With back to school in full swing, I am always looking for ways to save time and make meal planning easier. One of the ways I do that, is by using leftovers.

When it comes to making lunches and snacks using leftovers, I find I have two approaches that I follow most often. The first approach is that I make dinner with lunch in mind, meaning I intentionally make extra, in order to have leftovers that I can then turn into lunches and snacks. The second approach is stretching little bits of leftovers, by combining them with other ingredients, to make enough for a lunch or snack.

Mixed Fruit Smoothie & Banana Pop with Chia Seeds // Turn a few odds and ends of fruit into a delicious snack or breakfast that is both healthy and fun

Although odds and ends of ripe fruit are not leftovers from dinner, they are what is leftover in the fruit bowl, at the end of the week. Before the fruit gets overripe and I have to toss it in the compost, I trim, peel, pit and/or cut the fruit into roughly one-inch chunks, depending on the fruit. Small fruit like berries I leave whole. Then I put it all in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. What I end up with, is a mixed bag of fruit in the freezer that I can use for smoothies, homemade fruit sauce or any other recipes that call for frozen fruit.

To make these mixed fruit smoothies: I added 1 cup of frozen fruit (it was a combination of strawberries, honeydew and pineapple) to my blender and then using a simple wooden reamer, I juiced 2 oranges that needed to be used up, right on top of the frozen fruit, then I blended it all up. Grapefruits also work well for this, or if you don’t have any in the fruit bowl, any fruit juice from the fridge.

The banana pops are a fun way to stretch one banana into 2 or 3 servings, just slice, insert a popsicle stick and, holding the stick, roll the banana in a plate of chia seeds. Here are some other variations of banana pops that I have made: bananas + peanut butter with homemade fruit sauce and double decker banana pops.

Pasta Salad with Pea Pesto and Salmon // Pasta salad is a great way to turn small portion of leftovers into a meal

When I make dinner, I almost always make extra, so that there will intentionally be leftovers, but there are times when I don’t. Like if we are have guests for dinner, and I just want to focus on making the dinner. Or when I’m using up food from the freezer and only have enough for dinner. But even on those occasions, there can still be small amounts of leftovers, leftovers that need to be stretched in order to turn them into lunch. Pasta salads are perfect for this.

To make this pasta salad with pea pesto and salmon, I cooked some bow-tie pasta and drain it (3/4 cup of dried bow-tie pasta per serving), tossed it with some pea pesto (1-2 tablespoons per serving), that I had made earlier in the week (you could also add butter or olive oil), along with some flaked leftover salmon, frozen peas and grated parmesan cheese. And even though the portion of salmon that I had leftover was small (half of a fillet), I was able to stretch it further by making a pasta salad.

Veggies with Apple Sauce & Roasted Beet Dip // It only takes a small amount of beets to create the beautiful colour in this sweet and healthy dip

I love roasted beets. Hot or cold, they are sweet, full of flavour, easy to make and so colourful. It only takes a small amount of leftover beets to create the beautiful colour in this naturally sweet dip that is perfect for dunking vegetables in. This is also what I call a “spoon worthy dip”, meaning it is healthy enough to eat with a spoon, which for this dip is a great alternative.

To roast the beets: I first trimmed the stems close to the beet, scrubbed the beets well and wrapped them up in foil. I placed the foil packet on a baking sheet and roasted the beets in a 400°F oven for 50 – 60 minutes, checking for tenderness a couple of times with a fork, by unwrapping and rewrapping, until tender all the way through. I let the beets cool enough to handle, then using a paper towel, rubbed off the skin. To serve them for dinner, I like to drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

To make the apple sauce & roasted beet dip: I added 1 cup of apple sauce and 1 cup of cubed cold roasted beets to my food processor and blended until smooth. And that’s it! If you don’t have a full cup of leftover beets, add what you have, because it will still make that apple sauce look beautiful.