Before I tell you 6 ways to breathe new life into leftovers, I need to tell you a quick story. I’m having a bit of an identity crisis lately.
The more I live in suburbia, the more I wonder if “past Hannah” would approve of “current Hannah”.
Here’s the quick story to explain myself: In college I went to a young environmentalist conference and met a girl who had a tattoo of a monkey wrench on her wrist. When I asked her about it she said it was to remind her future self of her current environmental mindset. The monkey wrench is a symbol from Edward Abbey’s novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, where environmental misfits come together to sabotage environmental damaging activities. Think extreme Green Peace.
At the time, I thought the girl was a little nuts. I didn’t understand why she needed a tattoo to remind her future self to be an environmentalist. As a pretty devoted tree hugger (not quite die-hard), I didn’t think I needed a tattoo to remind me.
Here I am 10 years later and I’m starting to think that a tattoo might have been a good idea. I’m having a hard time remembering to be eco-friendly these days. Years ago, I would even take my recycling home if I was somewhere that didn’t recycle, now I’m too lazy, or embarrassed, to do that. Or maybe I could blame the kids for this one since my purse is already full of their stuff. I don’t think I have room in my bag to cart around recyclables these days.
One thing I don’t ever forget to do is reduce our food waste. Sure, I’m not perfect, there are days that food gets thrown away, but we really don’t waste that much food. Most of our waste gets composted.
Reducing our food waste makes me feel like that last little bit of “hippie Hannah” is still alive. It’s a small way to be eco-friendly, but I believe that every little bit helps (for an interesting article about food waste in landfills, read this). I like to celebrate the little things.
My number one secret to avoid food waste is to be creative with leftovers. Here are 6 of my favorite ways to breathe new life into leftovers.
Everything tastes good on pizza. Everything. Got a lot of veggies? Put some pesto on a pizza, toss on the veggies and throw in some cheese. Leftover barbecue? Make a barbecue pizza! Seriously, you can do anything with pizza. We’ve even done this when we aren’t eating cheese. It’s by far the most fun way for me to use up leftovers.
Same idea as pizza, but with pasta. I’m telling you, all those odds and ends in your fridge can come together nicely if you add pasta and cheese.
Have just enough soup for one person, but need to feed more? Cook some rice, cut open a bell pepper, mix your leftover soup with the rice and stuff that baby. Either put it in the oven on 350 for 30 minutes or in the crock pot on low for several hours.
Ever wonder how some of the most famous soups came to be? A lot of them came about from people throwing all their leftovers together to make a stew, burgoo or gumbo. All you need is a good base. My mom swears her best soups are when she throws all her leftovers together with broth and a can of tomato sauce.
Quesadillas or nachos
Once again, cheese makes all leftovers taste delicious. Put your leftovers between two tortillas, toss on some cheese, and pan fry.
This is my new favorite way to use up the last bits of veggies in the fridge. Almost all veggies taste good in fried rice. Here is my go to recipe. I add in a bunch of other stuff though, usually bell peppers and pork.
It might take some time for me to get over this identity crisis. I don’t know if I’ll slowly become less of an environmentalist or if I’ll find my way back to green side. One thing I do know is that I’ll always work hard to keep our food out of landfills. Not only is it a green thing to do, it saves us lots of money on groceries!
What are your favorite ways to use up your leftovers?