasty and nutritious twist on yesterday's meal.

LASAGNA

This is a go-to recipe for using up ingredients left in the fridge. It's easy to buy more vegetables or meats than needed for a recipe and too often these perishable items go to waste. Once a week do a sweep and gather all the stragglers together to make lasagna. In addition to the pantry staples of pasta and tomato sauce, you'll need a little cheese to transform what would have been money in the trash into a hearty family meal.

SANDWICHES

Put a new spin on leftover taco filling, pot roast, or vegetable sauté by making it the filling for a toasted sandwich. Starting with a basic roll and the leftover of the day, add lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and mayonnaise or chipotle sauce to elevate the layers of flavor. Wrap the sandwich in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

PASTA

There's not much that hasn't gone into a pasta dish at some point. The Italian staple is ideal for using up odds and ends in the fridge, from a container of olives to bits of roasted meats and vegetables. A few tomatoes cooked with garlic in butter or olive oil serve as base for just about any combination of noodle and leftover.

RISOTTO

Like pasta, risotto is less than $1 a serving and serves as a blank canvas for almost any addition. Explore fusion flavors by incorporating leftover soy glazed salmon and bok choy, or stay classic turning leftover beef stew into a thick ragu to enjoy over creamy arborio rice.

QUESADILLAS

Simple and cheap, $1.50 worth of tortillas and cheese is an open invitation to reinvent your leftovers. Shred last night's roast chicken or use fresh summer corn salad for a savory filling. A little cheese and crispy flour tortilla go a long way to make even the drabbest of leftovers such as brussel sprouts and steamed broccoli tempting and delicious.
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