Dinner with (Re)Purpose: Healthy Cooking with Leftovers

Posted by: BeneFIT Corporate Wellness
Date: November 18, 2014

Did you know that the average grocery shopper spends 44.3 minutes loading up their cart? Once refrigerators are stocked, those responsible for meal prep in the household spend an average of 61.5 minutes getting food on the table. While juggling work and family responsibilities, some nights it may feel like a victory just squeezing in time to eat. By planning ahead, you can incorporate a plan for handling leftovers into your grocery list, making the most of the time you spend in the kitchen.

Start by writing out a menu for the week that takes account of leftovers. Don’t just think about dinner: how can you work extra protein into salads and sandwiches? Could leftover bread be used for French toast? Use your imagination.

Write out the week’s grocery list based on your meal plan. This will prevent the need for additional supermarket runs and allow you to spend special time with family or relaxing instead.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Ham: Chop up for a hearty bean or lentil soup.
  • Turkey: Pair with sliced avocado in a healthy wrap or pita.
  • Seafood: Toss with a salad, or pasta or brown rice for a quick stirfry.
  • Vegetables: With some low-fat cheese, whip up a quesadilla or pizza – or toss in an omelet.
  • Mashed potatoes: Add minced onion, garlic and green peppers, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake until heated through.
  • Rice: Consider fried rice, creative casseroles or rice pudding.
  • Stale bread: Make into breadcrumbs (in grater or blender), croutons or bread pudding.
  • Nuts: Add to a light salad along with dried fruit.

Once you have a game plan, make sure you handle your food properly to ensure both quality and safety:

Microwave Tips

  • Pay attention to power level, especially for delicate items like seafood.
  • Add a little broth or water to pasta or rice casseroles to avoid dryness.
  • Use a microwave-safe dish.
  • Heat in stages and check, so food doesn’t overheat.

Safe Storage

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours.
  • Use airtight containers.
  • For large amounts use two containers, so food cools quickly.
  • Use within two days for best flavor.
  • Throw out leftovers after four days.

With a little extra forethought, you can be both health- and budget-conscious about mealtime. Now, get planning!

Adapted from Lehigh Valley Health Network.

The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.

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