Sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out what to do with leftovers. Especially if you or your kids have an aversion to eating leftovers at all.
Or perhaps there aren’t enough leftovers for everyone, and you want to stretch them a bit further. If you can transform your leftovers into a new meal, you can keep them from going to waste and keep your family happy.
Today I’m focusing on tomato-based recipe reincarnations. I start with spaghetti, but you can also start with sloppy joe’s or baked ziti. Any mildly flavored, tomato-based recipe is a great starting point.
Sloppy Joes to Spaghetti
If you’re starting with sloppy joes, you can actually transform your leftovers into spaghetti. Make your spaghetti as normal and just add your sloppy joe leftover sandwich filling into your spaghetti sauce. Taste and sprinkle in a little basil, oregano, and garlic salt until the sauce is to your liking.
If you have leftover buns from your sloppy joes, you can add butter and garlic powder and bake them to make personal-sized garlic bread to serve with your spaghetti!
Turn Your Leftover Spaghetti into Chili
As I mentioned above, you can start with several different tomato based dishes. I’ll show you how to transform spaghetti, but later on I’ll mention other leftovers you can also add to your pot of chili to stretch it and give it more flavor.
To transform spaghetti into chili, you’ll need to cut your noodles. This process is much less messy if you have stored your noodles and your leftover sauce in separate containers, but it can be done with saucy noodles too.
I take the container with noodles and up-end it over my cutting board. My cold noodles typically stick together in the shape of the container.
Then I take my largest knife and chop my noodles in every direction, until I have a bunch of noodles about a centimeter long. I put those back into the original container.
If you only have a small amount of leftover spaghetti sauce, then you’ll want to cook all of the meat that your recipe calls for. If you have a good amount of sauce though (I’d say 2-3 cups or more), you can cut back on the meat you cook or leave it out altogether.
My kids love this recipe for chili. It’s a sweeter chili with subtle flavor undertones that we love.
Any recipe can be adapted to use up your leftovers, though! I typically add my meat sauce around the middle of the cooking process, and my pre-cooked noodles towards the end so they don’t get mushy.
I also love to serve chili with homemade cornbread–it’s easy to make, cheap, and very filling.
Chili is also a great meal for using up other leftovers as well. Leftover tomato soup, leftover marinara sauce, leftover baked beans, and leftover salsa or picante sauce are all great additions.
Pro Tip: Don’t have peppers to add to your chili? Add salsa or picante sauce instead!
It’s also the perfect time to clean out your cupboards. You may even have enough in your cupboards to make chili without even hitting the store. Any tomato-based canned goods are fair game–the flavors in the spices will cover over any other flavor profiles.
So if you have canned tomato soup you won’t use, or pizza sauce that’s about to expire, throw it in! And don’t feel limited to using only kidney beans–use whatever beans you have on-hand, or leave them out altogether.
Turn Your Leftover Chili into Baked Potatoes
This transformation is super easy! Make baked potatoes as usual. When serving, add a scoop of leftover chili over an open baked potato for flavor. top with cheese and sour cream, or anything else you would add to your chili if it was in a bowl.
Don’t have time to transform your leftovers before they go bad? Or have you reinvented them as much as you can and still have more leftover?
Then check out my technique for stocking your freezer and keep it for later! Freezer meals are perfect for those nights when you’re too tired to cook or get home late.
If you have leftovers you don’t know what to do with, our The Pennies in Perspective Community over on Facebook is a great place to ask. Share tips, gather new recipes, and celebrate your little successes with other budget-minded cooks! Join HERE.