“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Once a week, I will be sharing a tip, trick, or some interesting information about meal planning. I believe meal planning is critical to any long term and effective healthy living or weight loss goals. For me it was the single thing that finally made permanent weight loss achievable. The quote stood true, when I failed to plan, I failed, and I don’t want that to happen to others.
Additionally, I believe that meal planning is a skill that takes time to master and we can all use some help! When I first started meal planning it took up countless hours pouring over recipes, calculating nutritional info and/or points, and creating elaborate calendars. It was painful. Anything I can do to ease that pain for someone else is a win-win in my book.
Finally, I hope by sharing meal planning strategies, it will help you find a system that works for you. Whether it’s using our meal plans, scratching one into your weekly planner, or creating your own meal planning system – I hope this feature inspires you to start planning at least a few meals every week. It will save you time, money, and it truly will help you reach your weight loss and healthy living goals. So with that, on to this week’s tip!
Meal Planning Made Easy: Making Leftovers Work For You
One of the most helpful things I do when meal planning is to always think about how to utilize leftovers to make future meals faster and easier. I like using leftovers both for lunches and dinners, as long as I can reimagine them so I don't feel like I am eating the same thing every day. It also helps with the budget since you can buy in bulk and limit the number of ingredients tou need to purchase.
With that in mind, here are some of my favorite ways to re-imagine leftovers and use them for future meals. What are your favorite ways to use leftovers?
- Pasta: One easy way to use leftovers meats and veggies is in a pasta dish. Many times they can simply be added to your favorite store bought marinara, pesto, or light cheese sauce. You could also make a cold pasta salad and use a quick homemade or store bought dressing to tie things together. Lastly, and perhaps my favorite way to use leftovers with pasta, is to make a classic baked pasta dish with marinara and veggies. Just cook some pasta until al dente and toss it with your leftover meat/veggies, and marinara sauce or curshed tomatoes. Top with some cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Yum!
- Soups and Stews: Soup and stews make a surprisingly great vehicle for leftovers. Start with some sauteed onions, carrots, and celery. Then add your favorite store bougt or homemade broth. Build your soup from there adding pasta, rice, or beans as well as your cooked proteins or veggies. For a quick lunch option you can just add leftovers to your favorite store bought canned or boxed soup. Tomato, vegetable, lentil, and chicken broth soups all make a great base for leftovers.
- Pizzas: Pizza is a terrific and delicious way to use leftovers. Make your own pizza crust or buy a premade crust and simply add sauce, your leftover meat or veggies, and cheese. In about ten minutes you have a meal everyone will love. Don't just stick to marinara sauce either! Barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, pesto, and even salad dressing can make a delicious sauce.
- Stir-Fries: Stir fries are an easy and fast way to use leftover chicken, pork, beef, rice, quinoa, or beans. Just grab your favorite veggies (or a packaged fresh stir-fry mix), a homemade or store bought marinade or stir-fry sauce, and your protein. Think outside the box as well when you consider sauces. Although Asian sauces are typical for stir-fries, you can also make Italian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican style stir-fries.
- Tacos, Burritos, Enchiladas, Quesadillas, and Tostadas: Many Mexican dishes are an easy and tasty vehicle for leftovers since all you need to do is stuff the leftovers into your tortillas, add some of your favorite salsa or enchilada sauce, perhaps some cheese or veggies or beans, and viola, dinner! For a lower carb option, consider making burrito bowls with cauliflower rice or using low carb tortillas.
- Paninis, Wraps, and Sandwiches: This is an obvious one, but worth mentioning since it is one of the easiest options for lunches. Consider adding hummus or yogurt spreads to make your sandwiches more interesting and then packing in leftovers proteins and veggies.
- Salads, Lettuce Wraps, and Veggie Bowls: Another fairly common way to use leftovers, but again a great one for anyone watching calories. I like to make up a big batch of mixed greens at the beginning of the week as well as some individually packed chopped veggies. Then I just need to add the leftovers and some dressing to complete the meal. I almost always add some chopped fruit as well.
- Stuffed Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes, and Squash: Stuffing veggies can be an interesting way to use leftovers proteins, grains, and beans. Once you create your stuffing mixture, just make sure to add enough sauce to the dish so that everything stay moist. Diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, marinara sauce, and enchilada sauce can all work. Generally I recommend covering the dish with foil for most of the cooking time to keep everything moist.
- Omelets, Frittatas, and Hash: Last but not least, egg dishes work really well for leftovers. Not only are they quick and simple to make, they are also really affordable. This is one of my favorite options for leftovers veggies.
Ready to use leftovers? Most of our suggested meal plans already include ways to utilize leftovers each week. In addition, our interactive meal plan gives you the ability to quickly add leftovers to your meal plan. Simply drag any recipe into the meal planner more than once and it will automatically add the extra servings you need for leftovers. It couldn't be easier!
Love the idea of meal planning but don’t want to do all the work? Since I know that many people simply don’t have the time to create their own healthy meal plans, we provide delicious and healthy meal plans at Slender Kitchen that you can customize to meet your needs.
Here are some highlights from this week’s healthy meal plans:
- Slow Cooker Beef Ragu (or Eggplant for vegetarians)
- Shrimp Scampi with Zucchini Noodles
- Vegetable Scampi Pasta (for vegetarians)
- Easy Spicy Barbecue Chicken
- Pork Fried Rice (made with cauliflower rice for low carb)
- Chicken Cheesesteak Sandwiches
- Ancho Chili Ground Beef Tacos
- Three Ingredient Banana Pancakes
- Freezer Friendly Breakfast Quesadillas
- Carrot Apple Flax Muffins
- & more
Each healthy weekly meal plan comes full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meal plans come in regular, vegetarian, and low carb options. All feature complete nutritional information, Weight Watchers PointsPlus®, and categorized shopping lists! There are also two bonus fallback recipes weekly and the option for either a complete meal plan or a Dinner Only plan. All that for less the cost of one cup of coffee per month with the yearly plan.