Selina Bird comes to the rescue with yummy family meals made from leftovers. Picture: Supplied
Selina Bird comes to the rescue with yummy family meals made from leftovers. Picture: Supplied

Leftover meals that will leave the family wanting more

I went to the supermarket today.

After scenes of mass panic buying I wasn't sure what to expect.

It was surprisingly calm, but what was apparent were the empty shelves.

Flour was gone, and there were limits of two bakery items per customer.

UHT milk was back in stock, but there were limits on all milk.

I didn't dare look at pasta or tuna or hunt for mined meat.

It is a difficult time for many, and it's been compounded by the fact that ingredients for many food items we usually buy aren't there. My eldest son - a super fussy eater - has had to go without his favourite pasta shells. He also drinks around six litres of milk a week, although thankfully we have been able to source enough for him to date.

When times are tough, we often resort to eating comfort foods. But not everything is available when we want it.



My message to you is one that I hope will encourage resilience and gratitude. There was a time when many families said 'grace' before they ate their meal at the end of the day. We regularly follow this tradition. You don't have to be religious to do this. The act of grace signals appreciation for what you have, for who cooked the meal, and the abundance everywhere. 

There are similar traditions throughout the world. For instance, in Japan, they say Itadakimasu' (I humbly receive) before eating. In France, they like to say 'Bon appetite' (enjoy your meal). I think showing gratitude before eating is a lovely way of making an evening meal a ritual of gratitude. Rather than worrying about only being able to buy what's left, instead think about how grateful you are for what you have.



Introduce some love into the kitchen by using leftovers. Picture: Supplied
Introduce some love into the kitchen by using leftovers. Picture: Supplied




Many people who have parents or grandparents who lived in the UK or continental Europe will have heard how tough they did it during years of rationing. You simply couldn't go to the supermarket and buy bananas, tinned pineapples or gourmet coffee. Even if they were there, you would have needed ration coupons. Comparatively, we live in abundant times.

That said, food insecurity is real, and it is a problem that affects millions of Australians each year. It is heart-wrenching when you can't afford basic staples to feed your family. Food bank has called on people to make financial donations as many of their clients are struggling. 

But in most cases, there are ways to still cook meals with what's left. It might sound old-fashioned to focus on the positives, but it works.



Beyond the philosophical, let's discuss some practical ways that you can cook with what's left.

No spaghetti? Make your own! Use flour or eggs, or even rice or bread.

No macaroni or pasta? Make gnocchi from old potatoes.

No bread? Make your own sourdough or white bread, or try a simple flatbread from self-raising flour and yoghurt.

No milk? Use powdered milk or if you are feeling ambitious, make your own soybean or almond milk.

Can't find minced meat? Use canned tuna or minced chicken to make a delicious Bolognese sauce.

No tuna? Use tinned sardines or other types of canned fish.

If there's no meat at all, have a meatless dinner!

No eggs? Substitute a tablespoon of soy flour and a tablespoon of water in baking, or use the liquid left over from cooking chickpeas (you can even make pavlova this way).

No butter? Substitute oil in baking. And what if there's no oil? Use butter, or use the fat drippings from cooking meat.

What meals can you make with what's left? 



You can pretty much make anything your imagination takes you to.

With a bit of gratitude and improvisation, there are many things you can create from creamy tuna mornay to bruschetta using homemade bread and homegrown tomatoes.

Thankfully, there is lots of inspiration on Australia's Best Recipes. And I can't wait to see what combinations you come up with.

Here are three family-friendly favourites:



Leftover Lamb Shepherd's Pie. Picture: Supplied
Leftover Lamb Shepherd's Pie. Picture: Supplied


Originally published as Get creative with leftovers