17 Smart Ways to Use Leftovers in Your Meal Planning

Minimize food waste and maximize your meal plan with 17 Smart Ways to Use Leftovers in Your Meal Planning. Discover creative and tasty solutions for repurposing leftovers, ensuring that every bite of your culinary creations is enjoyed.

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Clever Ways to Use Food Leftovers || Tasty Recipes
1. Repurpose leftovers creatively to reduce food waste and save money.
2. Use leftover proteins to create delicious salads, sandwiches, or wraps.
3. Transform excess veggies into hearty soups, stir-fries, or frittatas.
4. Utilize extra grains or pasta as a base for grain bowls or fried rice.
5. Freeze leftover sauces, gravies, and stocks in convenient portions for future use.
6. Incorporate leftover meat or vegetables into homemade tacos, burritos, or quesadillas.
7. Make a flavorful stew or chili by combining various leftovers.
8. Bake casseroles or fritters using leftover meat, vegetables, and cheese.
9. Blend leftover fruits into smoothies, freeze them into popsicles, or use them in baking.
10. Don’t forget to label and date leftovers to easily track their freshness and prevent waste.

Rotisserie Chicken

A rotisserie chicken can be used in salads, sandwiches, or soups. It can also be used as a protein source in a variety of recipes. For example:

  • Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
  • Chicken and Broccoli Casserole with Cheddar Cheese Topping
  • Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Sandwiches on Whole Grain Breads

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Ham Or Turkey Bones

Use ham or turkey bones to make broth: Ham and turkey make great broths. You can add other flavorings like chopped veggies and herbs, but really you just need some bones and water. 

Simmer it for an hour or two until the liquid reduces by about half, strain it into a large bowl, toss out the solids (maybe use them for something else), then pour your broth back into a pot on low heat. When it’s heated through, store it in airtight containers in your refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Use broth as soup base: For example, if you have leftover chicken from last night’s dinner add some extra carrots and celery along with noodles or rice (and maybe some peas) then ladle over some hot broth.

Make salad dressing by simply mixing equal parts vinegar/oil with cold-brewed coffee!* Use risotto-style pasta instead of rice when making risotto since they absorb liquid differently than traditional Arborio rice.

Cook more than one type of grain at once for example quinoa mixed with barley will both cook faster because they take different amounts of time to soften up fully when simmered in water.

If you’re making homemade breadcrumbs (which we recommend doing!) don’t throw away those ends! 

They’re perfect for adding crispy texture to homemade panzanella salads just cut them smaller if need be before tossing them into your bowl!

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Stale Bread

You can use stale bread in your meal planning by turning it into crumbs or stuffing. If you prefer to use fresh bread and are just looking for a way to use up the leftover crusts, try using those as the base for your salad. 

When making croutons or stuffing, remember that stale bread will absorb more liquid than fresh. Baking the stuffing will help it soak up more of the cooking juices than if you were simply cooking it in a skillet on top of the stovetop.

If you find yourself with too much old bread that’s no longer good enough for eating—but still edible—you can grind it up into hard-packed balls (like Bisquick) and freeze them for later use as a base ingredient in meatloaf or meatballs.


Bacon can be used in a variety of ways. You can use the fat from the bacon to cook vegetables and meat, which is great for adding flavor, or you can go all out and make your own gravy with it. Bacon also makes a great salad dressing, as well as ice cream!

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Leftover Mashed Potatoes

You can also use leftover mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes or croquettes, as well as potato skins. If you’re feeling truly ambitious, try making homemade gnocchi out of the leftovers!

Because it’s so easy to make and goes with so many different main dishes, mashed potatoes are a great item to have on hand at all times.

Cheese Rinds

While the idea of eating cheese rinds may sound strange, they can be a great addition to your meal planning.

Add them to soups and stews. The fat content in cheese acts as a thickener, so using it in soups is an easy way to make sure your dish has enough body. Just toss the rinds into the pot along with your other ingredients.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then bake until crispy. This makes for a good snack or side dish just don’t forget that you’re eating one! 

It’s easy to do: just cut off any excess fat from the outside of the rind (if there is any) and slice it into thin strips or small chunks before baking at 300°F for about 20 minutes until golden brown on top but still soft underneath (they won’t get crispy if you cook them too long). 

Season as desired when done baking (we recommend adding some garlic powder). You could also try this method with other leftover meats such as turkey or pork chops by removing all visible fat first before slicing into pieces smaller than half an inch thick; this will prevent burning while cooking more evenly throughout while maintaining moisture within each piece.”

Half A Rotisserie Chicken

Use half a rotisserie chicken in a salad. Combine the meat with some feta cheese and olives, then top it all off with greens.

Use half a rotisserie chicken in soup. Add it to your favorite recipe for homemade chicken noodle soup or lentil soup, or simply toss the bones of your cooked bird into whatever you’re making for dinner tonight.

Use half a rotisserie chicken in stir fry. Toss some leftover meat with vegetables and seasonings for an easy weeknight meal that’s full of flavor!

Use half a rotisserie chicken in pot pie filling. This is an ideal way to make use of leftovers from any holiday! Chop up the meat and add it to your favorite pie crust recipe, then bake until golden brown before serving warm with gravy on top (but don’t forget about those veggies!). You can also find ready-made frozen pot pies at most grocery stores these days–just heat them up according to package directions until piping hot!

Use half a rotisserie chicken as enchilada filling instead of beef (or just add both). Shredded roast beef has long been popular choice here but now there’s no need to settle when there are so many other options out there like shredded pork chops or even ground turkey too–just use whatever works best with what you already have on hand right now at home today

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Overripe Bananas

The next time you have overripe bananas, don’t toss them out. Try using them in some of these ways:

  • Baked Goods

Bake banana bread or muffins with your overripe bananas. They add moisture and flavor to the recipe that is otherwise missing.

  • Smoothies

Add a little peanut butter, almond butter or coconut oil to your smoothie with the mashed up overripe banana. The added fat will make sure that you feel full longer after drinking it!

Corn Cobs

Corn cobs are great for steaming and can be used in a variety of ways. They can be chopped up and added to your favorite soup or stew, or even frozen for later use. If you don’t have plans to use the cobs right away, freeze them (with husks still intact) and simply add them when you’re ready!

Cornbread is another delicious meal that can be made with leftover corn cobs, but if there’s no leftover corn on hand then it’s easy enough to make something fresh instead. A bowl of fresh salad will work just as well should you want something different than bread bread today!

If you’re looking for something quick that doesn’t require too much effort or time commitment, try making some chowder instead! 

The recipe below uses canned creamed corn which means that all ingredients are already cooked; this means less time spent preparing food – perfect for lunch break meals during busy weeks at work/school!

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Brown Rice Or Quinoa

When you cook brown rice or quinoa, make sure to leave some extra for the next day. You can eat them straight out of the fridge, but I prefer to heat them up in a skillet with olive oil and salt. This adds some flavor and makes it more like fried rice.

If you have extra cooked quinoa on hand (it keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge), mix it with any veggies you have they just need to be chopped up small enough so they’ll fit in your skillet without being too soggy or burned on one side while still undercooked on the other. 

You can also add leftover meat if you have any leftovers from dinner like chicken or pork chops that could use a little flavor boost; this works really well with chicken breast because it has such mild flavor that doesn’t overwhelm anything else going into your wok-style dish!

Browning Bananas

Bananas can be used in a variety of ways, but there are some things to keep in mind when you’re cooking with a browning banana.

What exactly are browning bananas? These are bananas that have ripened and begun to turn brown—they’ve probably been sitting around for a few days, so they’re good to eat! They don’t have the same appeal as a nice-looking yellow or green one, but they still have plenty of flavor.

How do I use them? Any time you want something sweet in your dish, try adding some browning banana instead of regular sugar. Or toss them into pancakes or waffles for an extra boost of sweetness and fiber. 

You can also use the peeled flesh from these bananas if you just want the fruit without all the work (and waste).

When should I cut off the ends? Some people like to cut off both ends of their bananas before eating them or using them in recipes so that they don’t get smashed up while being transported or stored at home (basically: so they look nicer). 

If this is something that matters to you or if it’s just easier than trying not-so-honestly avoid smashing things up too much it might be worth doing here!

Creative Uses for Browning Bananas

IngredientCreative Uses
Browning BananasMake banana bread or muffins with overripe bananas
Blend into smoothies for a creamy and sweet flavor
Use in pancakes or waffles to add natural sweetness
Make banana ice cream or “nice cream” with frozen bananas
Mash and add to oatmeal or yogurt for extra flavor
Incorporate into cakes, cupcakes, or quick breads
Bake banana chips for a healthy snack
Make a banana-based sauce for savory dishes

Pickle Juice And Pickles Themselves

Pickle juice and pickles themselves are a great way to add flavor, salt, and probiotics to your dishes. They’re perfect for salads (see this recipe for an example), sandwiches and wraps.

You can also use some of the pickle brine as a marinade for meat or fish before cooking it. That’ll give you an extra hit of vinegar that complements whatever dish you’re making well.

Vegetable Or Mushroom Stems/Stalks/Ends

This is a great way to use all of the parts of your vegetables. Stems, stalks and ends can be used in soups and stews, stir-fries, salads, frittatas or quiches. They are also a very good source of fibre and other nutrients!

Bacon Fat And Fried Bacon Pieces (Called Cracklings)

Using bacon fat and cracklings to add flavor to your meals is a win-win. The grease can be used in place of butter or oil when cooking vegetables, while the leftover bits of cooked bacon will add flavor to any dish you’re making. 

This can be especially useful if you’re planning on making a huge batch of something that uses lots of oil, like frying up some potatoes.

If you don’t want to waste any part of your crispy strips, consider using them in salads instead! They’ll make an excellent crispier for greens, giving them an irresistible crunchy bite when paired with tender leaves and dressing.

Creative Uses for Bacon Fat and Fried Bacon Pieces

IngredientCreative Uses
Bacon FatUse as a flavorful cooking fat for frying
Add to roasted vegetables for extra taste
Incorporate into salad dressings or marinades
Spread on bread or toast for a savory twist
Infuse into homemade mayonnaise or aioli
Enhance the flavor of soups or stews
Fried BaconSprinkle on top of salads or soups
Pieces (Cracklings)Crumble over baked potatoes or macaroni and cheese
Use as a garnish for scrambled eggs or omelettes
Mix into pasta dishes for added crunch and flavor
Incorporate into savory bread or muffin recipes


We hope this article has shown you that leftover food can be used in many different ways. The key is to think outside the box and use your imagination. 

Leftover bread can be turned into croutons or breadcrumbs, stale popcorn kernels can be used as an alternative to rice, cheese rinds are not only good for soup but also work well with eggs and soups too!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources that provide creative ideas and inspiration for using leftovers:

Creative Ways to Use Leftovers: Explore innovative recipes and techniques to transform your leftovers into new and exciting meals.

12 Ways to Use Leftovers in Your Weekly Meal Plan: Discover practical and delicious ways to incorporate leftovers into your meal planning, ensuring nothing goes to waste.

Learn to Love Your Leftovers: Gain insights and tips on reducing food waste by repurposing leftovers and becoming more resourceful in the kitchen.


Q: How long can I keep leftovers in the refrigerator?

A: The general guideline is to consume leftovers within 3-4 days. However, it’s always important to use your senses and check for any signs of spoilage before consuming.

Q: Can I freeze leftovers for future use?

A: Yes, freezing leftovers is a great way to preserve them. Make sure to store them in airtight containers or freezer bags and label them with the date for easy identification.

Q: Are there any specific ingredients that should not be reheated?

A: Some ingredients, such as delicate herbs and certain seafood, may lose their quality when reheated. It’s best to add these ingredients fresh to any dish rather than reheating them.

Q: How can I avoid my leftovers from becoming dry when reheated?

A: To prevent dryness, consider adding a splash of liquid (such as broth or sauce) when reheating leftovers. Covering the dish with a lid or microwave-safe cover can also help retain moisture.

Q: Can I mix different leftovers together to create a new dish?

A: Absolutely! Combining different leftovers can result in exciting flavor combinations. Just ensure that the flavors and textures complement each other well before mixing them together.