Leftover Night is a great way to clean out the fridge.
Leftover Night is a great way to clean out the fridge.

Cue the music.  “Tooniight, tooniight, is not just aanny night, tonight is….” LEFTOVER night.  Yay!  Tonight, I don’t cook, and the fridge gets cleaned out. The perfect two for one deal, and I’m nothing if not a sucker for a twofer.

I was walking with a few friends after we dropped our kids off at school and shared my excitement that tonight at my house was leftover night.  One, wrinkling her nose with disgust, said she hated leftovers; the other said she never had food leftover.  I was dumbfounded by both.  If you liked it the first time around, why wouldn’t you like it the second time around.  Lots of casseroles and soups are even better the second day.  Now if you’re moving onto the third or fourth day, then I get it.  I’d be sick of it too.  But the second time in a week is fine by me.

As to my other friend that didn’t have a refrigerator full of leftovers, I don’t know whether I was more surprised by her ability to guesstimate serving amounts exactly or by the fact that she didn’t actually aim to have leftovers.  I may be a lousy serving size guesser, but usually I plan to cook enough for two meals.  I’m also a sucker for efficiency.

Now, truth be told, my affection for leftover night is not universally shared in my household.  My hubby either is neutral about leftovers or has the wisdom to keep his mouth shut.  Not so for all of my children.  Leftover night is often greeted by “Oh, great.”  Notice the lack of an exclamation point.  (How do you capture sarcasm in print?)  So, a couple of years ago I decided that leftover night needed a marketing makeover.  My first stab was to change its name.  Who could resist “Choose your own dinner night” or “Favorite Night”?    The catch was that all choosing and favorites had to come from inside the plastic containers in the fridge.

When that new name approach stopped working, I moved on to the repackaging approach.  Mix the various leftovers (veggies, chicken, beans) with pasta, top with cheese, and bake.  My family will eat most anything smothered in cheese.  I’ve also created some interesting soups this way.  Most of the time, I get away with this, but periodically one of the kids will notice that they’ve seen that squash or cauliflower before in another incarnation, and rat me out.

I’m not sure what I like about leftover night the best.  Yes, my inherently lazy nature certainly appreciates a night off from cooking, but I also love the efficiency and thriftiness of it as well.  There is something very satisfying to me about living with what we have and using up everything with little waste.  I enjoy the challenge of cooking with what is available locally or seasonally, and then using every last bit of it.  Oh, don’t get me wrong; we certainly have our share of plastic containers with fur covered substances that used to be Thai curry or bean soup, but I like the challenge of trying to avoid reaching that science experiment looking stage.

Hey that gives me an idea.  I’ll jump on the latest marketing trend and call tonight “Green Night”.  No, that is definitely not an appetizing name.  How about “Love the Earth Night”.  We’re going to be ecologically friendly and politically correct—and my fridge gets cleaned out.  Hey, I’m really a sucker for a three-fer?

Anyone else have tips for using up leftovers?


Image credit: Alice Harold