Article Contributed by
Cornell Cooperative Extension Chautauqua County
Cornell Cooperative Extension Chautauqua County’s EFNEP, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program would like to offer some ways to save money. Many families throw away hundreds of dollars of food each year because it isn’t used up, or isn’t stored properly. A good strategy for saving money and making fast and healthy home cooked meals is to plan to use leftovers from a previous meal for a meal later in the week, or to freeze leftovers and plan to use them in a new meal in the month!
There are many ways to turn leftovers into another meal including packing them for lunch the next day or completely transforming them into another meal. Extra vegetables can be cooked and added to a quiche, soup, or used as a healthy pizza topping. Extra chicken or beef becomes fajitas, quesadillas, potpie, or a chef’s salad. Rice can be stir-fried, added to soup, salad, or used as a binder in meatloaf.
The key to successful leftover meals is to follow some simple rules to keep food safe and tasting great. Divide leftovers into shallow containers to cool food quickly, wrap in airtight storage containers, rapid storage in airtight containers helps to maintain moisture in the food, keep bacteria from contaminating the food, and prevents leftovers from picking up odor from other foods in the refrigerator, cool food to refrigerator temperature before freezing, freeze foods in portions sizes you’ll need for future meals and label and date all leftovers stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Separate and refrigerate the portion to be served for another meal before putting the food on the table to be served for the current meal. This keeps food quality higher and keeps food safe.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Leftovers can be frozen for 3-4 months, leftovers frozen longer than this will lose flavor and moisture, although they will still be safe to eat.
The EFNEP Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a community based educational organization, affiliated with Cornell University, Chautauqua County Government, the NYS SUNY system, and the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, call 716-664-9502 or visit our website at www.cce.cornell.edu/chautauqua. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.