These days everyone is trying to cut back on their grocery budget.  On the other hand, cutting back on the monthly food spend often brings its own set of challenges, one of which being the amount of time spent preparing meals from scratch.  It’s no secret that menu planning saves time and money in the long run, but it isn’t easy to do.

If you prefer to cook according to your cravings, you can still save money on your groceries; you just have to be a little crafty on how you do it.  And you may need to make a few compromises, but not so many that you feel restricted.  One of the best ways to do this is to become an expert at using up your leftovers. 

There are tips and tricks strewn all over the internet on reusing last night’s meal.  The trouble is that many of these are not terribly appetizing.  It is more likely that your dinner will just clutter up your fridge until it is time to go shopping again – or they begin to smell.  Either way, it is the same as throwing your money away.Using Your Leftover ChickenCredit: beglib @ Morguefile

These are just a few things you can do with your regular go to meals the next day to make them just as delectable as the night before. 

Stir Fries

These are always one of the hardest meals to enjoy a second time around.  After all, they feel like they are just thrown together the first time, don’t they?  Be prepared to become converted to these wrappers, they work for almost everything, from pastas to Mexican.  The more you experiment, the more likely you will use them for leftovers a couple times a week.

Keep a supply of spring roll (egg roll) wrappers in your freezer.  These are easier to use than you think.  Pull out a supply when you pack your leftovers away, and leave them in the fridge to defrost over night.  The next evening, mix together your stir fry leftovers; this can include your rice or noodles.  If you feel you are a little short handed, feel free to chop up some new vegetables to add to the mix.  Simply dollop some of this mixture in a corner of a wrapper and roll it as you would a burrito.  Seal the edges with a bit of beaten egg and set aside.  As you near the end of this process, fill a deep frying pan with some oil.  It should be about half as deep as your rolls.  Allow this to get really hot.  The oil is hot enough when browns a bread cube in 12-15 seconds.  Lower your wraps into the oil.  They cook through quickly, so be prepared to turn them almost instantly.  Drain on paper towel and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Chicken and Potatoes

The great thing about this meal is that you can do so many things with the leftovers; you are only limited by your imagination – and your store cupboard.

Most everyone knows that chicken makes terrific soup, but it is even easier to use up last night’s mash potatoes this way.  Finely chop and onion and fry it until translucent, feel free to add a little garlic if you prefer.  If you have some bacon on hand, this also makes an excellent addition.  Add this to your leftover potatoes.  For every cup of potatoes you add, add a cup to a cup to the mixture.  Stir to combine.  Keep in mind your soup will thicken when heated, add a little more milk if you prefer a thinner consistency.  Add to a pot with a little salt and pepper and heat through.  Sprinkle with a bit of cheddar cheese to serve. 

Cooked chicken makes perfectly spicy pasta for another meal.  Boil whatever pasta you have on hand; drain when cooked through, douse with a healthy tablespoon of olive oil and cover.  Shred your leftover chicken and set aside.  Cut up some spring onion and garlic, and a small seeded chili.  Bacon is a great addition here, as well.  Chop a few slices and fry with the onions until the bacon goes crisp and the onions soften.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and chili and stir for another minute.  Then toss in your shredded chicken and a cup of cream.  Allow the cream to just bubble, stirring continuously until thickened to desired consistency.  Serve over your pasta, with a dash of parmesan cheese and enjoy.

Spaghetti Bolognese

This meal must be one of the most popular weeknight meals around the world.  But, what is delightfully satisfying on the first night becomes an awful bore on the second.  The thought of reheating this meal in its original form usually casts it quickly to the back of the fridge.  More often than not, it is better to split the pasta from the sauce to create fresh meals. 

Use the pasta as the base for another pasta dish, such as the chicken pasta above, or simply stir through a little cheese and cooked bacon for a quick lunch time meal.Using Your Leftover SpaghettiCredit: xandert @ Morguefile

The sauce lends itself to a delicious breakfast.  Simply split and toast an English muffin and set it, side by side on your plate.  Poach or fry two eggs to your liking.  Meanwhile, warm your sauce in the microwave and scoop generous amounts onto the English muffins.  Add some grated cheese; cheddar or mozzarella are both delicious options.  Top with your eggs, add a dash of salt, pepper and Tabasco and enjoy. 

These leftover solutions have one thing in common; they make last night’s dinner into something else.  By experimenting, you are sure to find more recipes to tempt your taste buds.  Families are always more likely to eat something different than they are the same thing they ate yesterday.  By changing it around a little and mixing it up, you can create a world of new menus.  Imagine shopping for three days and eating for seven.  With just a bit of creativity, you are sure to accomplish this in no time at all.