How’s everyone getting on? It’s pretty boring, this lockdown stuff. I’ve resorted to playing Roller Coaster Tycoon, listening to rewatch podcasts (Office Ladies and Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald if you’re interested) and exercising – FOR FUN. Ew.

But it’s important that we keep plodding along for our own protection and the protection of everyone around us, so well done for doing your bit! While we’re all still pining after our favourite food, I’ve found that coming up with new meal ideas a welcome challenge to distract me from constant daydreams about Nandos and Pizza Express.

I know salad isn’t exactly a “store cupboard” food but, in our house, it’s ALWAYS leftover – I guess that’s what happens when you ignore it and eat pizza instead. Who knew?! And I know we’re not alone, so here are a few ideas for using up that wilting bag of salad leaves before it dies a sad, lonely death in the bottom of the vegetable draw.

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1. Lemon ‘n’ lime salad

This is my favourite go-to salad because it’s super easy, really refreshing (perfect for the hot weather we’re having!) and full of flavour. If you don’t have fresh lemon and limes – I literally NEVER do – then bottled lemon and lime juice is something I’d definitely recommend picking up; seriously, so handy. I also find having various nuts and seeds in the cupboard (sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, cashews – whatever you like and whatever is in your budget) is really useful, especially for dishes like this.

Believe me, those limp lettuce leaves will come ALIVE with this recipe! Empty your leftover salad into a large bowl (along with any other salad ingredients – tomato, cucumber, red onion, grated carrot, etc.) and add a few drops of lemon and lime juice (I prefer more lime than lemon, but each to their own) and season with a pinch of garlic powder, salt, pepper and a teeny drizzle of oil. I also like to throw in pine nuts and sesame seeds, and I have a little shaker of fake parmesan “hard cheese” that I like to use for a delicious savoury flavour. I can find everything here in my kitchen 99% of the time, and they can all be swapped for whatever you have at home.

2. Burrito bowl

I’m seriously missing burritos right now, you guys. No Mexican restaurants are open for delivery near us, the supermarkets have v. limited veggie options and whenever I make burritos at home I always overfill them and they split (me? greedy? never!).  So, right now, a burrito bowl is the closest thing – and they’re awesome! 

Burrito bowls are perfect because you can make them using fairly basic ingredients, swapping most of them out for something else if you prefer. All you need to do is layer a bowl with rice and salad, throw some peppers and onions (with paprika, chilli flakes, salt and pepper) on top with a spoonful of beans – I like black beans or mixed taco beans, but you can spice anything up with garlic and paprika – and finish off with a little cheese, salsa and sour cream. Throw in plenty of spices along the way and you can’t go wrong!

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3. Club sandwich

Lunch is something I’ve reeeally struggled with during lockdown – without my Boots meal deal, I’m lost. Trying to make something exciting to look forward to every day (because let’s face it, even from home the best part of the work day is lunchtime) has been hard for me. I’ve fallen back on a pot of Super Noodles more than once these last few weeks, let me tell you!

Club sandwiches are probably the closest to a pub garden lunch we’ll get for a while, and it’s a really good way to use up some of those random fridge ingredients in one big wedge of sandwich-y goodness. Take a few slices of bread, layered up with your choice of main filling – chicken, turkey, or maybe mushrooms or marinated tofu – and then stuff in your salad along with any optional extras like avocado and tomato, perhaps a little mayonnaise or mustard, add in some egg or cheese if you feel like it, and you’ve got a great lunch! Don’t forget that extra slice of bread in the middle to make it a true club sandwich…

4. Mixed bean salad

I’m aware that a mixed bean salad probably sounds like the most boring thing in the world right now and, well, I won’t lie to you – you’re not wrong. It won’t light fireworks, but it’s a healthy, colourful plate, quick to put together and really good way to use up lots of different ingredients. And sometimes, in the middle of a pandemic, that’s all you need.

You can either grab a few different tins of beans yourself, or find a ready-made tin of mixed beans if you can’t be bothered to pick and choose (like me!). All you need to do  is heat them up, season with paprika, garlic, chilli flakes, salt and pepper, and toss them together with your leftover salad ingredients and BAM – you’ve done it! Tuck into this for a quick lunch, or perhaps serve up on the side of chicken or with a garlic flatbread to make more of a meal out of it. Perfect for a lazy summer evening!

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