in the kitchen

Confessions of a Leftover Food Lover

Confessions of a Leftover Food LoverI confess.  I love leftovers.  I plan for leftovers.  Whenever someone says they don’t eat leftovers, I can’t imagine why.  Serving leftovers is a night off in the kitchen.  When meal planning for the week, plan to serve leftovers and you’ll become a leftover food lover.  Follow these simple guidelines.

Limit the serving time

Only serve a meal two nights in a row.  If you have any left after the second night, freeze it.  Two nights is the maximum at our house.  It’s good to have a maximum.

Tired of a meal?  Put it in the freezer.  When you serve it in a week or two, your family will think you’ve spent all evening preparing something delicious but you’ll know the source – the freezer.  On my meal planning chart, I use arrows to show when leftovers will be served and how they’re to be eaten or used in another dish.

Confessions of a Leftover Food Lover Just eat it

Eat the leftovers for breakfast or lunch.  Leftover dinners don’t have to be served at dinner time.  Pack in a small container with a cloth napkin and bring them to work and eat for lunch.  Breakfast is another time leftovers can be eaten.  A warmed-up meal of shrimp scampi and wilted spinach salad is a great way for kids to start their day.  Kids love leftovers (ours do!) because then they don’t have to make their  breakfast.

Serve a treat

When a meal comes from our freezer it’s sometimes referred to as a “freezer treat.”  This isn’t always a good thing.  What exactly is a “freezer treat?”  When I’ve made a delicious soup, stew or chili that we’ve had for two nights and it’s fresh in the minds of my family, and then I thaw it to serve it a few days later – that’s a freezer treat.

My secret weapon for too many freezer treats?  Brownies.  They’re quick, easy, and something to look forward to after your freezer treat has been eaten.  Pretty much any good dessert makes up for leftover apathy.  Also, adding garlic bread or a fresh green salad are all nice ways to spice up a leftover meal.

Confessions of a Leftover Food Lover Call it out!

Don’t let your leftovers get eaten until you’re ready!  I have to put notes on food to remind my teens not to eat something.  Labeling your food really helps when putting it into the freezer.  I always think I’ll remember what’s in a container but I never really do.  Labels don’t have to be fancy.  A piece of scrap paper attached with a masking tape or on a small container with a rubber band are easy and inexpensive methods.

Confessions of a Leftover Food Lover

What’s on your meal plan this week?  Any leftovers?  Are you a leftover food lover?

Go Gingham related links:

Go Gingham food philosophy – yes, there is one
New to cooking at home? Fear not!
11 reasons to meal plan every week – save money, save time and reduce food waste
How our freezer gets used – what I keep in our freezer and how I utilize the space
Grocery shopping from the bulk bins and food storage containers
More meal plan ideas are here

8 thoughts on “Confessions of a Leftover Food Lover

  1. Enjoyed your post on leftovers. Occasionally, at our house, we have refrigerator soup. You start with some chicken stock, and throw in whatever hasn’t not turned into a science project. You might need to lengthen it with that one frozen chicken breast that never got cooked, or those last bits of frozen veggies in about 3 or 4 packages, or the remains of the crisper drawer, or a can of tomatoes. Let that stew for a while, throw in all of the odds and ends of dried pasta you’ve got sticking around, cook for about another 10 minutes, ladle up, top with grated parm, get some good crusty bread, a glass (or two) of wine for the adults, and there you are!

    A filling dinner and a clean(er) fridge and freezer!


    1. Cathy,
      Thanks for leaving a comment! This is a great idea and an excellent way to use up leftovers. I can’t stand to toss out food and rarely ever do unless it has gotten lost in the abyss. Everyone wins with that dinner!


  2. Every day for lunch we have leftovers. We pack them up right after dinner so we can grab and go in the morning. Crazy enough, my husband is fine with leftovers for lunch, but he usually balks at them for dinner.


    1. That’s funny that he’ll eat them for lunch and not dinner. Hey, at least he’s eating them! I like the prepping of the lunches at night. Although I don’t make lunches any longer for my teens, when they were younger, I always made them the night before. I don’t like the morning scramble. Thanks Erin!


  3. My significant other is a big fan of leftovers and will eat them for breakfast. Once I realized this I began making extra at dinner time so he would have something in the morning without me having to prepare breakfast. 🙂 I also really like when I can adapt something from one meal into a meal for the next night. Thanks for these tips; I am happy to see that one can (and should!) plan for leftovers. 🙂


    1. Carrie, you’re welcome! I do know what you mean about making more for dinner to have leftovers for breakfast. My kids LOVE to eat leftovers for breakfast and pack in their lunches – if there’s any left! I prefer my kids to eat a nice, warm meal for breakfast and leftovers are easy for them to warm up. We don’t have a microwave so generally, I leave dinner in the pot/pan/dish it was prepared in, let it cool, and then put then entire thing in the refrigerator. It’s easy to warm up that way and you put off washing the pot!! 🙂


  4. Christmas day almost over, kids in bed, and a fridge of leftovers. Just looking for ideas. I normally just eat the rest of the turkey cold and heat the veg, but open to suggestions!


    1. Hi Jon. Try roasting what’s left of the turkey. Cut off meat and refrigerate or freeze. Frozen turkey meat is a quick dinner added to black beans. (Turkey, bean and cheese burritos, anyone?) Take the turkey carcass (bones and all) and place on an 11×14 (jelly roll) pan and place in oven. Roast in 400 degree oven until everything is a bit brown around the edges, about 30 minutes. Let cool and place everything in a stock pot, toss in onions, celery tops, carrot tops/ends. Cover with water and let simmer for about 45 minutes. There’s some straining and tossing of bones but before you know it, you’ve got a wonderful stock. Now, make soup! Add your turkey meat, leftover veg, and any big pieces of meat that came off while simmering. Turkey soup is much more interesting if it’s been roasted first. Good luck…let me know how it turns out and thanks for leaving a comment.


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