How to Eat Leftovers and Make ‘Em Tasty

Get excited, you're about to learn how to eat leftovers and actually enjoy them! In order to really become an expert shelf cooker, you have to learn to use your leftovers. It's time to establish a leftovers night!

Hacks for leftovers to make them taste awesome from Fun Cheap or Free

Freebs! How is the #Shelftember Shelf Cooking challenge coming?? We are head-first into the first full week, and so far y'all have been EXPLODING MY BRAIN on social media! The meals you are making, the creativity I'm seeing, it's incredible. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, see all about Shelf Cooking and the #Shelftember challenge HERE (and learn about the freezer I'm giving away!), then check out the hashtag on social media for major inspo.

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Now, onto the meat and potatoes of the day.

One of the biggest challenges I see Freebs running into with shelf cooking (and groceries in general) is…

LEFTOVERS

Boy, are leftovers the Great Debate or what?? There are some households who refuse to eat leftovers. Some who will pretty much only eat leftovers. And some in the middle that are fine with them as long as they taste amazing, but usually end up throwing them out. So many people get sick of eating the same thing for days on end, or they are convinced that food just doesn't taste good after it's been sitting in the fridge or freezer. Want me to let you in on a little secret?

That's true, actually. I totally agree with you. Leftovers can be gross. UNLESS YOU DO LEFTOVERS RIGHT, that is!

Today I'm going to share with you some quick tips to help you learn how to eat leftovers and actually enjoy them!

ESTABLISH A LEFTOVERS NIGHT

First off! We are challenging you right here, right now – to establish a weekly leftovers night. That's right. It might sound a little daunting or disgusting, depending on what your take on leftovers is. You might be wondering why leftovers are so important??

Well, let's break it down. If you're not on top of the leftovers and using them up, you'll end up wasting a whole lot of food. Using up your leftovers will help you save a TON of money and eliminate food waste. Which are both pretty big benefits, if you ask me…

So how do you convince your family, and maybe even yourself, to eat leftovers?

It's time to up your leftover game!

HEAT UP YOUR LEFTOVERS THE RIGHT WAY

If you asked my husband for a weird quirk about me (and boy, I have many), I bet you $10 he'd say it's how OCD I am about the temperature of my food and drinks. If hot food isn't scald-your-mouth-out hot, and cold food/drinks aren't hurt-your-teeth-bash-your-head cold, I'm not interested and will complain. Greatly. So if I can even love leftovers with all my (lovely, unique, amazing, charming…wink wink…) quirks, so can you!

HERE ARE SOME BASIC REHEATING TIPS:

  • Microwave first. This baby was created to heat things up! Right?? Use it to get the party started and to make things move quickly. I almost always start here to save time. But for heaven's sake, don't overuse your microwave and don't stop there…
Tips for reheating your food to make it tastier to eat leftovers! From Fun Cheap or Free
  • Toast, broil and boil. After microwaving it to heat it through, top it off for a few minutes in the toaster, on a pan on the stove, or under the oven broiler for a quick minute or two to top it off nicely. It adds a little crunch, browns the crust, stiffens the soggy, toasts the tush, whatever needs to be done. Magic happens with toasting, broiling, or boiling. Well, boiling was mostly tossed into this because I thought it sounded cool… or hot! Just think of nice, boiling hot soup on a cold winter's day. There ya go!

Want more tips for heating up your leftovers to make them hot and tasty, check out this post on ShelfCooking.com!

Now that you've heated it, here's how to take your leftovers up an extra notch or two:

TIPS FOR MAKING LEFTOVERS TASTY

Believe me, you do NOT want to skip out on these steps! Leftovers sometimes get a bad rap, but it’s okay to be sneaky with them! You don’t have to serve them the same way you did the first time. Say what?! We go into so much more detail on HOW to do this HERE!

Tips for making leftovers tasty so you'll enjoy eating them from Fun Cheap or Free
  • Sometimes leftovers get a little bland in the fridge. It's true – accept it and move on. The solution is easy. Add seasonings, spice, or something nice to give a little flavor back to your food!
  • Leftovers often dry out a bit so be sure to add moisture like oil, butter, sauce, sour cream, etc. This will not only improve the texture, but also add to the flavor which is what we're going for.
  • To make your leftovers extra tasty, top 'em off with something extra delicious, for example cheese!

MAKE LEFTOVERS INTO SOMETHING NEW

This is the biggest tip I have for you. Get creative with your leftovers! The kitchen is a place for experimenting, but if you haven't cooked like this before – it can be a little overwhelming. So here are a few tidbits!

  • Loads of plain white rice? Make ham-fried rice, throw it in a soup, make Mexican rice, add it to meatballs or meatloaf, make chicken broccoli rice, etc.
  • Toss it on a salad! Enchiladas/tacos, make a taco salad. BBQ chicken salad. Cobb salad. Strawberry spinach salad. For real, you can take just about anything, put it on lettuce, and BOOM.
Make leftovers into something new from Fun Cheap or Free
  • Sick of that grilled chicken? Chop it up and make chicken salad sandwiches. Dice it for a soup. Add it to a casserole. Make burritos or enchiladas. Cook chicken stir fry. Make it saucy and put it over rice.
  • Leftover hamburgers from a BBQ? Chop up the cooked patties and make hamburger soup, or cheeseburger casserole. Make mini sliders with different toppings so it feels and tastes different.

Get the drift? Take what you have and just repurpose it!

GO EAT YOUR LEFTOVERS

So there you go, you know how to eat leftovers and actually have them taste good. Now you have no excuse for NOT eating leftovers. Again, keep your eye on my Instagram stories (if you have IG!) because it's a straight-up cooking show over there. I show what I'm eating and cooking each day, how I prepare it, and how I make it taste delicious to my ÜBER picky family.

You might be thinking… well that sounds great! But also pretty darn time consuming. It's alright. Having a boring leftovers night every once in a while won't kill ya! If you don’t have time to make a transformation? Pull ALL the leftovers out and make it a fun family game where each person draws what they’re eating from a basket or hat! You could come up with some pretty fun dinner combinations this way…. plus it's a little less boring! 

How to eat leftovers...and actually make them taste good! #Shelftember FunCheapOrFree.com

Happy leftovering!

Want some more ideas?

Check out ShelfCooking.com

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Comments

  1. AvatarEnnia says

    Great tips! My husband hates leftovers and sadly I end up eating them till I’m sick of them, but I’m going to try these out in hopes of finishing leftovers together:)

  2. AvatarJessica says

    Ok, I have always had this weird quirk: I HATE the taste of heated-up leftover chicken. I think it has the weirdest, nastiest taste. I am good with pretty much anything else heated back up, except chicken. Anyone else? I wonder if nuking it gives it that weird flavor?

    • AvatarHolly says

      In general, I agree! Microwaved chickens just tastes strange, and is often rubbery. Heat it up (and let it brown a bit) in a skillet with butter or coconut oil and you’ll love it again, promise! Adding a little extra salt or spices also helps a lot!

  3. AvatarKerry Middleton says

    I love all these ideas… I have been joining along with #shelftember and I’m so impressed with myself so far – 7 days in and I haven’t rushed to the shops to get anything yet. And we are actually eating food from my fridge which would usually sit there for a week before I would throw it away!
    I’m lucky that my family is happyto eat left overs as I know there are others out there that aren’t. I think people think of leftovers as eating the same meal again, when it doesn’t have to be that way. You can simple use what you have left over as an ingredient of another meal. We are a family of 6 with big eaters so I don’t usually have a lot of leftovers. But if I do try my best to make them into something else completely so nobody really knows they are left overs.
    Here are some of my go to leftover ideas…
    Leftover rice – add frozen vegetables, egg, bacon, soy sauce and call it fried rice
    Leftover roast vegetables – mash them with a fork, add an egg and some flour and grill ‘blobs’ on the stove = bubble and squeak (it’s an English thing)
    Leftover mashed potato – add frozen vegetables, a thick bechemel sauce and a tin tuna. Shape them into patties, coat them with egg and breadcrumbs and grill them on the stove. (in fact my recipe for tuna (fish) patties calls for you to boil and mash potatoes … um no thankyou I will just make extra mash for another meal and save them in the fridge for when I need them)
    Leftover spaghetti bolognaise – bake potatoes and serve with butter, cheese, sour cream and bolognaise
    or use to make a lasagna
    Leftover creamy chicken pasta sauce – line a jumbo muffin tin with shortcrust pastry, add sauce as filling, top with puff pastry, seal the sides and cook them in the oven and you have chicken pies.

  4. AvatarMarian says

    Love my leftovers !! Great tips and ideas for those complaining about them?Saves soo much money using up food you already have without letting anything go to waste!

  5. AvatarLisa says

    Always bring home the left over fries from any restaurant. the next morning, cut them up and fry them in a skillet and add eggs, green peppers, cheese…whatever is your favorite. Excellent omelet with hash browns!!

  6. AvatarTori L Shelmidine says

    I am the only one that enjoys certain types of leftovers. My daughter usually will eat any kind of meat, rice or pasta as leftovers. So for potatoes leftovers, I have to be creative. For leftover mashed potatoes, I make potato pancakes and serve them with sour cream or applesauce. For leftover salt potatoes, I make a frittata with onions, peppers, eggs, sausage, pepperoni and the salt potatoes. It is devine.

  7. AvatarCaitlin says

    My grandparents taught me this and now I sometimes do it too: at the end of the week, make Stop It Stew: combine all leftovers in a pot, add some slices abs broth or diced tomatoes etc, summer until heated through. You can add rice to it or noddles too.

  8. AvatarTess says

    My husband and I have taken leftovers for our lunches for our entire careers! Just make sure to dish it out before feeding the family or else there might not be leftovers 🙂 To eat out lunch would probably run us about $10 each. So we’ve saved about $50,000 over the course of our work years . . . dang, that quite a savings!

  9. AvatarMegan Rodriguez says

    Thank you for these wonderful ideas!! We actually had a leftover date night (with out daughter)!! We had several different leftovers that didn’t really go with one another.. solution- heat them up, put in separate bowls and sit on the deck and enjoy as much or as little!!! I took a little longer reheating the “favorite” dish so the others would get eaten!! Worked beautifully!! Simple and enjoyed quality time!! Thank you for teaching us how to appreciate the little things and take time to enjoy what truly matters; being with the ones you love!!!?

  10. AvatarOlivia says

    Another tip for people who just can’t stand leftovers at all- make less food to begin with! 🙂 Seriously, almost any recipe can be halved or even fourthed. You will probably need to cook it in a smaller pan or dish to make it turn out the same. I.e. a tiny crockpot instead of a huge one, a 7 x 11 casserole dish instead of a 9 x 13, use a 2 quart pan instead of an 8 quart stock pot.

  11. AvatarS13 says

    We always repurpose leftovers! (And I’m always looking for new ideas) Odds and ends always turn into a stew or
    soup at the end of the week.. My favorite thing that goes over well is leftover meat loaf to taco meat. I add Rotel, beans and taco seasoning. It seems like this always turns out better than when we actually make tacos! My family isn’t crazy about eating the same things twice in a week but this way they never know the difference!

  12. AvatarDevin says

    After watching your videos and reading this post, I have fallen in love with repurposing leftovers! I even find myself making recipes that I know will leave me with leftovers so I can find new ways to use them. It’s fun!

  13. AvatarErin says

    I love these tips…I am typically the only person to eat left overs (my husband simply just doesn’t care for them)….but if I repurpose them I think it’s safe to say it would be a game changer.

  14. AvatarTerri says

    Love these tips! Already was doing some of them, but so many more have been helpful! Especially the grilled cheese tip!

  15. AvatarCrissy says

    I’m feeling more motivated to use our leftovers more often. Do you do leftover pasta? I find it always gets gummy unless it’s something like lasagna.

  16. AvatarJeanna says

    I wish I had learned this microwave/ then broil trick a long time ago. You’ve changed my life! No more soggy leftovers.

  17. AvatarDiana Burk says

    Since seeing this post I have tried broiling and repurposing leftovers, and both were a success! Makes such a difference! Thank you!

  18. AvatarBrianne Trappett says

    These tips are actually amazing. I have leftovers for lunch like 4 or 5 times a week, so I’m really excited to try some of these!

  19. AvatarSydney says

    My husband has always hated leftovers and now he’s made me cringe over them too! We don’t have a microwave so that makes it tricky for quick leftovers. I’m going to try this! I love your idea of throwing any and everything over a salad!

  20. AvatarShelby Richins says

    Great tips!! Most people don’t like leftovers but it’s because they don’t know how to eat them correctly!!

  21. AvatarLacie Breckon says

    Great tips! getting leftovers to taste good can be a challenge, but if I can get my boys to eat more leftovers that would save us a ton of money!

  22. AvatarMichelle says

    Love these ideas! I did a turkey pot pie all from food given to us over the holidays (canned items etc) then given turkey. It was honestly THE best as far as leftovers go!
    100k give away!

  23. AvatarBrittany johnson says

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post!!! I usually eat leftovers cuz I hate things going to waste but enjoying them instead of just eating then would be so much better haha

  24. AvatarJamie Crane says

    These tips are so smart! My husband hates leftovers, so this will help us. I always just use the microwave leftovers, never even thought of putting in the oven again or on the stove to reheat.

  25. AvatarMadelyne McKee says

    I love this post!! Such good tips. We eat lots of leftovers, but we can still up our game big time in how we prepare them. Thank you!!

  26. AvatarStephanie Beswick says

    I have always hated leftovers but have tried these for the last few weeks and honestly I am starting to enjoy my leftovers

  27. AvatarMandy @ Making Home Simple says

    This is a great post! Thanks for the great tips! We are a homeschooling family so I almost always try to use up leftovers at lunch. Or on a saturday lunch. Just piece it together and add to if needed. I think I could take it to another level with these tips to even intentionally cook more and transform those leftovers. Thanks for the food for thought!

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