Stretching it out: Making leftovers last

First, it’s important to say that Sam and I are both appalled by the cost of living crisis in the UK. Without some sort of radical change, this country is not going to get any better for millions of people who are struggling financially. Amid this crisis, there have been plenty of people offering tips on how to eat well for less money, how to shop smarter, how to spend less on energy when cooking, how to work wonders with leftovers. And then there have been people criticising those who offer the tips, claiming that offering these tips normalises the status quo.

But it is possible to care about more than one thing, to be an activist in different ways. We can be angry about the cost of living crisis, we can demand better of the government – AND we can acknowledge that because many people will be suffering hardships for a long time to come, we should do what we can to make their lives easier.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for making leftovers last longer. Safety first – make sure you store leftovers in airtight containers in the fridge in between reviving them into new dishes.

  1. Go creamy: A tomato-based pasta sauce or pretty much any curry can go further with the addition of something creamy. When the leftovers are running low, you can eke out an extra meal with the addition of any type of creme, creme fraiche, cream cheese or plain yoghurt.
  2. Fritters: Leftover pasta, curry, stew, soup or casserole can be revived as fritters. Mix the leftovers with about a cup of flour, a couple of whisked eggs (or about 100ml of oil if you have no eggs) and enough milk or stock to achieve the consistency of a nice batter. Fry like pancakes – I especially like this for a savoury breakfast.
  3. Mix up the carbs: Batch cooking is a great way to feed the household for multiple days, but it can get a bit boring night after night. Most saucy dishes and curries work just as well on a microwaved or baked potato as they do on rice or pasta.
  4. Nachos natch: Chilli con carne and similar dishes can do double duty as nacho topping – empty a bag of corn chips or tortilla chips in a baking dish, top with the leftovers, grate cheese on top and bake at 180 for 10 minutes.
  5. Do the mash: Leftover mash is so versatile. It can be used to top a shepherd’s pie or a cottage pie, the flavour can be changed with the addition of garlic, cheese or pretty much any herb or spice you can think of, or it can go into the blender with whatever ingredients comprise your favourite soup.
  6. Bulk it up: Mushrooms, cheap mince, chickpeas, lentils, diced potato or sweet potato, chopped cauliflower… There are plenty of relatively affordable ways to top up leftovers so they last longer – or use bulking ingredients to make a bigger batch in the first place.
  7. Check out the chicken: A roast chicken might seem like an extravagance, but if you find one for a good price, grab it. As well as making a delicious roast, leftover meat can be used for sandwiches, curries, stews, pasta sauces and casseroles and the carcass can be boiled down for stock.