Save money by using leftovers to create quick summer meals

Create new and quick summer meals with foods you already have on hand.

During busy summer days when the weather is hot, cooking meals can be easier when leftovers are paired with fresh salads and other quick side dishes. Many leftovers can easily be added to hot meals skillets, or to cold salads and a variety of sandwiches. Often, leftovers can be frozen in meal size or individual size containers to thaw and heat in the microwave or oven. Meals such as chili, skillet dinners, quesadillas and stir-fries are great ways to use leftover chopped meats and vegetables. Freeze extra portions of meatloaf, roast, or chicken and turkey to add to many new meals or quickly re-heat and save time preparing that second meal.

Save money on groceries by making meat go further by using a little less in our meals. Instead of using a pound of ground meat in a recipe, try to use half of a pound. Add rice, pasta or other grains and more vegetables to fill out the meal. These foods cost less per serving size than most meats. You’ll still get the flavor and plenty of the nutrients that meat provides but will see your grocery money go further.

Most leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days, but should be discarded after three days because bacteria in the food had time to grow to unsafe levels. For that reason, freezing leftovers in freezer grade containers or bags can be a good way to keep most leftovers for use weeks or months later. Fightbac.org has helpful information for all areas of food safety including storage.

Fruits and vegetables are more plentiful and tempting in the summer months but can also go bad when we don’t eat all of what we bring home from the store. When fruits and vegetables start to get too soft or ripe to eat but do not have signs of spoilage such as mold, there are some ways to use them. Fruit chunks can be frozen to use in baked recipes or tossed into a blender with milk for a smoothie. Stir pureed fruit into gelatin as part of the liquid or add to muffins and quick breads, or you can even use it as a fresh topping over ice cream.

Michigan State University Extension provides nutrition education sessions for low-income participants and includes physical activity promotion and practice in the sessions.