Ever make a huge dinner and look at the leftovers with huge eyes? You think what the heck am I going to do with all of this food? I get it! And as someone who loves food and doesn’t like to eat the same thing over and over, I am here to help!
Over the years I have learned how to easily make new meals with leftovers. Want to learn how to repurpose leftovers like a champ?
Let’s go to the Chalkboard.
Why Repurpose Leftovers?
Food waste is a real problem in America. Nearly a pound of food per person per day is wasted! That’s an average $40 of food per person a month that gets thrown away. Multiply that for a family of four and you could be saving $160 by a cutting down on food waste.
Food waste is also a bring drain on our environment. Food waste accounts for the largest volume of material in landfills. Leftover food accounts for 21% of the waste stream according to the United Nations.
You can save money and help the environment by simply eating leftovers!
Tips to Repurpose Leftovers
Before You Cook
- When Possible, Plan Ahead. Have the leftovers save you time. Grilling chicken one night? Throw a few extra pieces on and have dinner later in the week. Do you know that you are going to have a ton of extra pasta from a meal? Remember this as you meal plan and add it into it! Having pre-made pasta will save you twenty minutes another night if you reuse it.
- You Don’t Need to Eat Leftovers Right Away. Taking the cue from the expiration dates above, you don’t need to eat up leftovers the next night. It’s easy to get tired of eating the same thing over and over but if you skip a night or two, it takes the boredom away
. Thinkof the Food Differently. No need to eat the same thing every single night. Change it up and make the main dish a side dish. If you had chicken and potatoes one night make a soup with some chicken and potatoes in it. These items are now ingredients in your meal, but not the whole meal.
- Keep an Inventory. This is a major part of how to meal plan each week. Once you have leftovers, write them down in a place you can easily see them. This prevents them from ending up in the back of the refrigerator only to be found weeks later. You can then reference your list when packing lunches or deciding another dinner. It also helps when you have your family asking, “what is there to eat” at all hours of the day. Or is that just my house? You can easily have them look at your list of what’s in the fridge.
- Make Note of When to Toss Items. You have 3-4 days to eat up most leftovers with the exception of fish and shellfish which is 1-2 days. Keeping this in mind will help you become more mindful of what food you have. The FDA has this Refrigerator and Freezer Chart listing storage times for various foods. If you can’t eat everything right away, consider freezing it. But when freezing items, consider it as the food you are going to eat in the next few weeks. It helps you to remember what’s in your freezer.
Now with these tips in mind, here are some foods we often cook and how to repurpose leftovers.
How to Repurpose Leftovers
Got leftover turkey, chicken, beef?
- Make a new side dish to go along with it.
- Soup – Boil some chicken broth, put in carrots, or any greens, and pasta. Add leftover chicken or turkey. Quick noodle soup!
- Burritos – Mix leftover beef, turkey, chicken with some beans and cheese. Dinner is served!
- Quesadillas – another family favorite. I chop up leftovers and have everyone create their own.
- Shred it! Mix chopped chicken or beef with BBQ sauce and serve it on a bun.
- Sandwiches – look at at the protein as a cold cut for sandwiches.
Pasta, Rice, Ancient Grains, Bread
- Put them in a salad. All grains work in salads. Even a little bit adds some texture.
- Make Fried Grains. Day-old is preferred. The firm texture holds up better to frying. You can replace rice for quinoa and other grains in
- Make a casserole. Use leftover pasta or rice and mix it with some sauce and cheese and bake!
- Fry it up! Fried Pasta is delicious! Giada’s pasta nests are certainly worth a try.
- Bread – I never met a bread that isn’t a great base for homemade pizza night.
- Make a breakfast hash. Scramble or fry some eggs and throw the veggies in at the end to heat up.
- Mix with pasta and cheese. Almost all vegetables go with pasta and parmesan cheese.
Make it a Repurpose Leftover Night
- Buy a rotisserie chicken and serve with all of your leftovers as side dishes.
- Make your own pizza night.
- Make your own quesadilla night.
What to Have on Hand to Repurpose Leftovers Like a C
In order to set yourself up for success, there are a few items to have on-hand besides the pantry essentials. These will help you make any leftover into a second delicious meal!
- Eggs. My husband says a fried egg makes almost anything a meal. And there’s truth to that! Eggs are a great protein that cooks up quickly.
- Beans. Helps to create your burrito, taco, salads. Beans are a healthy way to make meals more filling.
- Tortillas. Corn or flour. Wraps, burritos, tacos are all great for leftovers.
What do you think? Are you ready to save money and the environment and repurpose leftovers? What’s your favorite leftover meal?
Comment below, I’d love to hear all about it.