Tip #10: Recycle Your Takeout – All of It!

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Let’s face it: there are times in everyone’s lives where cooking is just not an option because of time constraints, illness, or just plain old fashioned laziness. Thankfully, man has invented takeout and delivery, leaving one less thing to deal with in our busy lives. Though I don’t do it anywhere near as often as I used to, there are times when I just want my food to be brought to me and I will get some takeout, or in my car-less situation, delivery. Of course, the types of food you can get delivered are pretty limited (unless you live in New York City where they deliver EVERYTHING), but one can never go wrong with a good pizza, some Chinese food, or even sushi if you’re really lucky (like I am with Sacramento’s Tamaya Sushi). You have something “fun”, there’s little to no clean up if you eat out of the container with chopsticks or on the paper plates that are provided, and most of the time you can count on leftovers. Though the price of this convenience is always super high – for the price of an extra-large pizza delivered to my home, I can do an entire $25 Shopping Cart that will give me at least 10 days worth of fresher, healthier food – it’s still a nice option to have.

So how can you make the most of your take out or delivery meal without being bound to the boredom of cold congealed chow mein noodles or tough, cold pizza slices? Here are a few of the ways I stretch everything they pack into those tiny little plastic bags:

~ Pizza/Italian: Aside from the standard leftovers, be sure to hang on to those packets or containers of parmesan cheese and red chili flakes! Place them in airtight containers so that you can use them for different recipes in the future. When you’re on an extremely tight budget these can come in really handy! We all know that parmesan cheese is sometimes not that affordable, whether it’s fresh or pre-grated, and believe me, these little packets do add up when you put them all together. The same thing applies to the red chili flakes that they give you. These small amounts can help you replenish what you use without having to spend too much extra money on some new spices. A little bit here, a little bit there adds up very quickly.

~ Chinese: Done with all the yummy leftovers but still stuck with 3-4 extra boxes of steamed rice? Don’t let it sit there until you have to throw it away – make your own homemade fried rice! Simply add mixed veggies, a couple of scrambled eggs, chopped green onions, and some soy sauce, and you’ll be set. If you don’t want a repeat of Chinese food, use the rice in soups, as the base for Arroz con Pavo (or pollo), or make a nice rice salad. There are plenty of ways to make these leftovers work for you so you can make the most of your order! And don’t forget the soy sauce packets, either. These are lifesavers if you’re in a pinch and need a little bit of flavor in your dish.

~ Mexican: This is more of a takeout thing rather than delivery, but the same rules apply. Like other restaurants, Mexican restaurants will give you far more food than most folks can handle when they pack up your To Go order. You order what seems like a simple recipe and you’re left with Mexican rice, beans, and tortillas to feed a small army! This is a wonderful thing, however, because you’re now left with the basics for making some simple bean & rice burritos for the next day’s lunch. Simply add your favorite salsa & condiments and you’re set. Too many leftover tortilla chips? Add a generous amount of shredded cheese, some shredded leftover chicken and your favorite fixings, and presto! Easy chicken nachos!

Again, none of this is rocket science, but I hope I’ve been able to give you a couple of new pointers you might not have thought of in regards to all those condiments and extras restaurants will give you. It may seem like these are rather miserly moves but those of you who really need to pinch pennies as I do can truly appreciate the help these small changes can provide. Happy leftovers! 🙂

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