Like plenty of other people out there, I am a post-graduate trying to keep up on my loan repayments while still managing to pay rent, feed myself, and have a social life, but man, it's hard. When it came time to reevaluate my budget, I noticed how much I was spending on food, and I realized that I needed some money-saving leftover hacks, otherwise I'd go broke and hungry sooner than I could say Seamless. Luckily for me and my bank account, there are dozens of tricks that help preserve food longer and stretch grocery money further, and the key lies in leftovers.
I know what you're probably thinking — yuck, leftovers. But, saving and reserving leftovers is one of the easiest ways to save money. Sure, no one likes eating the same thing over and over, but not all leftovers meals have to be boring and repetitive, especially when you know how to rework them into something new and delicious. Leftovers, whether they're home cooked dinners or some extra ingredients that weren't put to use, can be a cook on a budget's best friend.
From preserving to re-purposing, here are nine leftover hacks you need to know about. The inside of your fridge will never be the same again.
1. Set Aside A Meal-Sized Leftover Portion Before You Eat
Cooking for one can be difficult. One way to prevent waste while saving money at the same time is setting aside a portion of your meal for a leftover plate before you eat. That way, you know you have lunch for work the next day.
2. Dry Out Extra Herbs
We've all been there: you're trying to cook a new dish, and it calls for a pinch of fresh herbs but, of course, you have to buy a whole bunch. Instead of letting them wilt in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator, dry leftover herbs in the microwave to help preserve their colors, flavors, and help extend its shelf life.
3. Turn Your Pizza Into A Panini
I know, leftover pizza can be terrible when it is reheated, but that doesn't mean you have to eat it cold. There are tons of leftover pizza hacks you can try, but my personal favorite is transforming it into a fresh and cheesy panini. Take two leftover slices and spread fresh shredded cheese between them, sandwich them, and grill them for a few minutes on either side. In no time, you have a crispy, cheesy sandwich instead of sad and rubbery pizza.
4. Rearrange Food Before Reheating It In The Microwave
According to The Kitchn, there is a wrong way and a right way to reheat leftovers. Instead of piling them onto the middle of your plate or, even worse, just shoving the leftover container in the microwave as-is, create a ring with your leftovers around the edge of a new plate before reheating. The more surface area your food takes up, the faster it heats up, and the better it tastes. Using this method, you'll never ruin your leftovers in the microwave again.
5. Make Ice Cubes From Leftover Wine
On the rare occasion you can't finish a bottle of wine, don't just leave the bottle on the counter to go bad. Instead, fill an ice cube tray with any leftovers, and freeze wine cubes to use them for sangria or other cooking needs. Or just pop them in your mouth when you need a quick alcoholic cool down — you know, whatever works.
6. Save Your Leftover Breakfast Bacon For A BLT
Much like wine, there may not be too many opportunities where you have leftover bacon, but when there is, don't just toss it out with the rest of your uneaten breakfast. Refrigerate any leftover cooked slices of bacon, whether they're from the diner down the road or from your own skillet, and use them to make a BLT later on. Even if the bacon gets crunchier in the fridge, it will still taste great between fresh bread and vegetables.
7. Make Hash Browns From Leftover French Fries
I've tried just about everything, but I have never been able to reheat leftover fries and enjoy them the same way. Instead of trying to serve your fries for the second time, turn them into something totally new and way more enjoyable: hash browns. With the help of an onion, some olive oil, and some seasoning, you can turn mushy French fries into delicious hash browns in a matter of minutes.
8. Try A Mac And Cheese Grilled Cheese
Even though it's tempting to finish the entire container, one box of mac and cheese can be spread over a few meals when you know the right hacks. Instead of eating a whole box to yourself, and instead of trying to reheat a bowl of the rubbery noodles later, take a helping of the mac and cheese and put it aside for a sandwich later. Yes, a mac and cheese grilled cheese is a real thing, and you can easily use uneaten mac and cheese, sliced cheese, and fresh bread to create your own leftover style version.
9. Turn Anything Into Nachos
I love nachos, and I mean love nachos, so for me, there is no meal that can't be recreated into nacho form. Take the Thanksgiving leftover nachos, for example, which uses the leftover ingredients from a very different meal and turns them into delicious, addicting nacho bites. If you have half of a leftover hamburger, try breaking it up and creating cheeseburger nachos, or turn your General Tso's chicken into Asian-inspired nachos. Really, with the help of some chips and cheese, the sky is the limit on this one.
With a little creativity and a few cheap ingredients, there's no telling what you can do with leftovers, so stop spending so much money on groceries and takeout, and instead look in your fridge for inspiration. You never know what kind of delicious meal you can create using what you already have.
For more ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy (9)