Updated: Jan 19
Food waste is a real problem in this country. I know most people don’t think, “hey, I’ll buy this bag of spinach, leave it in my fridge for weeks, and then toss it in the garbage”, but it happens a lot. Yes, feeding scraps to your chickens or composting it, either on your own or with a service, is an awesome way to deal with the odds and ends at the end of meal prep, but what do you do when your fridge is full of a little of this and a little of that?
Below I’ve included three of our favorite recipes for dealing with leftovers. The recipes are catch alls that can incorporate any kind of leftover ingredients you have lying around.
FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE
We learned this recipe from a wonderful friend who is amazing at using everything she has. This versatile dish is capable of soaking up all the random bread ends, stale muffins, and old cereal in your fridge and pantry.
Leftover bread, muffins, cookies, or any other bread product – enough to fill a gallon-sized reusable bag or a large casserole dish (we save our scraps for a couple weeks to achieve this)
Eggs – enough to cover the bread in the casserole dish (usually 8-12, depending on the size of the eggs and the amount of bread)
Vanilla and Cinnamon – to taste
Save leftover bread products in the fridge until you have enough for the recipe.
Cube leftover bread into bite-size pieces using a sharp (not serrated knife) and dump into casserole dish.
Whisk eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla and pour over bread cubes. It should be enough to get all the cubes wet (press them down and stir them around).
Let sit overnight to absorb the egg.
Bake for 20-40 minutes at 350 degrees (time varies depending on how much you put in and how hot your oven is. It’s done when there is no more liquid egg.
We save our bread scraps in the fridge until the bag is full. Cube the bread to bite size pieces with a sharp knife (not serrated). This is a great make ahead meal for a quick and yummy breakfast.
Sunday Soup, we found in The Family Cooks by Laurie David. An easy way to use up the leftovers veggies sitting in your fridge at the end of the week, I’ve adjusted it to include all kinds of cooked leftovers as well.
Olive oil (for pot)
2 onions, chopped
2 small carrots, sweet potatoes, or squash, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped (if you don’t have celery sticks, add extra carrots or greens and a bit of celery salt)
2 big handfuls sturdy greens (kale, cabbage, chard…)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes or canned
4 (or more) garlic cloves
1/2 cup green or brown lentils
1 cup leftover cooked protein (optional)
8 cups broth (if you don’t make your own, use Better Than Boullion to skip the wasteful cartons and cans)
1-2 cups of cooked pasta, veggies, or whatever else is sitting in your fridge (optional… this is really just to get rid of stuff)
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, vinegar, anything else to taste
Collect leftover food on counter and survey the scene. Do your best to approximate the recipe. Don’t worry about being precise or perfect.
Get out a big pot and drizzle with olive oil. Heat over medium high heat.
Add the onions and cooke until translucent. Add the raw veggies (carrots, squash, potato, celery, tomatoes, and garlic). Stir until well-combined.
Add the lentils, broths, and leftover protein. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add leftover cooked food and heat for five minutes more.
Flavor however you like it (or based on what leftovers you’re using)
Sunday soup is different each time, depending on what ingredients you use. If you make a big batch, freeze some in Souper Cubes for when you need a quick meal.
VEGGIE POT PIE
Because we grow a lot of our own veggies,we sometimes end up with a lot of vegetables that need to be cooked at once (like on potato or squash harvest day). When that happens, I chop and roast everything and we eat roasted veggies as a side a couple nights before I throw the rest in a pie.
Enough roasted or cooked veggies to fill a pie dish (you can also add a protein)
1 double pie crust (I make the one from Joy of Cooking and it’s delicious)
1 recipe cream of potato soup (I like this recipe) or a canned cream soup
Mix cooked veggies with cream of potato soup.
Lay one side of the pie crust in the pie tin. Fill with veggies and soup.
Cover with other crust, crimp edges, and poke venting holes in the top with a knife.
Bake according to pie crust directions or about 20-30 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
This batch of veggies was very orange, so I cooked up some frozen peans an corn to add some variety.
Once you get going, you’ll realize that food waste has no place in your kitchen. This article lists some great cookbooks that will show you how to reuse what you have to create delicious second and third meals using leftovers. Not only will you be doing your part by Mother Earth, but you’ll save money as well and feel like a first-rate chef.