Queen of Sheba, I am not; but if my intuition is right, I could be a strong contender in the “Queen of Leftovers” contest. My golden cache of leftovers keeps increasing as our nutrition needs switch over because our growing children are quickly approaching adulthood. There is a difference in how much they eat now, and that must parallel with how much I cook. And there are leftovers.

They have caught on to my ‘repurposing’ of those meal remnants. Clearing the table one day, they asked me which foods to save. Immediately, I thought the wild rice would work to make soup, and the leftover roast, what we don’t consume in sandwiches, would also go into a soup. (So save the broth and the remaining corn and peas!) My only mistake was to let them throw away the winter squash; it would have made good muffins for breakfast the next day.

The funny thing is that I am starting to plan my meals around the potential what can be done with any leftovers. This has gone beyond cooking extra potatoes for a salad or frying. If we have tacos, spaghetti needs to follow in a day or two. With the remnants of ground beef, chili is a cinch for the next meal. It also uses up the quart of tomatoes that was opened earlier that week for the tacos.

Not every scrappy meal is a success—from our experience, leftover goose does not work well in fried rice. But leftover canned beef is the perfect starter for a beefy onion and mushroom soup.

Thanksgiving dinners are perfect for the Queens of Leftovers. Turkey goes well in soups, sandwiches, and casseroles including turkey divan. (What a fancy name for leftover broccoli and turkey, don’t you think?)

There are times scrap repurposing might cost more than it’s worth, like when it requires expensive ingredients that may not be a kitchen staple, or if you need some of Queen of Sheba’s exotic spices. Thus, a trip to the grocery store before storage time in the refrigerator is up might be necessary. That doesn’t jive with the thrift sense of using up food scraps. We hate to throw food out, but my chickens and farm cat really like it when it does happen, so it isn’t totally wasted.

The sad part of the decline in needed food happens around the time we farm wives reach our zenith in cooking skills. My first attempts at gravy were far from the tasting concoctions my mother excelled at.  There are a few basic rules for making gravy, but a cast iron pan has helped me the most, along with plenty of meat. But now that there are less people at our dinner table, less meat is needed. Beef bouillon sits close to my stove for flavoring, and it helps, but the gravy just isn’t the same.

Sometime, when there is just ‘the farmer’ and me, the food looks pitifully small in the pan, and even worse on the table, yet there are still leftovers. But that’s ok, as I have become quite creative with reinventing those leftover morsels.

I wonder of there a county fair contest somewhere devoted to leftovers?

Do you have a favorite meal repurpose? Email [email protected] to share your best repurposed meal ideas.


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]