Tag Archives: kitchen tips

Are Leftovers Old Fashioned?

When I served up creamed chicken chunks over toast, Ken remarked “This is old style–you used the leftover chicken from last night.”

As I sprinkled the fresh parsley over the top, I thought about the dried parsley in a can that Grandma Vera and my mother would have used. I still fall back on canned when my parsley plants aren’t enough, but fresh tastes so much better.

Parsley Plant

Parsley Plant

But Ken was right. I had baked the chicken with Italian seasonings yesterday. Today I chopped up the chicken, made a white sauce (call it Bechamel if you want to sound fancy French–it’s the same thing) and mixed in some frozen peas to cook in the sauce.

I sprinkled parsley snipped from a pot I keep growing year round for a bit of color on top. I thought as I did so that Grandma and mother would have used the slightly bitter-tasting dried parsley from a can. Since the chicken was already seasoned with Italian flavoring, it didn’t need anything else.

But “old style”?  Is it out of fashion to use leftovers as the base for a meal?  Of course I don’t see it that way, since it is the way I think about meal planning.  First question–what is in the fridge that I can use tonight?

Reading articles like this one from Sarah Henry at Lettuce Eat Kale, alerted me to the serious problem in this country with wasted food.  Given that we also have a problem of too many people with not enough food, this dilemma deserves some thought.

garbageAccording to a story on NPR, 40% of the food grown or produced in the United States gets thrown away. That is $165 billion worth of food each year uneaten. BILLION. And the amount of wasted food increases every year. So what can we do to get turn back the clock? Read the story at Lettuce Eat Kale for practical tips, and here are a couple more.

  • Don’t over buy to start out with. If you are super-organized, you’ll make a menu plan for the week, but few of us are that OCD about meal planning. So stop and think about whether you’re actually going to eat that perishable before it perishes.
  • Label things on your food shelves and in the fridge with the date you stored them.
  • Remember that a “best by” date does not mean you’ll die if you eat it. I’m not saying endanger your health, just be reasonable. (Maybe that is a downside of best by–Grandma just used her nose and good sense).
  • Teach your kids not to take more than they can eat. Waste in school cafeterias is enormous. But “eyes bigger than stomachs” can result in a heap of food on a plate that goes in the garbage instead of the stomach.

What would Grandma have done with leftover food? Besides making cooked foods into a pot pie or casserole, she’d have fed the wilted lettuce to the chickens or chopped it up  to work into soil in the garden. Cold rice became rice pudding with raisins. Bruised apples would make her delicious cooked apple slices.

I admit, I do not use leftovers because I am thinking about global issues. I use them because I’m cheap. But I also hate waste.  People who survived the Great Depression  of the 30s, followed by a World War that demanded real sacrifice (that would be my parents and grandparents), automatically saved, reused, stretched everything.Their children (that would be me) tended  to inherit frugality.

Another day we will talk about the Great Depression and depression food and another ‘nother day we will talk about World War II and its affect on food choices. But for now–how do YOU use leftovers?

You can find a recipe for basic white sauce and a way to turn it into cheese sauce at Epicurious.com.  In my opinion, white sauce is one of the first things that everyone who pokes their head in a kitchen should learn to make. And it surely helps when you have leftovers.