Using leftovers for great meals on a budget

Using leftovers instead of throwing them away is a good way to avoid wasting food. If you don't know what to do with leftover food, here are some ideas for using leftovers in your frugal menus. Read on to learn how to create delicious time- and money-saving meals by using what you have on hand.

Ways to Use Leftover Chicken or Turkey

  • Asian Chicken Salad - Toss sliced Napa cabbage, shredded chicken, sliced cucumber and red pepper with Asian salad dressing. Top with chow mein noodles.
  • Chicken & Vegetable Raman Noodles - Cook teriyaki chicken-flavored raman noodles according to package directions (I add only half the seasoning package because it is so salty). Toss hot noodles with diced chicken, sliced green onions and thinly sliced mushrooms.
  • Chicken Waldorf - Mix equal parts mayonnaise and plain yogurt with a few drops of cider vinegar. Combine cubed chicken, chopped celery, diced apple, dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. Add dressing and toss. Serve over lettuce.
  • Fast Fajitas - Cook sliced onion and red or green pepper in a little oil until softened. Add shredded chicken and heat 2 minutes. Serve with warmed tortillas, chopped tomato, lettuce and sour cream.
  • Curried Chicken Salad - Toss diced chicken breast with celery, cubed apple, mayonnaise and curry powder to taste. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.
  • Chicken & Rice Casserole - Combine 1 cup of chopped leftover chicken with 1 - 2 cups of cooked rice, a can of cream of chicken soup, 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and 2 cups (or an 8 oz. package) of chopped broccoli (cooked). Top with bread crumbs or additional cheese and bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  • Chicken salad - Transform yesterday’s chicken into a tasty salad with a head of romaine, sliced apple, some toasted nuts, and a drizzle of your favorite dressing.

Ways of Using Leftover Roast Beef

  • Breakfast Hash - Chop leftover roast beef or corned beef and cook in a little oil in a non-stick frying pan with a chopped onion and frozen hash brown potatoes. As it gets almost done, press the mixture down in the pan and cook without stirring so it will get crispy on the bottom. When done, stir and serve with eggs and ketchup or chili sauce. If you have leftover meat and potatoes, you can use both of them to make this delicious leftover potatoes hash recipe instead.
  • Pot Pie - If you have leftover meat and gravy you can make pot pie by combining the meat (chopped up) and gravy with some vegetables and baking in a pie crust. This is good with beef or chicken.

  • Stuffed Peppers - Lightly steam large bell peppers and cut the tops off. Fill them with a mixture of chopped leftover meat (beef, pork, or chicken will work), tomato sauce, and cooked rice or pasta. Top with grated cheese and bake until cooked through.
    using leftovers

Leftover Salsa

  • Spicy Baked Grits - Make this tasty baked grits recipe as a side dish to use up leftover salsa OR

  • Freeze it to use in a cooked dish later (it won't be good as a cold dip after being frozen, but you can still use it in cooking)

Your Creative Leftovers Ideas

Ways to Use Leftover Coffee

  • Cool Coffee Treat - Put a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream in a cup of leftover coffee and sprinkle with a little cinnamon. Cover and put in the refrigerator for a few hours. Enjoy a cool sweet coffee treat as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up!

Ways to Use Leftover Rice

  • Fried Rice - Stir fry leftover rice and frozen peas in oil for a couple of minutes. Add any diced leftover meat and heat through. Make a well in the middle of the pan and add a beaten egg (or two); stir-fry for one minute. Stir in sliced green onions and a little soy sauce and heat through.

  • Breakfast Cereal - Leftover brown rice makes a tasty whole-grain breakfast cereal! Good either warmed or cold; just add a tsp. of sugar or honey, a dash of vanilla, a little cinnamon and milk or cream if desired to 1/2 cup of leftover brown rice.

Ways to Use Leftover Fruit

  • Peaches - Overripe or bruised peaches can be saved by baking them. Try my Superwife Peach Crisp Recipe for an easy and delicious dessert.

  • Grapes - If you have grapes that are getting soft or just have too many to use before they go bad, simply wash them and put them in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. For a cool sweet treat on a hot day eat them frozen! As good as a Popsicle but much healthier!

  • Bananas - When you have bananas that have gotten too ripe, use this Banana Muffin recipe to make moist and delicious muffins with a hint of chocolate and hazelnut.

    Or break peeled bananas into bite-sized pieces and freeze. Use in smoothies or milkshakes for added sweetness and nutrition.

    You can also make a delicious frozen treat by whipping up frozen bananas in a blender or food processor - it is incredibly similar to ice cream and has no artificial ingredients, dairy products or sugar!

  • Lemons - Squeeze the juice and freeze it in an ice cube tray; transfer the frozen cubes to a ziplock bag for storage until needed for a recipe. Grate the zest for use in baked goods.

using leftovers

More Ideas for Using Leftovers

Start with Tortillas
Roll up a combo of yesterday’s roasted chicken, a scoop of cooked rice, and some canned black beans to make burritos

Make beef fajitas by cutting up leftover pot roast and mixing it with sautéed peppers and onions

Make homemade nacho chips by baking corn or wheat tortillas. Cut the tortillas into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for 6 minutes; turn each one over and bake for 3 more minute. Turn the oven off and top each chip with shredded cheese; return the pan to the oven and warm until the cheese melts. Serve as a snack with salsa, or make a light meal by topping the3m with leftover meat, beans, salsa, and sour cream.

Start with Broth
Soup comes together in a flash with chicken or vegetable broth plus last night’s rice pilaf and frozen veggies

Throw together a quick “risotto” using 1 cup raw rice, 4 cups broth, and leftover vegetables.

Start with Eggs

Turn leftover meat and/or vegetables into a frittata, omelet, or quiche.

Scramble a few eggs with some cooked rice and any leftover meat or seafood for homemade fried rice.

Tomato Soup - There are a lot of leftover foods that you can stir into tomato soup for a satisfying hot lunch. Here are some leftovers that I have mixed with tomato soup:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Mexican food - any type: nachos, burritos, beans and rice, tacos. Just chop it all up and heat in tomato soup - lettuce, cheese, sour cream and all!
  • Leftover pot roast and vegetables
  • Chili
  • Fried rice
  • Twice baked potatoes - complete with toppings (sour cream, bacon bits, it's all good!)
  • Leftover meatloaf (chopped up) and macaroni and cheese. Yummy!

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

From Using Leftovers back to Frugal Food

Back to Meal Planning Ideas

Home to Frugal Living Now

Share this page:
Please help spread the word about Frugal Living Now: Here's how..

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.