21 Ideas to Make the Most Out of Leftovers

Published on July 29, 2015 By Lauren

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    One of the biggest ways we waste money in our grocery budget is by having to throw out uneaten food. Let’s face it, although some leftovers get gobbled up, we often find ourselves with odds and ends. Every little bit of leftovers you have to throw out is money you could have saved. So how can you make the most of these leftovers?

    Here are some specific ideas for those tricky leftovers. Try some of these tips and maybe you’ll find yourself running out of leftovers!

    Pasta: Pasta just never seems as good reheated. It can get hard, dry, or even gummy, depending on how you prepare it.

    One of the best things about pasta is that makes a versatile starter for many different meals.

    • Plain leftover pasta can be a great base for a stir fry; just add veggies (hey, you might even have some of those left over also!), seasoning, and soy sauce.
    • Add some meat or beans and you have a pretty well-balanced meal!
    • Some other ideas might be to add eggs and vegetables to the pasta.
    • Mix it up and fry it like you would an omelette and now you have a breakfast frittata.

    Bread: Uh oh, you overbought bread during that last sale. In an ideal world you’d either freeze or use up all the bread but sometimes you just can’t finish it in time. What now?

    • The most obvious choice would be to make bread crumbs by toasting the bread and crumbling it up with a food processor or grater. Keep in mind it needs to be stale bread and not moldy bread. Some recipes call for ‘stale’ bread.
    • Some types of soup (like French Onion) call for older bread as well as bread pudding recipes.
    • You can also make croutons for your salad!

    Cheese: Cheese has the wonderful ability to be able to used in many different dishes. In many cases the type of cheese doesn’t impact much besides taste.

    • Macaroni and cheese would be macaroni in cheese whether you used all cheddar cheese or part cheddar, part provolone, and part mozzarella.
    • Some other great options might be fondue for dipping breads and crackers.

    Rice: Another great base to start a dinner from because it is bland. But rice can be funny after it’s refrigerated and become brittle or hard. So I don’t recommend simply heating it up in the microwave. The results won’t be that great.

    cooking with leftovers

    • Warm up the rice in a frying pan and add vegetables for a nice healthy dish.
    • Chopped up meat can also be added to make a more complete meal. This Korean Stir Fry is PERFECT for leftover rice!
    • If you don’t have vegetables you wish to add, you can also heat the rice with chicken broth or creamed soups for a quick lunch.
    • Leftover rice can also be great in rice pudding (so long as it is plain rice).

    Meats: Depending on the type of meat there are plenty of options. And since the meat is already cooked, leftover meat can get you a meal in no time at all.

    • If you have leftover steak you can chop it up and heat it in a frying pan with onions, green peppers, and even spicy peppers. This would make a great ‘steak fajita’ filling for your taco shells, particularly if you add some salsa and lettuce. If you don’t wish to use taco shells you can also serve over rice.

    cooking with leftovers

    • If the leftover meat is any kind of roast or large hunk of bone-in meat, making a stock or soup is always a great idea. Add a few vegetables and spices and you’ve got yourself a healthy and hearty meal. Check out my easy chicken stock recipe!
    • Types of meat such as chicken and turkey also have plenty of uses. If you have a large enough quantity you can grind it up to make a type of chicken or turkey salad spread for crackers or sandwiches.
    • If you only have a small amount you can shred it to put on salads or in omelettes. My husband Mark literally has an omelette every morning using the leftover meat from last night’s dinner. Some are appetizing… some not so much. Like yesterday, he made a fried zucchini pepperoni cheddar omelette. So weird. But he loves them.

    Vegetables: Leftover vegetables might often find their way into the trash. Fortunately there are a lot of ways to use vegetables that do not require a large quantity.

    cooking with leftovers

    • You can use the smallest amount of vegetables to add to your morning omelette to not only use them up but give yourself some more vitamins. Again, my husband makes many omelettes, and if there’s no meat, he will use vegetables. His omelette this morning had caramelized onions and red peppers. Yum!
    • Try something new and make a green smoothie using your leftover (uncooked) green vegetables!
    • Another option might be to make a small batch of vegetable soup (this could be another use for some of that leftover meat…).
    • Make veggie nuggets by grinding up the vegetables and mixing it with eggs, potato, and breading it.

    The bonus for the nuggets and the soup is that both of those could be easily frozen and eaten at a later date.

    I hope this gave you some ideas the next time you find yourself at a loss with what to do with all those leftovers. The big thing is to remember that you DON’T always need a lot of a type of leftovers in order to make something tasty. Also, trying to look for meals or snacks that might use up more than one leftover and don’t be afraid to try something new!

    cooking with leftovers


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