How To Use Leftovers To Stretch Your Dollars

Learning how to use leftovers can be a huge boost to your family’s grocery budget.  What if you had an extra $10, $20, $50 each month?  Can you imagine what you could do with that money?  Would you use it to save for a trip or pay off debt? How about paying for a manicure, or a girl’s night out?  Maybe you could let someone else watch the kids while you sit at Starbucks and sip a Caramel Macchiato.

Wow! These are such great ideas for learning how to use leftovers. You can add $10, $20 or even $50 to your monthly budget. Idea #2 is the best one!
Wow! These are such great ideas for learning how to use leftovers. You can add $10, $20 or even $50 to your monthly budget. Idea #2 is the best one!

Wow! These are such great ideas for learning how to use leftovers. You can add $10, $20 or even $50 to your monthly budget. Idea #2 is the best one!

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No matter how you spend or save that extra money, it just feels good to do it.  We all love stretching our budgets to better meet our family’s needs.

One of the biggest things that busts a family budget is throwing away food.  Think of it really as just taking a wad of cash and dumping it in the trash.  By reducing your food waste, you will save real money.  It’s estimated that in the US, food waste costs $161 billion annually.  That’s a lot of money in the trash.

I know there are some of you that just don’t like to eat leftovers.  Listen close, cuz I’m gonna tell you something, my friend.   You’ve got to get over it.  And, if your spouse is the one that doesn’t like eating leftovers, you don’t have to tell them when you’re serving leftovers.  

Don’t worry, I’m going to show you that there are lots of ways to use your leftovers, including some that completely disguise them.  

The first thing you need to do to stop wasting food, though, is to make the commitment.  You’ve got to dedicate yourself to the mission of not throwing away food.  Let me show you how.

Why Eat Leftovers?

Maybe you’re thinking:  What’s the big deal if I throw away those slices of roast beef, that broccoli, or that little bit of soup?  Well, I’ll tell you, here are several reasons not to.

  • A lot of time went into preparing that food, and your time is valuable
  • If you throw that out, you’ll just have to make more for another meal
  • It’s costly to throw it out because you will have to buy more
  • Replacing that food will add to your grocery shopping time
  • You can turn your leftovers into really quick and easy meals
  • It will save a ton of time to repurpose your leftovers

How To Use Leftovers

Follow along for several ideas for what to do with your leftovers.  Remember, some of these help you completely disguise what you’re eating.

  1.  Lunches – Portion your leftovers into lunch size portions.  These containers are great and can go into the freezer, too.  Think of this like free lunch because, when you have a grab-and-go lunch in the fridge, you won’t have to eat out tomorrow or spend your morning making another boring sandwich.  I do this right as I’m cleaning up dinner so my husband has a meal to take to work.  His friends are even jealous that he never has to buy lunch in the cafeteria.
  2.  Make A Different Dish – Don’t think you have to use your leftovers just as they are.  Turn them into something completely different.  Your leftover taco meat could become Taco Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Quesadillas or Chili.  Quiche is perfect for small amounts of meat and vegetables.  That leftover roast can become fajitas.  Your family will be much less likely to squabble about eating leftovers if they’re creatively used to make a completely different dish than the original.  
  3.  Freeze Them For Another Day – If I’ve made something that leaves me enough leftovers to make a second family dinner, I just freeze it.  You can even do this intentionally and as a result, have a night off from cooking on another day.  If you want to do this intentionally, here I talk about Why You Need A Freezer Meal Plan.  I use MyFreezEasy.  Their simple, frugal plans are set up to either make 2 of each recipe and freeze them both, or you can make one for dinner and freeze one for another day.
  4.  Soup – Soup is the miracle worker of leftovers.  It is so easy to make a soup and add your leftover bits of meat and vegetables.  Leftover Chicken? Make Chicken Tortilla Soup.  Leftover Taco meat?  Make Cheeseburger Soup.  You can look at some delicious ideas on my Pinterest Soup board.
  5.  Have A Leftovers Night – When I notice that the fridge is getting overwhelmed by leftover containers, we have a leftovers night.  I just set them all out and let everyone choose what they want to eat.  You’ll be amazed how quickly you can clear a fridge this way.
  6.  Put It Into Something Else – Let’s think about Tacos again.  While you’re making the Taco meat, look and see what leftover veggies you can throw in.  Corn would be great, even a little zucchini will disappear in the taco meat.  Try the same thing with your casseroles – sauces can hide a lot.  Don’t worry if it’s not part of the original recipe.  If it doesn’t have a flavoring that would clash with what you’re making – Just Go For It!  You can add all kinds of things to this Chile Relleno Casserole or even this Black Bean Enchilada Casserole.
  7.  Make Salad – All kinds of leftovers can be added to a salad.  Use your raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, fruits, and meats to make an awesome main dish salad or even a side salad.  

Ultimately, it’s really important to use up your leftovers in order to wisely use your family’s food budget.  It is also a great way to value your own time.  When you’re a mom, your time is so precious.  The time and effort you spend making each meal shouldn’t be wasted by dumping it in the trash.

Will you do us a favor and share your ideas for how to use up leftovers?  I’ll tell you my favorite is to eat them for breakfast.  Some people think that’s so weird, what about you?

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  1. Kathy A

    We buy meat and cheese ends at our local Hannaford’s for 3.99/#. It often includes the 8.99 roast beef and 6.99 cheeses! We have the most interesting sandwiches for lunch and omelets for breakfast! It makes great additions to salads,too. “Mystery soup” (what my kids and I called it) or “Enthusiasm stew” (caz I threw everything I had into it!) are popular, too. I start with a can of soup or leftover soup or stew and throw meat bits, leftover veggies, macaroni, rice, a can of store brand Veg-All, whatever into it. If I want it “Italian”, I add an ice cube or two of pesto; if I want it Mexican, I throw in the remaining salsa! Hot sauce or Worstershire (sp?) sauce is good, too. Need a little more? I add some salt free bouillon and water. Top with appropriate cheese! It is NEVER the same twice.


      I love the name of your Enthusiasm Stew! Soups are such a great way to change up our leftovers and use all those small bits. Thank you for sharing.

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