Tough times. I ran into a colleague over the weekend at the grocery store. As we lamented soaring food costs, she pointed to the meager few items in her shopping carriage and told me that to avoid waste, she’d resolved to buy less food. It’s an understandable impulse. And while I can’t say I buy much less, I think more strategically about leftovers.

But the good news is that leftovers — provided they were tasty enough the first time around — tend to get the creative juices flowing. Change their context, and it’s as if you’re eating a brand new dish. For example, my two “first-night” dishes this weekend: lamb with an eggplant, tomato, and zucchini tian on the side, and red snapper with mango-pineapple nuoc cham relish. Extra tian became Sunday lunch — a grilled summer vegetable pizza topped with fresh mozzarella (leftover from a Caprese salad earlier in the week) and arugula (above). The leftover relish helped dress a Vietnamese caramelized pork salad for Sunday dinner (below).

Also keep in mind that choice ingredients can help make these second-day dishes a little more special. A touch of truffle oil to dress the arugula on the pizza, for instance, or a Duroc pork chop for the Vietnamese salad (one chop feeds two in such a dish). Choice ingredients don't need to be particularly expensive, either. Like in-season produce. This time of year, you may even find garden-ripe fruits and vegetables more satisfying than meat, so hit your local farmers' market and load up.

Don't be afraid to get creative with your leftovers. If you need a little inspiration (or if you like to plan ahead), here are a few stories that teach how to make the most of each meal:

Chicken Tonight -- and Tomorrow (8 ways with a grilled chicken)

Take Two from the Grill (grill once, eat twice)

One Steak, Nine Ways (flank steak for dinner tonight, 9 options for tomorrow's lunch)

Play it Again, Ham (three creative menus for leftover ham)