Turn leftovers into planned-overs

Planning the use of leftovers is an art that can help save money and time while helping your family eat healthier.

When safely handled, leftovers can be used in casseroles, soups, for snacks, and in lunch boxes. Encourage family members to help in menu planning and meal preparation so that everyone is involved in making decisions that affect the eating pleasure of the entire family. Here are a few easy and quick ideas to help you plan the use of leftovers.

Grains and Breads

Delicious breakfasts and desserts can be created using leftover bread. Try making a morning after French toast. Don’t limit yourself to just white bread; leftover whole grain, pumpkin, zucchini and nut breads all make excellent French toast. Top with fruit for an extra treat. Bread pudding was invented for the purpose of using up stale, leftover bread. The dessert treat is actually quite rich and delicious. Bread pudding consists of torn up or cubed stale bread, baked in a mixture of butter, sugar, milk, eggs and fruit. You can reduce the calories by using 1% milk and reducing the amount of butter in the recipe. Homemade croutons are delicious. Start by dicing up stale bread. Brush with vegetable or olive oil and place in the oven until brown and toasted. Cool and store in a moisture proof container. Leftover bread topped with spaghetti sauce, shredded cheese and cooked veggies then browned in the oven can be a quick snack, or meal.

Meats and Poultry

Roasted chicken is a very flexible ingredient. For example, try a family-friendly chicken salad with no cooking required. Just combine cubed or shredded leftover chicken, salad greens, olives, hard-boiled eggs, grape tomatoes and shredded cheese. Top with your favorite dressing. Chicken quesadillas are another good way to use chicken and any leftover cheese you might have as well. They can make a quick meal when served with black beans, salsa and low-fat sour cream. Other leftover meats can be made into hearty soups and chili. Add some vegetables and beans for a nutritious hot lunch or dinner.

Vegetables and Fruits

Vegetables are also good stir-fried or roasted. You can sauté vegetables, add soy sauce and vegetable oil, add some spice and serve over rice. To roast vegetables, just toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven until the vegetables are soft and browned. You can eat them in a sandwich, as is, with rice or fold them into an omelet for dinner or breakfast. The good thing about leftover fruit is that even if it’s a little too overripe to eat plain, you can still use it in certain recipes. Overripe bananas make the best banana bread. Add chopped nuts for some delicious texture. You can also use your overripe bananas to create banana pancakes. If you don’t like bananas, any fruit will work. Try baking some healthy fruit muffins (blueberry or apple) for on-the-go breakfasts for the week.

Using leftovers can maximize your food dollars and save time while adding variety to your meals. Planning the use of leftovers can save you money and help your family to eat healthier.

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