One time, a few years back, I was at my (male) friend's parents' house and I was trying to make room for the food that was going to be dinner that night, and with three teenage boys living at home, there wasn't much room left. So I threw away my friend's leftovers from the day before thinking, Who's gonna eat these leftovers when we have all this fresh food that needs to be eaten? And that's when I found out that you're apparently not supposed to touch a man's leftovers. Ever. Unless they're my husband's leftovers. You can throw those away because he's not gonna eat them unless I make it happen.
That being said, I'm trying to do three things in regards to leftovers:
1. Figure out how to make things in smaller portions.
2. Re-invent my leftovers to take on a new form.
3. Freeze everything else.
I've successfully made a few things with smaller portions. My best accomplishment to date, is making mini-lasagna. My original recipe is for a 9x13 pan, but my husband and I could barely finish it. I would usually eat three or four big pieces and make him eat at least three (He is not as big of a fan of these leftovers as I am). So we cut it down to a 9x9 pan, which makes about 5 servings, which is just enough for the two of us. More recently though, I made lasagna for myself is an 8x6 which was just right with about three servings. I've also made a single serving eggplant burger, chicken, and a few other things. My biggest problem tends to be anything with eggs or yeast, because you can't really include half an egg or half a yeast packet, can you?
Going along with making smaller portions, I've also been working on purchasing smaller portions. Sometimes when I'm at the farmer's market, I'll see these huge baskets of tomatoes or okra or strawberries or whatever, and I know there's no way I'd be able to finish the whole basket. Some of the farmers have been kind enough to offer me a half-portion or allow me to buy the amount I need. I had a really nice farmer at one market that was selling a big basket of tomatoes for $4. I told him I really only needed one or two, so he gave me two "ugly" tomatoes for $1. Another farmer was selling quarts of strawberries and I didn't think I could use that much, so she offered me a pint for half the price.
My other problem area is meats. I feel silly asking for only half a pound of ground beef, but when I'm only making food for one or two, that's really all I need. So I've been brave and asked for the amount I need.
My other other problem area is restaurant leftovers. I never seem to eat them after we leave the restaurant. Why I ask them to box them up is beyond me, but I do it. In order to prevent this whole predicament, I usually try to get my husband to share something with me. Unfortunately, we often have different tastes or he's "really hungry" and won't want to share. Last time we compromised and I got a small dish (quesadilla appetizer) and he got a big dish that I also wanted (burrito) and we split them.
Reinventing has been my most successful endeavor, I think. It is especially good with leftover meat dishes from restaurants. My leftover steak from Benjy's? I put it in my omelet the next day. My leftovers from the Vietnamese place? Omelet. My leftovers from my fajitas? Stir-fry, though they might've made a nice omelet too, I don't know. I put leftover chicken on salads. Leftover ribs can become pulled pork sandwiches. The list goes on. My biggest problem is just not knowing how to make it different from what I was already eating, but throwing stuff in my omelets seems to work pretty well as a fallback plan for now.
Freezing things has also worked pretty well. I already freeze my pizza dough because it makes enough for two large pizzas, but now I've started freezing it in smaller portions and I make mini-pizzas. I've also been making batches of pancakes and freezing whatever I don't eat. This has been the best thing ever because it makes making breakfast so easy. I just pop a couple in the microwave and BAM! Breakfast is served.
I added banana slices one time but I don't think they froze as well. They were excellent fresh though!
Whole Wheat Pancakes (From Better Homes and Gardens, p. 137)
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl use a fork to combine egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be slightly lumpy). If desired, stir in desired fruit.
2. For each standard-size pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet, spreading batter if necessary. For dollar-size pancakes, use about 1 tablespoon batter. Cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until pancakes are golden brown, turning to second side when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and edges are slightly dry. Serve warm. If desired, top with syrup.
Meatballs was another very freezable meal. I can add a few to spaghetti, make meatball subs, or just eat them by themselves. What I really like is that I can put all of them in one freezer bag and pull out just what I need.
Open-Faced Meatball Sandwich
Meatballs (from The Newlywed Cookbook, p. 72)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup Italian-style dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (or just regular, dried parsley, or Italian seasoning)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1. In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, bread crumbs, egg, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well with your hands and form mixture into 16 2-inch meatballs.
2. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs and sauté 5-7 minutes, or until browned on sides.
Top with marinara, cheese, etc. Same goes for the leftovers. Just dump whatever you want on them and throw them in the microwave.