How to reduce waste and stress over family meals

Dinner Reinvented

Yesterday’s dinner becomes tonight’s “reinvented” dinner with the addition of some new ingredients.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare a “real” meal every night. I go for the whole shebang – a proper entrée, lots of vegetables, prepared well and on time.

The end result of all that cooking is that I make too much and we often have leftovers that no one wants.  We end up being like so many Americans, throwing out perfectly good food! Yet to my children,  you’d think “leftovers” meant I’d “left” it outside for a few days to let bugs run “over” it.

Unwilling to continue wasting food, or my efforts, I set about making two nights a week “Dinner Reinvention Night.” Yes, it’s having leftovers, but it sounds better than that and even better than “recycling dinner” which conjures up visions of plastic and cans.

I’m talking about taking bits and pieces of leftover meals and making something completely new with it. It’s working! Here are some examples:

Original meal:  Herb-coated pork chops and cubed, broiled potatoes.
Reinvented meal: Greek Salad – Thinly sliced pork chops plus the potatoes atop lettuce greens, adding feta cheese, Greek olives and a lemon and oil dressing.

Original meal: Baked chicken with roasted carrots, celery and onion.
Reinvented meal: Chicken & Noodles – chop up the chicken and veggies, put it in a pot of chicken broth and, when boiling, add lots of wide egg noodles so that it’s more noodly than soupy.

Original meal: Grilled steak
Reinvented meal: Fajitas – Slice the meat thinly, sauté multiple colors of peppers plus onion. Add things like refried beans, guacamole, chopped tomato and cilantro.

Original meal: Pot roast with roasted root vegetables.
Reinvented meal: Pot pies or Shepherd’s Pie – layer diced meat and veggies (plus additional, frozen veggies) and any gravy you might have made and top with a pastry crust for pot pie or with a layer of mashed potatoes sprinkled with parmesan cheese for Shepherd’s Pie.

This way, I’m really only doing major cooking a few nights and then some “rearranging” of ingredients the other nights.  I’m also using my crockpot or pressure cooker when I can to make even those original meals a little less work.

So far, it’s working. There’s no more waste. The kids see it as an entirely new meal. And I get to feel like I delivered on a good meal for the family with a lot less pressure on myself.

Please share your ideas for making the most out of leftovers by leaving a comment below.

Come, E.A.T. with us!

Twitter: @CoParentEATblog



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