Tricks and Tips For Using Up Leftovers

Soup Made From LeftoversIf you are trying to prepare meals on a budget, leftovers can be a blessing or a curse. Having leftovers can make it much easier to prepare the next meal, but we both know that sometimes leftovers are not looked upon so favorably, especially with the younger crowds. Finding a way to help your family enjoy leftovers can definitely be a challenge. If you’re tired of the groans at your dining room table, you may be ready to try some new methods to make leftovers fun. Here are some of the tricks we’ve tried in our household:

Give leftovers a makeover.
The kids won’t necessarily know that the chicken salad they are enjoying in their lunches today started life out as the baked chicken breast you served at dinner last night. Even leftover mashed potatoes can be fun if you fry them into fun little potato cakes. Anytime you can add a little something extra to a leftover item and make it seem like new, you can bet your family will be happy. Another tip – Do not call the dinner “leftovers”.

Let the kids “cook.”
If you have little ones who are itching to cook dinner but aren’t quite old enough to be turned loose with the stove, this is a great way to use up leftovers and let them practice. We have a kids “cooking” night. Anything in the refrigerator is fair game, as long as they don’t need the stove or oven. They pillage through the leftovers, heat things up in the microwave, and dress their meals up in festive dishes. Having dinner served to me is a nice treat and it uses up plenty of leftovers.

Just freeze it.
When all else fails, your family may just need a short break from a particular leftover before they’re ready to try it again. Maybe you made a casserole and had way too much left after your dinner. Perhaps you baked little muffins for breakfast but didn’t realize you’d end up with forty-eight of them after you finished the recipe. These are both examples of foods that would benefit from being frozen. Then, they are ready to be thawed and served later when you’re ready to eat them again.

Have a buffet night.
Sometimes leftovers accumulate in the fridge. You may not have enough of any one thing to feed your entire family a meal, but you probably don’t want to just throw the food out, either. On these occasions, you may create your own mini-buffet on your dining room table. Simply spread the options out on the table and let your family choose the foods that appeal to them.

So what are your tips for using up leftovers in your household?

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  1. says

    I like to reinvent leftovers by making a new dish out of them. You can make good casseroles and soups by mixing different leftovers together or adding a sauce.

  2. says

    I also like to minimze the creation of leftovers by starting off my cooking with a “base” recipe. What I mean is that I begin by just cooking off 2-3 poundsof chicken just by itself. Then I use out of that what I want for one or two meals’ worth, so there really is no leftovers. When I’m ready to cook something else, I pull the rest of the plain chicken out of the freezer and I’m good to go.

  3. James says

    i like the idea of disguising the meal i think that is very smart.

    my mom used to pull of the buffet night at least once a week when i was growing up and all things considered we typically did a pretty good job of polishing of the left overs a a family. Mom would be proud to hear me say that.

  4. says

    I freeze meals on Sunday for my boyfriend and I to eat throughout the week! Makes life so much easier, and he gets to eat his favorites more than once a week. :) Good tips.

  5. says

    I get the dubious honor of being the “garbage disposal”. :) After we have the leftovers for dinner, if there is still some remaining, I take the leftovers to work for lunch. Better than throwing money away though!

    Great idea for “kids night”! Our oldest is 15, and can cook, but I think I will suggest this to my wife for our 10 year old. :)