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
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Bolognese||Leftover Bolognese Sliders|
|Bread||Leftover Cinnamon Sugar Breadsticks|
|Broccoli||Roasted Broccoli Stems|
|Carrots||Carrot Top Pesto|
|Citrus Peels||Don’t Throw Away Those Peels|
|Cranberry Sauce||Cranberry Swirl Cornbread Muffins|
|Ham, Rice||Ham and Cheese Enchiladas|
|Pulled Pork||Pulled Pork Stuffed Pepper without Rice|
|Radish||Sauteed Radish Greens|
|Spaghetti||Easy Spicy Peanut Pasta Salad|
|Turkey||Leftover Turkey Carcass Broth|
|Turkey||Leftover Turkey Stew|
|Turkey||Leftover Turkey Thai Green Curry|
|Vegetables||Instant Pot Vegetable Soup with Shredded Chicken|
|Watermelon||Indian Watermelon Pudding|