Now that my kids are headed back to school it’s time to get back to schedules and routines and say goodbye to flying by the seat of my pants suppers. One of the things I struggle with is what to make for dinner each night. I try to find meal ideas I can stretch into other meals to save money and time. I have experimented and come up with some tried and true favorites my family enjoys, not only the first time I serve it but also the next couple of reincarnations as well.

The best part about meal recycling is it eliminates wasting leftovers which equals wasting money. I cringe every time I toss a container of a perfectly good meal I slaved over and no one touched again. I find with my family, it’s almost impossible to get them to re-heat and re-eat something on their own. My kids tend to grab snacks on the go that are quicker and easier than looking for fridge fodder. So I have become an expert at turning dinner leftovers into other meals that my kids often enjoy more than the first night I served it!

Here are some examples of my recycled meals: Meal#1 Pizza -Every Friday night we have pizza night at my house and I always load up on toppings when I shop and buy pre-made refrigerated dough or a large cheese pizza and doctor it up with our own toppings to save time. Things like mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives, feta, diced tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers, sausage, chicken and bacon can all be recycled into a delicious pasta mix-in or pasta sauce. Meal #2 Pasta Primavera or Pasta Sauce- Boil your favorite pasta (I use fettuccini), in a small sauté pan use a little oil, I like a garlic infused olive oil to add flavor and sauté your leftover veggies from pizza night. You can heat up any meat in a separate frying pan. When pasta is done drain and return to pot. Add sautéed veggies and meat to the pot, lastly add diced tomatoes with juices, feta and olives. Toss lightly and serve. You can also add spaghetti sauce to your sautéed veggies and meat and make a yummy pasta sauce to serve over your boiled pasta. Meal #3 Omelets- For an easy breakfast idea whip up an omelet with any of your pizza toppings you have left, including any cheeses you may have bought for the pizza.

One of my kid’s all-time favorite dinners is a chicken dinner with all the fixings. Meal #1 Chicken Dinner- I buy the largest chicken I can fit in my crockpot and let it cook all day. A great time saver is the ready made rotissere chickens you can pick up at the grocery store. When I get home I heat up the veggies and make mashed potatoes (with extra for leftovers). I heat up store bought gravy and refrigerated biscuits. Plate it, and presto, dinner is served. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce! Meal #2 Chicken Pot Pie or Chicken Casserole This is super easy, for the casserole just layer a casserole dish with leftover chicken, veggies and gravy and top with a layer of mashed potatoes, bake until heated through. The pot pie is similar but I use a refrigerated pie crust and fill it with chicken, veggies and gravy. Cover it with crust and bake. Meal #3 Biscuits, Sausage and Gravy- Another quick breakfast is sausage, biscuits and gravy. My husband loves this with some quick cooking grits and turkey sausage patties. I just buy extra biscuits and gravy and turn one meal into three. This can be done with other meals as well and with a little creativity save you some much needed time and money. I would love to hear any other recipes you may have stretched to become lively leftovers. Thanks for keeping it EZ! Truly, Kristin