How to Use Leftover Ingredients

There's a regular occurrence in cooking (I call it the hot dog phenomenon*) that invariably happens whenever you buy ingredients for a homemade recipe: you will always end up with random leftovers of at least some ingredients.

After you're done cooking, and all those leftover ingredients are scattered around your kitchen, how can you make creative use of them? Today I'll share with you a simple example of ingredient reuse that shows how you can make a practically free meal, while reducing waste and saving time and money.

The other day, we had extra cheese left over from making burritos, as well as leftover corn tortillas after stuffing ourselves with homemade tortilla chips a few too many nights in a row. In fact, the corn tortillas were already cut into chip-sized wedges, ready to go, but we just didn't have the stomach for them.

So for the next few mornings, we put the two together and made mini-quesadillas to go along with our eggs. It made for a creative, and essentially free, breakfast, and it was delicious enough to qualify for our list of ways to Jazz Up Your Morning Eggs.

This painfully simple example of ingredient reuse illustrates some of our favorite concepts here at Casual Kitchen. First, reusing leftover ingredients that you've already bought for another recipe is an excellent example of the benefits of scale. We bought these ingredients in bulk, so they were already inexpensive to begin with, yet we derived still more scale benefits by making extra breakfasts from them. And here's yet another scale benefit: we didn't need to plan another meal or make another trip to the store.

Furthermore, how much does it cost to re-use ingredients that likely would have otherwise gone to waste? That's right: nothing. This delicious breakfast was pretty darn close to free, and yet it didn't have the boring and monotonous feel so typical of a meal made of leftovers. I've eaten similar meals in Manhattan diners and foolishly paid $13.95 a plate.

The next time you cook at home and have leftover ingredients, try and think of ways you can make extra meals from the remaining ingredients you have on hand. This is a skill that improves with a little practice--once you put a few simple and inexpensive meals together you'll really start to get the hang of it.

And for those of you interested in how we made our mini-quesadillas, I just put a few pieces of cheese (seasoned with a couple of generous shakes of ground chipotle pepper) between two tortilla triangles...

...and then fried a few of them in a pan right next to our eggs.

What are some examples of free extra meals you've made from leftover ingredients?

* The hot dog phenomenon refers to the fact that hot dogs come in packages of ten, while hot dog buns come in packages of eight--essentially forcing the consumer to buy extra dogs or buns.

Related Posts:
How to Apply the 80/20 Rule to Cooking
More Applications of the 80/20 Rule to Diet, Food and Cooking
When High-Fat Food ... Can Actually Be Healthy For You: Diet and Athletic Training Part 1

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Kira said...

I made vegetable fried rice with leftover rice and veggies from a tofu stirfry the night before. Same ingredients, different incarnation.

Daniel said...

Yep, a perfect example. Thanks for sharing!