Creative Ways to Use Up the Leftovers

Creative Ways to Use Up the Leftovers

Our family has always been a family of leftover eaters. When I was growing up I remember my mom telling me once that a family friend of ours didn’t ever eat leftovers. I always wondered what on earth they did with their food!

The problem with leftovers is that they were given a name other than food. When we call them leftovers it makes it sound like they are something that no one wanted, that they aren’t good. But, food is food and you’ve already gone through all of the trouble to create a meal for your family out of that food so you might as well enjoy it until it’s gone!

Have a leftover buffet. This is a weekly occurrence at our house. Usually for lunch on the weekend, we pull out all of the leftover items in the fridge and set them out buffet style. We then fill our plates with all of the wonderful food and have a feast of variety. This is a great way to use up a large amount of leftovers at one time.

Use your leftovers for lunch. When I cook supper I almost always make sure that we have enough for lunch the next day. It saves me a great deal of time to not have to come up with lunch ideas when we already have a pre-cooked meal waiting for us that just needs to be warmed up. I never add lunch plans into our monthly meal plan because of this and it also makes grocery shopping a little bit easier since I don’t have as many meals to plan.

Make stir fry. Stir fry doesn’t have to be a collection of baby corn, broccoli, and thinly sliced meats, it can be anything you want it to be! We usually toss in a meat, whatever vegetables we have as long as they taste good together, and some kind of starch. It doesn’t have to be rice, I’ve made stir fry with leftover Oven Baked Potatoes before! Another great idea that is similar to this one is to use your leftovers to make Garbage Soup.

Freeze leftovers for later. If you think your family will get tired of the same thing, simply stick the leftovers from your cooked meal in the freezer for a later date. It’s like a pre-made freezer meal that you don’t even have to go through extra effort to make!

Keep a leftover shelf. If your leftovers tend to get stuck in the back of the fridge and forgotten until they start to grow mold, make a shelf in your fridge that is specifically for leftover meals. Having a specified shelf makes it much easier to see what’s available and what needs to be eaten up.

Use bits and pieces in new meals. There are so many recipes that you can make by adding leftovers into new fresh meals. There is a big list HERE of ideas to try.

A while back I asked you, our Little House Living community, how you use up leftovers at your home and I loved all of the answers you offered! Here are some of them for inspiration….

  • Pull it all out of the fridge. Announce, “I’m not cooking!” Fight over who wants what, heat it up, and start over the next day. – Mary S.
  • I freeze everything in serving sizes so they’re like instant microwave meals! – Katy P.
  • I freeze all leftovers & then I make “Dump Soup”. I am creative with it though – Chicken? Do I want it “green = Mexican flavor? Or do I want it with “tomato”= Italian? I then add the appropriate spices. It never tastes the same way twice. They are always delicious, by the way! – Melynda F.
  • Do like grandma did, every meal had a little left over of this and that and it just rounded out the meal. – Kathy A.
  • I take all veggies and throw them into a ziplock bag and then into the freezer. Zucchini and squash winds up in spaghetti sauce. Broccoli and cauliflower go into beer-cheese soup. Green peppers and onions wind up in sloppy joe’s or spaghetti. All other veggies wind up in…something. Usually soup or “shepherd’s pie”. Leftover meats go into soups, hand pies, or jumbalaya. My ham winds up in green beans, lima beans, or some variation of bean soup. – Lee G.

Looking for more ways to use up leftovers? 

This recipe for Turkey and Feta Quesadillas also has some other great ideas for using up leftover turkey or chicken.

Have Leftover Pot Roast? Here are some recipes that will help you Stretch a Roast.

Have leftover potatoes? Try these Sweet Potato Biscuit Recipe.

This Homemade Vegetable Soup is a great way to use up extra veggies or meat.

How do the leftovers in your house get used up?
Do you make enough food to have leftovers? Share your tips with us in the comments section!

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16 Comments

  1. I took oven chicken fajita over to my mother in laws with beans and Spanish rice, and cheese with chorizo on Saturday. I made quite a bit. When we came home. I bagged the left over rice for another meal and froze. Tuesday we had left overs wow was it good saved a day of cooking and boom it was done. They even said that they liked it better left over. That never happens. Great ideas

  2. I live alone, so leftovers are inevitable. I plan ahead on how to use what there is. Sometimes I eat the meal again as is. Sometimes I freeze them for when life gets busy. Sometimes I make sure to make more so I can make other meals with less prep like rice for fried rice or in soup or extra baked potatoes for cottage fries with a chop on the side. Sometimes they are lunch and, worse case scenario, I trade them with a neighbor!

  3. this is a cornerstone of my home management!
    It’s actually how I keep my budget so trim; for instance this Monday I roasted s chicken. Yesterday I took half of the leftovers and some of the reserved fat to make a pot pie with gravy. Tomorrow night we are have chicken noodle soup and if there’s still anything left over, it’ll go into chicken tacos (with rice and beans) for Friday!
    We’re a family of 3 (2 adults, 2 toddlers) so this works for right now, but I think repurposing leftovers is a good skill for everyone to learn.

    1. You are very fortunate. I usually have issues with not enough meat left. I will make a roast chicken and my 3 & 6 year old who can be very peckish at most meals seem to save their appetite until that night. They love roast chicken and can polish off a half chicken by themselves!
      I pick off all the meat for serving and return the rest of the bones, skin, etc back to the crockpot to make my own stock. I never have to buy stock that way. Then I freeze it right away or use the broth for any leftover meat and veggies to make soup.
      My kids are not a fan of casseroles or things coated in most sauces for some reason. (Since I quit buying canned cream soups due to the ingredients, its just as well). So most of our foods are left separate until it joins together on the plate. It actually works in my favor. I am not stuck with a ton of leftovers no one will eat near as often. Like spaghetti, I can freeze leftover sauce for another meal and the kids will eat the leftover pasta with butter and cheese or even plain if veggie pasta. Or have tacos, I can freeze the leftover hamburger meat from tacos and make homemade nachos when I’m in a pinch for lunch or need a snack. I can use leftover lettuce and tomato in a salad. The sour cream on baked potatoes or nachos. Since I stated making them from scratch, there is never a shell left over.

  4. Any veggies left over from dinner regardless of how little is left and thats is not being used for lunches the next day go into a container in the freezer. Once it is full it will get used in a casserole, soup or stew.

    Same goes for any tomato sauce left over from dinner. If not being used the next day it goes into another conatiner in the freezer, once that is full it will be enough to use for another family pasta dinner.

    Meats left over from dinners/roasts get chopped up and flash frozen. Once frozen they are placed into a ziplock bag in the freezer to be used for quick breakfast bowls, tacos, etc.

  5. When my Mom would use leftovers to make something else she called it a “Janet Schaaf Special” if you don’t like it don’t worry you won’t ever have it again. I now have my own “special” nights. Some of which I’ve had to remember exactly what I did because my family likes it so much.

  6. Alot of our leftovers either gets heated up and placed on a bed of greens or, because we have chickens & always have eggs, they get repurposed in an egg dish like fritatas, omelets or scrambled.

  7. I eat leftovers all the time. In fact, I plan my weekly menu’s around them! Lol, I’m half-Korean, so our side dishes are pretty time-consuming to make and usually made in large weekly batches (monthly, if you’re talking about kimchi). When I’m feeling other types of cuisines, I apply the same principles: quick and easy entrees with just enough ingredients for dinner and lunch the next day + fabulous and creative side dishes (enough variety to mix and match throughout the week).

  8. With a larger family I often struggle to have leftovers worthy of another meal. I need to package and refrigerate them before sitting at the dinner table or else they magically disappear. I’ve found cooking a roast for dinner is often good as I can make sandwhiches for lunch or a curry the next day. I was at a friends the other day and she was making homemade pizzas. After cooking the usual hawian she used leftover taco mince and peppers to make a mexican flavoured pizza that tasted delish with sour cream on the side.

  9. I LOVE LEFT OVERS. SOME THINGS TASTE EVEN BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND. IF I ONLY HAVE A SMALL PORTION OF SOMETHING LEFT OVER SAY A SPOON FULL OF CARROTS I MIX IT IN MY DOGS FOOD. JUST MAKE SURE WHAT YOU GIVE THEM WILL NOT MAKE THEM SICK.

    I LOVE MEATLOAF SANDWICHES SO I ALWAYS MAKE AN EXTRA MEATLOAF. I THEN FREEZE SLICES SO I CAN PULL OUT ENOUGH FOR A SANDWICH ANY TIME.

    I KEEP A LIST OF WHAT LEFTOVERS ARE CURRENTLY IN THE FRIDGE AND FREEZER. I PUT WHAT DATE THEY WERE PUT IN SO WE CAN TRY TO USE OLDEST FIRST. IF SOMEONE USES IT UP THEY CROSS IT OFF THE LIST. I ALSO DESCRIBE CONTAINER IT IS IN AS I REUSE ALL SORTS OF CONTAINERS TO STORE LEFTOVERS IN

  10. When I was a child, about once a week or when we has enough leftovers in the fridge, my mother would make up individual meals with the left overs and wrap them in tin foil to pop in the oven. When they were all warmed up we had fun choosing our own foil packet and trying to guess what was in each. My dear creative mother used to call these package “Oven Surprise” and we looked forward to that night.

  11. I’ve always felt sorry for people who don’t like/don’t use leftovers. They can be the beginning of a new favourite. My biggest hit came from leftover rice and leftover cooked vegetables. I spread the rice in the bottom of a casserole dish and topped it with the vegetables. Adding tomato sauce and shredded cheese made what I called pizza casserole. I brought it to a family potluck to great reviews.
    My father liked it so much that it became his signature dish. He called Mock Pizza.

  12. When my children were growing up, we always had leftovers. Since I’m french, I called it Touski … Soup, Touski…chicken or Touski stew.

    Touski means: Tout ce qui reste- All what’s left

    Thank you for great posts!

  13. Lol, when my son was young we called the weekly leftover day dinner “Lump It”. Basically, you’ll like it or go hungry (lump it).

  14. We love leftovers in our house and routinely freeze them and use them for lunch. However, I was quite overwhelmed by leftovers after amassing a ton of them with the holidays. I finally made a list of what we needed to eat up on the side of the fridge. For us, this was a reminder to work them into meals; and what can beat the reward of crossing something off a list?! Some things ultimately made their way to the freezer, but having the foods listed reminded me something needed to be done with that food – and soon!