Loving Leftovers, with a bit of help

Leftovers don’t happen to often in our house, because we plan menus in advance and buy only what we need, but on occasion we do misjudge – usually vegetables – this week it’s too many Brussels sprouts and carrots.  Both keep well, so I’ll likely just work them into next week’s menu.  But an article in yesterday’s newspaper caught my attention, making reference to a web-based tool for planning meals around left-overs.  Intrigued, I went looking for more, and found one other that is specific to using leftovers, not just ‘recipe by ingredients’.  Then I tried them out.

The first one I tried is part of the Tesco (a British grocery store chain) website.  It’s a very simple tool to use – you can enter up to three ingredients and it generates recipes.  It couldn’t, however, generate a recipe that used both carrots and Brussels sprouts; it gave me one for the Brussels sprouts, similar to the recipe I buy them for (penne with Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cheese) and many more than incorporated the carrots, from salads to soups to sandwiches and stews.  When I added chicken to the list, the tool focused on the chicken, giving me lots of good-looking chicken recipes but not really helping with the vegetables.

Then I tried Big Oven’s leftover tool. It uses pretty much the same format – you enter up to three ingredients.  I started with just the two vegetables, as before – and got far better results.  It even sorts them into main dishes, side dishes, etc.  One recipe:  for apple-kielbasa bake – will be tried out almost immediately, using turkey sausage.  When I added chicken to the list of ingredients, the site let me choose to be very specific about the chicken, offering me ‘cubed, wings, broth, whole chicken’  which generated more recipes for me to try…I really liked the look of chicken with winter vegetables. (I’d leave the ‘chicken’ choice as just chicken – narrowing it down to ‘cubed chicken’ really limited the recipes, and I can adapt the recipe as needed.)

Another British grocery store chain, Sainsbury’s, has a leftover tool in development.  It would seem that the UK is taking food waste seriously and attempting to address it right from the suppliers.

I’m not really sure that these ‘leftover’ tools differ from the ‘recipe by ingredient’ tools that are out there – I rather think they’ve just been packaged differently.  But if they help with combatting food waste, I’m all for them.  And they gave me two new recipes to try..so that alone was worth the half-hour I spent testing them!

I’m sure there are more tools out there…which ones have you used and found useful?  Please share!

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