A Chef’s Trick to Turn Leftovers Into Amazing New Meals

Give new life to your leftovers.

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An estimated 70 billion pounds of food are wasted in the United States every year. This means, out of all the food grown and transported in the United States, at least 25 percent of it ends up in the garbage. All that uneaten food is a huge waste of resources. Think of every dollar or hour of labor needed to plant, water, grow, harvest, transport, and sell each product at the grocery store! That amounts to a lot of wasted fuel, water, and money.

One major change each of us can make to reduce food waste is by actually using our leftovers. We get it: You get tired of eating the same dish two or three days in a row, foods somehow seem to hide in the back of the fridge or bottom of drawers, or sometimes you just can’t think of a way to reuse leftovers with the other ingredients you have on hand. Thankfully, this can be remedied with equal doses of creativity and determination.

Here are some ideas for leftovers that can help you reduce food waste:

  • You can easily turn leftover meat into sandwiches, wraps, and crepes. Think of the classic Thanksgiving leftover sandwich, with sliced turkey, a layer of mashed sweet potato, and a smear of cranberry sauce. Here are more tips for assembling healthy sandwiches.

  • Meat and roasted veggies work great in salads, either on greens or in a quinoa bowl.

  • Just about anything can be turned into a pasta or fried rice. In fact, any leftover grain works great as a fried “rice.” (Fried quinoa, anyone?)

  • Egg dishes like omelets, quiche, tarts, and frittatas make a great base for meats, veggies, and herbs. For a low-cholesterol alternative, try a tofu scramble, which has a similar texture to scrambled eggs and is the perfect vehicle for just about any leftover.

  • If possible, reuse your leftovers by tossing them in the freezer. Some dishes freeze really well, which will take some of the pressure off to finish all those leftovers before it’s too late. A month from now, you’ll be glad to have that dish on a night you have zero energy to cook from scratch.

With these tips, you can reuse leftovers and reduce food waste while nourishing yourself with exciting, fun dishes. Who would have thought that environmentalism could taste so good?