How often do you pack away your leftovers with the intention of using them later in the week? And how often do you end up throwing them away because you’ve forgotten about them or felt uninspired to use them?
I’m certainly guilty of that. Especially when they have just been shoved in the fridge with no specific plan in mind.
I think leftovers can be a massive help and deserve more love. They can save you a lot of time and money. And less waste is better for the environment too. According to Friends of the Earth, the average UK family spends £470 a year on food which is binned.
People often waste a lot of food simply because they keep leftovers in the fridge, and never touch them. If you don’t want to end up scraping them into the bin, then you should start thinking strategically about using those leftovers for your meal planning. Because meal planning and leftovers go hand in hand.
Here are some different ways to use leftovers while meal planning.
Create your meals with leftovers in mind
Do you typically have a day or two a week when you have time to cook from scratch? If you usually use a single day of the week to do the bulk of your cooking, try to make that meal large enough for leftovers.
Something like a casserole or curry can easily be scaled up to feed a family of four with plenty of leftovers. Whether you just do a couple of extra individual portions for someone to grab if they aren’t going to be around at dinner time in the week. Or do a double batch and freeze half. That gives you an evening when you don’t have to worry about cooking at all. Just take your meal out to defrost during the day ready to stick in the oven in the evening.
Another example could be a chicken that you roast on Sunday. Buy a larger one than you usual and you’ll have plenty of meat left over. You could use it for sandwiches or wraps to save you money on lunches. Or serve it with a jacket potato and salad for another easy dinner in the week.
If you’ve created your meal plan with leftovers in mind you are going to be much more likely to use them. And you’ll be saving yourself time, money and effort.
Repurpose your leftovers
A major reason why leftovers end up in the bin is because eating the same meal several days in a row can be so boring. But instead of tossing your leftovers away try repurposing them into a new meal during your meal planning. Think more along the lines of using your leftovers as ingredients rather than whole meals.
You could have your roast on Sunday and then use the leftover meat for a quick and easy curry. Or use leftover vegetables and make a frittata or pasta dish. Leftover mince from Wednesday’s Spag Bol can be served up with tacos, salsa and guacamole for an entirely different Mexican style dinner on Thursday or Friday.
Here are some good ideas for using leftover chicken or mince in different ways.
Try to think a little bit more creatively. Not only will you have a lot less cooking to do overall, but you’ll also never get tired of your brand new meal.
Have a dedicated leftover night
If you often find your fridge or freezer filling up with random bits of leftover food try planning a “leftover night” once a week. Get it all out to use up buffet style and you’ve effectively created a meal from nowhere.
What meals are best for making leftovers?
Finally, you’ll want to know what kind of meals are actually the best at creating leftovers. Some meals can taste even better the following day.
Here are some ideas for meals that make great leftovers.
- shepherds pie or cottage pie
- stir fry
Make your leftovers work for you and your lifestyle, even if that means purposely cooking in bulk so you can plan several meals from one type of recipe.
If you are interested in more ways to save time and money in the kitchen you might want to give meal prepping a try. If so I have my Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep post with plenty of useful tips to help you get started. Find out all the potential benefits in my Top 7 Benefits of Meal Prep post.
How long do leftovers last?
For useful guidance on how long to safely keep your leftovers, see this handy chart from foodsafety.gov.
Act now – Quick action challenge – Get started and feel the benefits straight away with my quick action challenge.
Choose one of your family favourite recipes. Buy double the ingredients and shedule a time this week to cook up a double batch. Look forward to your evening with no cooking and minimal clearing up.
You might like to build up a library of your favourite batch cooking recipes. Check out my free printable recipe cards and pages here