By Bethenny Frankel
Updated: August 19, 2008

Leftovers are quite a contested topic. Some people, like myself, have no problem who we're with or where we are and will take food home from a restaurant with little thought. Others, however, would sooner die than ask for a "doggie bag." I believe the "doggie" is the one who finishes everything on his plate. And anyone who leaves food behind is simply being wasteful!

Leftovers are a very economical and figure-friendly way to save money on food the next day and enjoy an inexpensive and delicious meal later.

I call it "the point of diminishing return"—when you have eaten a large portion of your meal, and you are eating it simply because it is there. A great alternative is to put it aside, take it home, and make something new of it. For example, a small piece of steak can be sliced, and served over spicy arugula with shaved Parmesan and toasted pine nuts for a gourmet lunch salad. A turkey burger can be crumbled into a marinara sauce to be served over whole-wheat pasta with grana padano. Your family won't know the difference, and in these situations, a little goes a long way.

Even a simple side of broccoli rabe or spinach can be combined with crumbled turkey sausage, served with pasta, olive oil, and garlic for a gourmet pasta dish. Use the same vegetables with your favorite cheese in a delicious frittata.

This concept works with leftovers from meals at home as well. Brown rice from one meal can be combined with chicken, vegetables, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger for a delicious one pot stir-fry. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and cilantro for color and texture.

Simply put, if you use your left brain, you can use a few items to make a variety of dishes. Beans and vegetables can be pureed into soups the next day.

One type of greens can be transformed into several salads by altering cheeses, nuts, and dressing type. Basically, if you look in your refrigerator, you can make lemonade from lemons—you just have to open your mind and look closely.

By the same token, leftovers can make your life easy for weeks to come. Instead of piling leftovers from a turkey dinner into large plastic sloppy bags, individually portion mini meals into plastic containers. Place a piece of protein, a green, and a starch in a disposable container, label it and freeze it. Now you have a perfect work lunch or a rainy night dinner. Your jeans will fit the next day because the portions were laid out for you, and you don't have to pay $50 a day for some diet-delivery service. All those services provide are portion control, but you can control your own destiny.

Simply put, leftovers can be fun, creative, economical, downright sensible, and fun. Try it. And let me know what you do with your leftovers!