Since I first published this post in 2011, I continue to use the strategies I share in this post for saving time at dinner time. We have leftovers for dinner at least once a week, usually twice, plus I always include leftover side dishes before making new ones.
I’ve found that even though some dishes may be popular with my kids for awhile, they can fall out of favor. Using up leftovers first ensures that nothing gets wasted, even the unpopular leftovers.
As I’ve been using a monthly menu plan for the past 2 months, I’ve found one of the easiest ways to stick to the plan is to include leftovers in every dinner plan. This strategy also works on the days when I can’t stick to the plan like the afternoon last week when I had to run a child to the doctor’s after school for a sick visit.
Ways to Use Up Leftovers in Weeknight Dinners
- Use cooked chicken or beef in a casserole like Garlic Parmesan Chicken or baked ziti. Many casserole recipes are based around cooked meat, a veggie, and some type of starch whether it’s pasta or potatoes. The ones using cooked meat usually need about 20 minutes to bake.
- Make extra veggies one night and serve them warm or as a cold salad on another night.
- Make up a batch of pizza dough and use it for a pot pie.
- Beef stroganoff can be made quickly from gravy, precooked veggies, and cooked beef.
- If you’re using leftovers for most of the meal, but want and have the time to make something up fresh, frozen veggies can be sauteed in about 10 minutes from freezer to pan.
- Cooked spaghetti can turn into a tetrazzini.
- Cooked veggies can go into a quick omelet or a frittata.
- Take a can of soup, either homemade or storebought, and add in cooked veggies like green beans and broccoli.
- Keep a bag of sandwich rolls in the freezer for making sandwiches out of cooked chicken or sliced beef. Even roasted veggies with a dressing or sauce can work in a sandwich.
- Rice cooked in water is the basis for Spanish rice or fried rice.
More Ways to Use Leftovers Including Holiday Leftovers in Your Weekly Menu Plan
- One of my favorite resources for dealing with leftovers is the The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste.
- Save Time by Using Leftovers in Each Meal
- Easter Leftover Ideas
- Waste Not Want Not: How We Prevent Food Waste in Our Family of 7
- Kitchen Tip: Weekly Veggie Preparation
- Kitchen Organization: Make Recycling at Home Easy Peasy
- Nose-to-Tail to Stem-to-Root: the No-Waste Thanksgiving
- Use Old Dried Beans and Corn for Fall Decorations
- Food Waste Friday: The Waste of a Good Apple
- Salvaging Peppers from the Garden: Sausage and Peppers
- Food Waste Friday: Shredded Zucchini
- Food Waste Friday: Potatoes and Onions
- Saving Time in the Kitchen: What Foods Do You Make from Scratch?
What are your favorite ways to use leftovers to save time at dinnertime?
Shared at Foodie Friday