Getting Creative with Leftover Food

Have you ever looked at a refrigerator full of leftover food and wondered how you’re going to eat it all? On Day 3 of mashed potatoes and leftover ham, or the leftovers of a similar holiday meal, you may be looking for other options. Getting creative with leftover food is a great way to use it up without getting bored of the same meal over and over, especially if you were left with a large quantity of one dish. Making new creations out of your leftovers can even make many foods palatable that do not normally refrigerate well. You’ll be surprised how many ways there are to use your common leftovers. Here’s how to get creative with leftover food:

  1. Reheat with additional ingredients. Leftover mashed potatoes are one of the most common leftovers found in large quantities, especially after holiday meals. They don’t refrigerate well, but reheating them with additional ingredients, such as cheese or bacon, can help. So can reheating them properly, rather than microwaving them.
  2. Make sandwiches. Most leftover meats make delicious sandwiches, especially if you have some leftover gravy or sauce to top them with.
  3. Add to another dish. Leftover ham or vegetables can be used in omelets or stir-fry type dishes. Most leftovers can also be used in a soup of some kind. Even tough meats that have been refrigerated after they were cooked can be revived in the form of soup. Mix together the ingredients and then cook on low heat all day. In the evening, you’ll be able to sit down to a delicious bowl of soup or stew.
  4. Cook in a new way. For example, leftover vegetables from a raw veggie tray can be steamed for dinner the next evening. Leftover mashed potatoes can be used to cook potato pancakes. Essentially, use ingredients from your leftovers as the raw materials for a whole new meal. This will easily keep you from getting bored of eating the same meal again and again. Make chicken salad from leftover chicken, or shred leftover meat and coat in barbecue sauce or use for tacos. Leftover rice doesn’t always reheat well, but it makes excellent fried rice. If you have leftover pasta, make a pasta bake by topping with cheese and then baking it in the oven.
  5. Freeze for later. If you are growing tired of your leftovers or can’t eat them within a few days of the original meal, and you can’t think of anything creative to do with them, freeze them for later. You can reheat them in a few weeks, when you’ll be less tired of the original meal and may have fresh ideas for using up the leftovers. Most cooked foods freeze well in freezer bags or other freezer-safe containers.

Having a well-stocked pantry can help you reinvent your leftovers. If you just have one or two portions, consider eating the leftovers as-is or adding just one or two more ingredients. For a large pot of leftovers, you’ll have to get creative if you want to use them all. Try to use your leftovers as soon as possible; they will taste better this way, no matter what you make with them.


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