I really like this thread too. Our family strategy is to leverage left overs, without feeling like we are eating left overs-- This is a sample of one of plans:
We soak a full pot of beans and prep stuff that we can on Sunday for the Mon, Tues, and Wed. (i.e. shred lettuce, grade a whole block of cheese, cut up an onion, etc.) We cook the beans on low in the crock pot that evening and the entire next day. (for seasoning, I use a couple of strips of uncooked bacon that I pulled from cooking Sunday morning, and half a package of taco seasoning.) When I get home Monday night, I either make homemade bread (I have a note below on bread) or cornbread. Cornbread makes a great way to use up left over bell peppers or ground beef, if you have any. I also like to put in an extra 1/4 cup of cream corn or regular corn, to give an extra snap. The cheese is already grated--- so.. Monday is cornbread and beans night. You will have left over beans.
On Tuesday, I place the left over beans in a medium to large pot on the stove. If your "bean juice" is more that an inch over your beans, drain off the excess liquid. Warm the beans on a medium heat. They are easier to mash when they are warm. I mash with a potato masher. Then stir and gently boil--- after 10-15 minutes, you will have refried beans. (If it gets to thick, just add a little water to thin, and if it's too thin, just crank the heat a bit to cook off more liquid). While that is boiling, I cook a pound of ground beef. Sometimes we season with just salt and pepper, but if we want to feel like we are "eating out", I use the Taco Bell seasoning, which you can get at the grocery store now for around .69. Our cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions are already chopped... so mexican fiesta night. Just add taco shells, tostadas, or tortillas. (I make my own tortillas, but there are some nice store brands that are not too expensive.) Invariably, you'll have a bit of hamburger, onions, lettuce left over...so save it... and...
Wednesday is Pizza Night!!!. I make my own crust for pennies... see my note below about breads. I take four clove of garlies and 1/4 cup of the onions and sautee until clear in olive oil. I then add a can of diced tomatoes, 2 cans of tomato sauce, one can of tomatoe paste, a teaspoon of oregano and basil, and a bit of wine if we have any on hand. We then use the left over meat as toppings. We make side salads out of the leftover tomatoes and lettuce. If we did bread Monday, we will make crutons out of the left overs.
Bottom line, is we'll make three very different dishes, without feeling like we were stuck in the "leftover rut".
My note on bread. I recently bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a day.... and it has opened up a lot of cheap possibilities for leftovers. I have always been distressed about the labor and time needed to make homemade bread, but this book has some really simple strategies to make enough bread for the week. I mix the dough on Sunday, put it in the fridge per the directions in the book-- then I used the same dough for bread on Monday, and I still have enough for two good size pizzas on Wednesday. If you get the book, be generous with the cornmeal. I didn't have a "Pizza peel", so I just turned over to the smooth side of a cutting board and it's worked great. I also get my yeast and dough enhancer from an online site called Emergency Essentials. The yeast they send me will fill up an old ragu pasta sauce jar-- and the price for both items is about the same as a tiny jar of yeast at the grocery store-- so you get a lot more for less. I also buy my flour in bulk to save money and store it in a large lidded containers.