Sadie Holloway loves trying out new easy-to-make recipes that help her enjoy a healthy, stress-free lifestyle!
Making the most of leftover food not only saves you money, it's also good for the environment. Here are 25 creative ways to use leftover food and make your grocery budget go a little farther.
1. Leftover vegetables (squash, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers) can be frozen and turned into a pureed soup later.
2. Roasted vegetables, such as mushrooms, asparagus, and peppers, are tasty additions to omelets—whether for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.
3. Throw leftover cake, dessert squares, cookies, even pecan pie into a blender, add a spoonful of cream cheese, peanut butter, or Nutella, and make rumballs. (Liquor is optional.) Form into round balls and roll them in cookie crumbs, chopped nuts, or sprinkles. Package them up between layers of waxed paper in a plastic container and freeze. There you go. You’ve just taken care of some of your Christmas baking!
4. Leftover poultry carcasses make great stock that can be used for soups, gravy, or any other recipe that calls for chicken stock. Soup stock can be frozen in small to medium-sized portions and then used as needed.
5. Leftover cooked steak, chicken, or pork can be sliced or cubed and used in a stir-fry.
6. Fish heads, skin, and bones can be turned into fish stock for a tasty seafood chowder.
7. Cut up leftover cooked chicken, add mayo, curry powder, salt and pepper, onions, celery, chopped walnuts, and raisins for a fantastic sandwich or tortilla wrap filling.
8. Leftover rice can be added to homemade soup. Vegetable, beef, chicken, or tomato soup can be bulked up to a filling meal when leftover rice is added.
9. Leftover pasta and sauce can be divided up into servings, stored in individual containers, and frozen for lunches at work. This is much cheaper and more eco-friendly than buying prepackaged frozen lunch entrees.
10. If you don’t have enough of a leftover item to turn it into a full meal, can it be used as a side dish with another meal? Fettuccine alfredo makes a nice side dish for steak or fish.
11. The broken chunks of cookie that accumulate at the bottom of the bag can be thrown into a blender and crushed into crumbs to make pie crusts. Cookie crumbs are yummy sprinkled over ice cream sundaes or layered in a yogurt and fruit parfait.
12. When you’ve eaten half an avocado, don’t give it time to turn brown and mushy. Scoop out the remainder and mix it with mayonnaise, chopped green onions, a splash of lemon juice, and diced tomatoes. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge and use it as a sandwich spread or veggie dip the next day.
13. When packing up your leftovers, be strategic. For example, after a meal of chili and rice, put the leftover rice in the bottom of the storage container and then cover it to the edges with the leftover chili. Rice tends to dry out quite quickly, but if it's covered with a layer of a wet ingredient, it will keep its taste and texture longer than if stored on its own.
14. Instead of making a tossed salad for dinner, keep the dressing and salad separate and let dinner guests pour their own dressing. Croutons can be served separately, as well. If you toss the salad and add the croutons, whatever is leftover in the serving bowl won’t keep as well as it would if it was left undressed.
15. French baguette bread tends to harden quite quickly once it has been sliced. But who says that you can’t use it make to French toast the next morning? Bite-sized French Toast is just as yummy as a bigger single slice serving!
16. Make your own croutons from leftover French bread or bagels cut up into bite-sized pieces.
17. Crush leftover snack chips and unsweetened cereal and store them in airtight jars to be used later as coating for fried chicken or pork cutlets.
18. Combine leftover rice and vegetables to make fried rice.
19. Wilted vegetables can be thrown into a slow cooker to make a hearty comfort meal.
20. Cut up cooked potatoes and pan-fry them for breakfast as hashbrowns or omelet filler.
21. Leftover boiled or baked potatoes can be mashed up to make shepherd’s pie and fish or crab cakes.
22. If the edges of your cheese block have hardened, trim the block and melt the pieces into creamy sauces, hot dips, and mac and cheese.
24. Brown bananas make the best smoothies! And since brown bananas are much sweeter than unripened bananas, you don't need to add extra sweetener to your smoothie.
25. Add leftover plain noodles and pasta to soups and casseroles or add chopped veggies and dressing to make picnic salads.
When working with leftovers or any cooked food, always follow good food handling and storage guidelines. Potentially toxic bacteria can grow quickly in food left out at room temperature. Even food stored in a refrigerator for too long can go bad. For more tips on how to store your leftovers properly, visit Health Canada's "Food Safety Tips for Leftovers."
To make your everyday leftovers pop, why not break out the fancy dishes! No one but you will ever know that you are serving leftovers!
© 2016 Sadie Holloway
Linda D Ray on December 20, 2019:
Sadie Holloway, I am hard on writers who do airhead pieces. Thank goodness for your article. It is down to earth. I'm a seasoned cook but I still picked up a good tip, the one about "rum" balls. Thanks.
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on February 01, 2017:
More than half of my meals are combined left overs. Sometimes the flavors are enhanced when eaten the next day. Thanks for these recipes.