A Whole Week of Budget Dinners (That Use up Every Bit of Leftovers)

updated Jun 9, 2019
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(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Playing Iron Chef with all the scraps and leftovers you’ve compiled over a few homemade dinners is not everyone’s best talent. Shopping individually for each recipe will often leave you with a number of byproducts: half-used bunches of vegetables, carrot tops, fennel stalks, and shreds of leftover roast chicken.

To flow one meal’s ingredients more harmoniously into the next, and hopefully reduce the amount of food waste that happens in the home, I’ve compiled a week’s worth of recipes that work together.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Of course, you could always make a large batch of any recipe, and keep on reheating and eating it throughout the week. But that’s a sure-fire way to create homemade food fatigue, or boredom — which can lead to wasting the excess before it’s finished, I’ve found.

We’re mixing it up with the recipes in this menu, many of them tried and tested from my blog, Not Eating Out In New York. You can also jazz any of these recipes up with additional or alternate ingredients to your liking, using whatever’s leftover in the fridge. I often do this with my basic recipe for stir-fried noodles — it’s a quick and easy dinner I fall back on often.

Make these recipes your own, and learn a few new tips along the way!

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

The Meals

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Meal 4: Tomato-Braised Lentils with Broccoli Rabe with Garlic Bread made with leftover dinner rolls

The Recipes

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Your Meal Prep Plan

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

3 Tips for Zero Food Waste

What to Do on Saturday or Sunday

  • Make the dinner rolls so they’re ready for meals throughout the week.
  • Cook the farro for the chicken soup and refrigerate.
  • Make the gremolata for the roast chicken and refrigerate.
  • Butterfly the chicken for tomorrow’s dinner.
  • Prep the vegetables for the week, packing them in separate meal-specific containers — don’t forget to save the fennel stalks and fronds and carrot tops! When you prep the cabbage, remove 2 cups for the Stir-fried Noodles and use the rest for the Pasta and Potatoes.

Weeknight Task List

Meal 1: Roast Chicken with Fennel, Carrots & Gremolata with Dinner Rolls

  • Cook the chicken over the fennel and carrots.
  • Roast the potatoes for both this dinner and for the pasta dinner on a separate rack in the oven.
  • Before serving, set aside 2 cups of the chicken for later meals.
  • Also set aside the potatoes needed for the pasta dinner.
  • If you have extra time, make a quick stock from the bones of the chicken following the instructions in the Chicken Soup recipe; refrigerate until needed.

Meal 2: Pasta and Potatoes with Cabbage (Pizzoccheri) with Citrus Salad

  • Prep the citrus salad, reserving half of the salad to serve with the Stir-Fried Noodles later in the week. (If you’d prefer a simpler dressing, skip the Grand Marnier and bitters in this recipe.)
  • Make the pasta using the potatoes roasted last night.

Meal 3: Chicken Soup with Fennel and Farro with Toasted Dinner Rolls

  • If you haven’t already done so, make the chicken stock using the bones from the roast chicken meal. (Alternatively, you can substitute 5 to 6 cups of store-bought stock.)
  • Make the soup using the pre-cooked farro. (You can also make this with raw farro, but the cooking time will be a bit longer.)
  • Just before serving, split a few dinner rolls, toast them, and spread with butter.

Meal 4: Tomato-Braised Lentils with Broccoli Rabe with Garlic Bread Dinner Rolls

  • To make the garlic bread: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Split a few dinner rolls in half, and spread them with a mix of softened butter and minced garlic. Arrange them on a foil-lined pan and set aside.
  • Make the lentils and sauté the broccoli rabe.
  • About 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve, put the garlic bread in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden and warmed; for extra-crispy bread, run the garlic bread under the broiler for a minute or so before serving.

Meal 5: Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables with Citrus Salad

  • Prep the vegetables, if you didn’t already do so earlier in the week.
  • Cook the noodles.
  • Prepare the stir-fry.
  • Serve with the remaining citrus salad.
(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Your Shopping List

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

To buy at the store:

  • Lemon (1)
  • Citrus fruits, mix of oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, etc. (7 to 8 large fruits to make 6 cups chopped fruit and 1/2 cup juice)
  • Onion (2 medium)
  • Fennel bulb, with fronds attached (1)
  • Carrots, with fronds attached (7 to 8 medium-sized)
  • Tomato (1 large)
  • Red potatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Green cabbage (1 large-sized head)
  • Broccoli rabe or mustard greens (4 small bunches)
  • Shiitake mushrooms (8 to 10 whole, fresh or dried)
  • Scallions (1 bunch)
  • Basil (1 handful)
  • Fresh thyme or sage (a few stems or leaves)
  • Garlic (1 head)
  • Fresh ginger (1-inch knob)
  • Whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds)
  • Large eggs (5)
  • Heavy cream (1/2 cup)
  • Whole milk (1/2 cup)
  • Small-shaped pasta, preferably buckwheat or whole wheat (8 ounces)
  • 8 to 12 ounces Asian flat noodles
  • Dry green or brown lentils (1 1/2 cups)
  • Farro (1/2 cup)
  • Tomato paste (1 small can)
  • Chicken or vegetable stock (3 cups, plus another 5 to 6 cups if you won’t be making your own for the soup)
  • Grand Marnier (1/4 cup, optional for the fruit salad)
  • Bitters (a few drops, optional for the fruit salad)

From your pantry (check to make sure you have them):

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • Asian sesame oil
  • Butter
  • Grana Padano cheese (1/2 cup grated)
  • Soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Bay leaves
  • All-purpose flour (3 cups)
  • Active-dry yeast
  • Sugar
  • Honey