6 Tips for Using Leftovers + 16 Recipes

6 Tips for Using Leftovers + 16 Recipes

Leftovers are great for quick meals, but they also produce unwanted food waste when they aren’t used. Start thinking of them as ingredients.

Oh, leftovers. I have a love/hate relationship with having leftovers. I love having them to make a quick lunch by just reheating last night’s dinner. But I hate how much space they take up in the refrigerator (mostly because we have a counter-depth, so it’s smaller than average). I especially hate throwing away food because it sat too long and went bad.

Leftovers can be dealt with in a few ways, some of which are better than others. No matter what you usually do with your extra food, just do your best to eat it all. Food waste is such a problem in our country (and others), so try not to add to that. If you know you aren’t good with leftovers, try making your meals in smaller amounts so you only make what will be eaten.

Originally Published On: April 26, 2018

Last Updated On: April 13, 2020

Label Food

Before anything goes in the refrigerator or freezer, make sure you label the container. Mark what food it is as well as the date that it was made. I’ll admit, I am bad about this and it often leaves us asking each other, “what night did we make this?” or, “how long has this been in here?” Rotate the containers as you add more to the refrigerator so the oldest foods are near the front since they likely need to be used first.

Storage Containers

Having the proper storage containers makes a huge difference in how long the leftovers last. You want to always use airtight containers, whether the food is going in the refrigerator or freezer. You can read more about storing food and batch-cooking here.

Know the Best Way to Reheat

Think about how you originally cooked food, and that will likely be the best way to reheat it. For example, a soup made in a large stockpot will reheat best if heated on the stovetop again. Pizza baked in the oven will taste best if it’s baked again. Just make sure you only cook the food long enough to heat it up, you don’t want to cook it further! Of course, a lot of people will just stick everything in the microwave, but it never tastes the same when you do that.

Leftovers Night

This is one of the easiest nights to make dinner! Once per week, dedicate one night to be leftovers night. Don’t cook anything new, just use up any of the leftovers in your refrigerator before they go bad.

Give Away

If you have nothing else to do with your food, or you know it won’t be eaten, think about giving the food away. Do you have a family member or neighbor who could use a home-cooked meal? Or give it to that homeless person you often see if it’s something that they could easily eat without access to a kitchen.

Reuse in other meals

One of the most fun ways to deal with leftovers is to turn it into something new. When you do this, you start thinking of the food as ingredients rather than as leftovers. Below is a list from other bloggers with 16 ideas for how to use leftovers to make something new.

Leftovers UsedRecipe
BologneseLeftover Bolognese Sliders
BreadLeftover Cinnamon Sugar Breadsticks
BroccoliRoasted Broccoli Stems
CarrotsCarrot Top Pesto
Citrus PeelsDon’t Throw Away Those Peels
Cranberry SauceCranberry Swirl Cornbread Muffins
Ham, RiceHam and Cheese Enchiladas
Pulled PorkPulled Pork Stuffed Pepper without Rice
RadishSauteed Radish Greens
SpaghettiEasy Spicy Peanut Pasta Salad
SpaghettiFried Spaghetti
TurkeyLeftover Turkey Carcass Broth
TurkeyLeftover Turkey Stew
TurkeyLeftover Turkey Thai Green Curry
VegetablesInstant Pot Vegetable Soup with Shredded Chicken
WatermelonIndian Watermelon Pudding

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16 thoughts on “6 Tips for Using Leftovers + 16 Recipes”

  1. These are so many amazing options. I always love using and creating new recipes out of left overs. Would def bookmark these. Lots of broccoli left, roasting them now 🙂

  2. Wow great uses for leftovers! I admit I am a leftover queen! I always make more so I have leftover lunch the next day. Roasted stuffed peppers or squash are a fav for leftover rice/quinoa and Bolognese

  3. I always make ice cream when I have leftover yolks from desserts that use only the whites. Alternatively, make this and pop the egg whites in a ziplock bag to freeze for an emergency pavlova. Thanks for some more tips.

  4. My family often eat the leftovers the previous day.My mother often left the leftovers in the refrigerator but she did not seem to know how to preserve it. Thanks for your tips.

  5. Thanks for this list of Leftover recipes. I really needed this almost every day we got a lot of food leftovers. Most of us really don’t want to waste food specially when we are on a budget, so this is perfect to enjoy our leftovers.

  6. This is such a great idea for saving money, and not wasting food. Personally I love leftovers but I know there are people out there that do not. Love the post!

  7. These are amazing tips! I have a really hard time eating leftovers but I think if I tried some of these tips that I wouldn’t mind leftovers.

  8. Growing up in the Philippines we make it a point not to waste even the leftovers because some people can barely eat and even the chicken bones, we still find a way to incorporate it into other meals or make an entirely new one out of it..

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