$138 A Week For Groceries - About Repurposing Leftovers & Day 7 Meals (Friday)

Running a day late with this post. Pretend it's Saturday for me, please. ;)

From time to time, people ask me how I go about repurposing or reinventing my leftovers. 

Often, we repeat them just as they were originally served. A little repetition (or, as you will see, sometimes a lot) doesn't really bother me, but of course it helps if the original was decent to begin with. Sometimes, it's a thoughtless mashup of whatever's readily edible.

Ropa Vieja reinvented into a Morrocan-inspired ragout

But when I do put a little thought and effort into it, my thought process usually goes like this:

- Is there anything fixing to start to go bad anytime soon? Use that first.

- Of the leftover elements, are there things that can work well together?

- The stuff I've pulled so far, does it have a good balance of protein, starches, and veg? If not, pull other ingredients to create that balance.

- Will the flavor profile have a good balance between salt, heat, tang, and sweet?

- If I'm mixing seemingly disparate elements, how can I create a sensible fusion of them?

That said, what is disparate really is in the palate of the beholder. I've written before that my notions of fusion are relatively tame and are often borne more of cross-cultural ingredient substitutions than any wildly creative and out-of-the-box culinary ideas.

Generally speaking, I find that cuisines that significantly share geography or culture tend to meld well together. I generally find that East Asian cuisines play well together, that Southeast Asian cuisines play well together, that Mediterranean cuisines fuse well together, Central and South American cuisines... You get the idea. There are other fusions that work well in my opinion, but I won't get too specific right now.

If you consider that shared geography often means shared climates and native or traded ingredients, it's not hard to see why this is. And then oftentimes culture travels from place to place, and you get shared culinary elements between distant places, so there's that.

Those are the things I personally take into consideration when I purposefully seek to reinvent my leftovers.

And that someone asked me this question a couple of days ago works right into the leftovers makeovers of this week, the thought process for which I'll share below.

As always, I've included a meal total and per serving total on the blog. The detailed ingredient cost breakdown HERE.


For me, an open faced fried egg and ham sandwich and coffee.

For the boys, scrambled eggs, toast, watermelon and coffee.

For Izz, a half PB&J and milk. 



Joey's usual ham sandwich, apple and juice pouch lunch. For Dean, a ham sandwich with tomato, some watermelon, and a handful of Funyons that we got as a gag gift from our friends who came over for dinner on Wednesday night.

As I mentioned before, I will eat the hell out of leftovers - specially if it's a busy and/or tiring week, and leftovers mean I don't have to cook and clean. So for the third time this week, the leftovers noodle salad made from the easy Spaghetti Vegetable Chowmein, fried chicken, and Chili Garlic Soy Dipping Sauce made earlier in the week and almost the rest of the watermelon.

In creating this leftovers makeover, I pulled from East Asian and Southeast Asian influences. The spaghetti chowmein is a roughly Chinese idea, the chicken, which was seasoned only with salt was a totally neutral protein component, the Chili Garlic Soy Sauce and toasted sesame oil pull elements from both Chinese and Korean cuisines, and then putting it all together with chilies, fresh Vietnamese coriander and purple perilla, and a squeeze of lime and sriracha fused it with elements of a Vietnamese cold noodle salad.

As you can see, things get a little more real as the week progresses and I fatigue of the kitchen - no plating, no arranging. Just pull shit out of the fridge and eat out of plastic containers.

Izz shared my lunch with me.



was the last 1.5 cups of Wednesday's Ropa Vieja transformed into a Moroccan-inspired ragout with the addition of some pan-roasted eggplant, tomato, onion, the last of the red bell pepper, and a Ras el Hanout inspired spice blend of paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, and clove, served over creamy polenta.

In this case, I was taking a Cuban dish and reinventing it with North African flavors, but the general flavor profile of the Ropa Vieja (a savory tomato base spiced up with a little cumin, bay, and oregano) played right into the more complex and heady spiciness of Moroccan cuisine.

And the basic creamy polenta was a neutral canvas for all those complex flavors and textures, complementing without competing with the ragout.

That stretched the 1.5 cups of leftover stew into another 4 servings of the reinvented dish with little effort.

We were going to do a red with dinner, but it was hot and stuffy in the house, so we ended up having a bottle of forgettable cheap bubbly with it. We are learning and re-learning that serviceable bubbly, unlike some non-bubbly wine, for the most part doesn't come in bottles that cost less than the roughly $8-10 range at minimum.

Contrary to my prediction, Izz had some of the meat, shunned the polenta, and had some watermelon and milk to go with.




Off to play catchup!


This post is part of my 30 Day Grocery Budget Diary. To see all the posts of this series in reverse chron order, click HERE.

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