12 Ways to Use Leftovers in Your Weekly Meal Plan

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Never get bored with leftovers again! Over twelve different ways to utilize leftovers to make a brand new meal.

These days we are all doing our best to utilize everything we have at home and minimize waste and trips to store. For most people, that means using leftovers, all the leftovers. 

Personally, I am someone who loves leftovers since it means I don't have to cook again. My husband, on the other hand, has never been a big leftover person. The solution - repurposing the leftovers into something that feels new and different. This way it feels like a new meal to him and it ensures we are using everything in the fridge. 

When it comes to meal planning, leftovers are a key part of my plan. Most days I just don't have time to make lunch, so pretty much every day I am eating leftovers for lunch. I also like to meal prep my breakfasts, for at least a few mornings, and use those leftovers, aka "prepped" meals, for an easier start to the day. 

Also for those that need help, our weekly meal plans always utilize leftovers to make meal prep easier.  This leads to easier healthy cooking and meal prep. Plus you will waste so much less. 

Here are some of my favorite ways to re-purpose leftover proteins and veggies to create new meals.

  1. Tacos and Burritos: Tacos and burritos are one of my favorite ways to use up extra veggies or proteins. Make Mexican style tacos with your favorite salsa, Asian tacos with cabbage and Sriracha, or veggie packed tacos with avocado. Use low carb tortillas or wraps if you are looking to cut back on calories.
  2. Soups, Stews, and Chilis: Leftover proteins like shredded chicken or beef can easily be added to a cup of your favorite store bought vegetable soup for a quick lunch. Add leftover veggies or beans to creamy store bought vegetable soups to make it semi-homemade. For a more substantial meal, consider using leftover proteins in a quick homemade soup. Just sauté some veggies, add broth, and toss in some pasta, whole grains, or beans. Chili can also be a vehicle for leftover meats.
  3. Pasta Sauces: For a quick pasta dinner, bulk up your favorite store bought pasta sauce with leftover meats or veggies. All you have to do is add your leftovers to the sauce as you warm it up and serve it over pasta for a meal in under 15 minutes.
  4. Stuffed Baked Potatoes: If you have a microwave nearby, you can always heat up a regular or sweet potato and pack it with leftover meats, veggies, or beans. Top with some cheese, salsa, yogurt, or marinara sauce for a complete meal in minutes.
  5. Quesadillas: Much like tacos, quesadillas are ideal for leftovers. Wrap up leftover meats and veggies in a tortilla with your favorite cheese and you’re ready to eat.
  6. Pizzas: Pizzas are another great vehicle for leftovers. For a meal for the family, use leftover proteins to make a delicious homemade pie. For example, leftover grilled chicken can easily become a BBQ Chicken Pizza without too much work. For individual meals, consider using low carb wraps or English muffins to make individual pizzas that work with virtually any leftover meats, veggies, or legumes.
  7. Salads: Salads are a classic use for leftovers but make sure to bulk them up with lots of fresh veggies and fruit. I almost always add a chopped apple, mandarin, or cup of berries to my salads to keep them exciting. Goat cheese or feta cheese can round things out to make a salad worthy of any meal.
  8. Lettuce Wraps: For low carb diets or high calorie leftovers, consider wrapping things up in lettuce leaves or collard greens instead of tortillas or wraps. Salad dressing, salsa, or store bought marinades can tie everything together.
  9. Quiches and Frittatas: When in doubt, throw it in with eggs! Quiches, frittatas, omelets, and scrambles taste great with almost any leftovers. This is my go-to strategy for weekend brunch.
  10. Brown Rice and Quinoa Bowls Whenever you make brown rice or quinoa, make a few extra servings. It is easy to build a meal with veggies, beans, and/or leftover proteins on a bed of healthy grains. Top with hummus, salsa, marinades or dressings, or some balsamic vinegar and cheese.
  11. Enchiladas: Last but not least, enchiladas area great way to use up leftovers. Stuff them with leftover meat, veggies, or beans and then add your favorite enchilada sauce. It’s a quick and easy meal that everyone loves to eat.
  12. Sandwiches and Wraps: Perhaps the most obvious but still worth mentioning, sandwiches and wraps are always a great option for leftovers.

Luckily when you plan ahead and cook extra servings to reusing for lunches and/or quick dinners, you won’t find yourself scrambling and starting from scratch at every meal and still can have a lot of variety in your meals.

What are your favorite ways to use leftovers?

Three Recipes That Make Amazing Leftovers

Chicken tinga tacos with avocado and cheese in corn tortillas.

This Chicken Tinga recipe that can be made in the slow cooker, instant pot, or on the stove-top is so good for leftovers.  It's made with only 5 ingredients, has 189 calories. Here's how you can use the leftovers:

  • Serve it as tacos with chopped avocado, queso fresco or mozzarella, and cilantro.
  • Mix it with some cooked rice or quinoa and sauteed veggies. Stuff it into bell peppers and top with cheese. Pour in an extra can of tomatoes and bake the peppers for an easy stuffed pepper dish.
  • Grab some low carb tortillas, black beans, and corn. Pair it with the chicken to make a delicious filling for quesadillas.
  • Warm up some cooked brown rice, heat up some broccoli or another vegetable, and make a grain bowl with some crumbled feta cheese and olives on top. So good and a completely different flavor profile. 
  • Grab some store bought or homemade black bean soup and stir in the leftover chicken for a chicken black bean soup that is hard to put down.

Grilled Greek chicken thighs on a plate with fresh herbs.

Grilled Chicken Chicken Thighs take no time to prepare and the leftovers can be used in so many different ways. Here are some of our favorite options:

  • Make a big Greek Salad with Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, black olives, and feta cheese. 
  • Grab some Greek yogurt and make chicken salad for sandwiches with the leftover chopped chicken.
  • Make a Meditteranean inspired rice dish by cooking down some cherry tomatoes and zucchini with garlic. Once tender, add some cooked rice or quinoa and stir in the leftover chicken. Top with fresh lemon juice and crumbled goat cheese.
  • Make this creamy mushroom pasta recipe and add the chicken on top before serving. You can make it with any vegetable you like.
  • Turn this into a cold pasta salad dish with crunchy chopped vegetables and a homemade or store bought vinaigrette.

Banh mi pork with carrots, cucumbers, and radishes in corn tortillas.

Make this easy Slow Cooker Banh Mi Pork and enjoy all the different ways you can serve it. This is one of our favorite meals and we make it all the time. It works with pork or chicken thighs.

  • Serve it as lettuce wraps with thinly sliced carrots and cucumbers.
  • Use this to make a quick homemade fried rice with leftover cooked rice, any veggies you like, a scrambled egg, and leftover pork. Season with soy sauce to taste.
  • This makes the best Asian style tacos with warmed corn tortillas and an easy cabbage style slaw. Serve with Sriracha.
  • If you love Asian style salads, then you will love it with leftover pork. Grab a bow bowl of greens, add your favorite veggies, add some mandarin oranges or pineapple for sweetness, and serve with a light sesame vinaigrette.
  • Make lo mein or chow mein noodles with some cooked Asian noodles, sauteed cabbage, and leftover pork.  Season with a mix of soy sauce and oyster sauce. 
1 Comment
On 12 Ways to Use Leftovers in Your Weekly Meal Plan
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September 18, 2019 - 08:01
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Your 12 ways to use leftovers look very good - my kind of eating!! I came across your article when I was looking at leftover meal plans. Great ideas! I’ve linked to your article in a blog post I published on a Hamburger Steak recipe and steak leftovers.