Adventures in Rethinking Food Waste and Reimaging Leftovers

chicken salad

So, my husband and I have been talking a lot lately about food waste. I’m embarrassed to admit that we waste way more food in my house than is responsible or ethical, and we are trying to make some changes.

Our grocery budget is soaring and I see way too much going to waste. Part of this waste comes from poor menu planning on my part. I need to be more conscientious in planning meals with intersecting ingredients rather than selecting dinners willy-nilly. This will ensure that items get completely used up, rather than seeing those half-wilted bunches of green onions or a stray, sprouted sweet potato go into the trash (before you say it, we can’t have a compost bin in our neighborhood). I think better planning will alleviate a good bit of the issue.

However the other main culprit in our food waste comes from leftovers. Ohhhh…the fights we have about leftovers. My husband fusses at me that I throw out too many extras, and tells me to save everything. But, do you know what happens? It sits in the fridge for a week, and then I throw it out anyway and have more dishes to wash. He has good intentions but if I pack dinner’s leftovers for his lunch, he forgets to take it with him… without fail. If I have a ton of dinner leftover, it means the family probably wasn’t a fan of the meal and they are unlikely to go back willingly for a second round. If they actually loved the dinner, there’s probably not enough left over for round 2, so I’m stuck with how to get rid of it without fighting.

Honestly, however, my kids just aren’t leftover fans anyway. They have the attention spans of goldfish, and they want to come home to something different each night. I swear my pet peeve is that they ask me what’s for dinner the second they hit the car seat, and it annoys me to no end to see those crestfallen, disappointed faces when I announce leftovers. You’d think I kicked a puppy. Spoiled much, Heathens?

I started thinking about Thanksgiving, and how I have a roster of creative leftover recipes, and am always trying to reimagine cool ways to get the most out of that food. After all, after spending so much time and money on one meal, I better get a return on my investment, right? Well, that philosophy needs to bleed over into everyday meal planning if we really want to cut down the waste.

So, here’s the plan. My goal over the next few weeks is to create a weekly meal plan such that at least one meal is comprised of leftovers reinvented. While I had to wing it this week (since I had already bought groceries), we still stretched that fried chicken meal quite a bit. Our favorite re-do was to transform it into chicken salad by de-boning and chopping the chicken yet keeping that tasty/crispy skin. We then combined it with finely chopped celery and some mayo. It didn’t need any additional salt and pepper since the chicken was so well seasoned. Finally, we halved the leftover biscuits, ran them through the toaster, and built the most delicious chicken salad biscuit sandwiches. Cool, huh?

And then I got on the treadmill…but that’s a story for another day.

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