Use Your Leftovers

If you can do it, it's great to cook exactly the right amount of food for a meal and not have to deal with putting away leftovers but that doesn't happen very often at my house. There is almost always a bit of this or that left and, frequently, half a roast chicken or pot roast. Obviously throwing all this stuff away goes against my frugal nature so I've come up with some tasty ways to use up the leftovers. We understand that some people deliberately cook extra food and called the meals Plannedovers. These ideas would work for them too.

Soups and Stews

Almost anything can be turned into a soup or stew. Pot roast, cut into cubes and heated up in it's leftover gravy with it's leftover veggies makes a great stew.

Roast chicken can easily be made into chicken and dumplings...remove the chicken from the bones and cut into chunks, cook some carrots, put the chicken and carrots into a pan with the leftover gravy from the chicken, make dumplings from your favorite cookbook.

For either of these stews you can substitute packaged gravy if you don't have enough left.

Roast beef can also be used for a stew but it needs more cooking than a pot roast. Beef and vegetable soup is another option. Use some boullion cubes to pep up the broth and use carrots, celery, onions etc. for the veggies. Right before serving you can add any leftover vegetables that are in the fridge.

For an elegant leftover beef alternative try beef burgundy. All you need is beef, garlic, mushrooms, red wine and onions (baby onions are nice but chopping up a big one gives you the same flavor). Cut up and brown the beef, saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic in a little butter. Put everything in a casserole, pour in wine to cover (or you can use half wine and half beef broth) and stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour and a half or so.

We received this interesting letter and soup recipe from Laurie S. Freeman (nee Senecal, but no relation to us that we know of). We have included it in the leftovers section because you could easily use leftover rice and/or veggies in this: I was surfing the other day, and accidentally came upon your very nice site. Actually, I was doing a genealogical search for my grandpa James Senecal from Michigan. I never did find any info on him, but it is nice to know that there are some other Senecal's out there, even though we may not be related.I cook most of the meals for our family, and make a lot of soup. It warms us up and everybody loves it. My favorite is "Hamburger and Rice Soup", a recipe I found in an extension service magazine. Brown 1 lb or less hamburger and some chopped onions in large pot. Drain, and add about 6-8 cups water, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 cup uncooked rice or barley or both, and 2 cups chopped carrots, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 30-45 minutes.

From Tracy: I found that keeping a medium sized bowl in my freezer and putting in the last little bit of leftovers (the teaspoon of veggies or last corn cob no one ate) in and keeping it frozen and add to it when theres any little bit, till I am ready to make soup, then I add this to my soup. At one time we even had a seperate bowl for meat "scraps" that didn't get eaten and we used it too, but I eliminated it since our freezer is so small and we sometimes just freeze it in a ziplock bag and pull it out later. To me this saves on waste and makes a meal out of "nothing"!!


Chicken Noodle Casserole is easy to make and very tasty. Cook about 8 oz. of egg noodles. Put them in a casserole dish and toss with 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. Make a white sauce (2 cups of it) in your accustomed manner. Add leftover chicken, cubed, to the sauce and heat through. Pour it over the noodles. Top with buttered breadcrumbs and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until hot and the crumbs are nice and brown.

For Chicken Divan cook some broccoli spears (fresh or frozen) and place in the bottom of a baking pan. Slice leftover chicken and layer over broccoli. Make 2 cups white sauce and pour over chicken and broccoli. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly. You can add some mushrooms to the white sauce if you want.

The day after I started working on this new section I received the following email and recipe from Karen who must have had a psychic link with me to send it at such an opportune moment:

Subject: (Cheep) Chicken Potpie

Cooking for my small family of 3 usually means a lot of leftovers. My husband not being a big leftover eater a lot gets wasted around here. I found this recipe for chicken potpie that is delicious to use the leftover chicken dinner.

2 cups chunked cooked chicken (just pull off of bone)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 box frozen mixed veggies (thawed)
1/2 cup milk
1 box(15oz) refrigerated ready to use pie crust

1.Heat oven to 425 degrees mix filling ingredients.
2.Line a 9'' pie plate with one crust; add filling; top with other crust. fold edges under and crimp.cut 4 slits in top to vent.
3.Bake 25 to 30 min. until pastry is golden and filling is hot.

I even add leftover stuffing and corn if there is any. I buy all the ingredients when I buy the chicken so I know I will use the leftovers. Best part, my husband doesn't realize he is eating leftovers. I hope you enjoy.

Our only suggestion is to make this even cheaper, make your own piecrust!

Here's a recipe for mushroom baked rice which could easily be made with your leftover roast chicken. It comes to us from Candice Romaniuk (who also sent us some wedding ideas): Here's one of our staples, the recipe is homemade so it may be hard to follow. We don't use exact measurements:

long grain rice (not minute rice)
chicken boullion power
cooked chicken (poached is healthiest)
condensed cream of mushroom soup
veggies (mushrooms, carrots, green onions - diced)

In a large casserole dish mix 2 cups of rice with 3 1/4 cups water (always add less than the 2 to 1 ratio). Mix about 2 tbsp of boullion. Add chopped veggies (most veggies will do, we've found that these work for us). Cover and bake in 375 degree oven till rice has finished cooking (water is absorbed). You must stir the rice periodically, especially around the edges. This takes about 45 minutes. When the rice is almost done cooking, add the chunks of cooked chicken. Then warm the contends of 2 cans of mushroom soup with 1 1/2 cans of milk (don't add the full amount of milk, this is a sauce, not a soup). Spoon the mushroom sauce oven the rice and serve. The result is a fulling meal that will make enough for leftovers the next day.

One of our readers sent in a description of the many meals she gets from a single turkey: I usually buy a few turkeys when they go on sale for the holidays. They are already frozen so when I get home I just put them right in the freezer. Of course the first meal that I make is a regular turkey dinner. I always make extra gravy at that time since I make a turkey pot pie with the leftovers. I use some of the leftover gravy and add some chicken stock to thin the gravy a bit. I add vegetables and some boiled potatos. I finish it up by making homemade bisquits and putting them on top of the pie. when I bake my pot pie the bisquits get nice and brown. I always make turkey stock for soup too. I really get quite a few different meals from one turkey.

This one came from a reader whose name I accidentally deleted. So if the sender is reading let me know and I will give you proper credit: One thing that I like to do with leftovers so that they will have some eye appeal and actually get eaten is this...I bought some divided plastic containers that can go into the freezer. They look similar to a child's feeding dish, but have an airtight lid. If I have a portion of chicken, noodles, or whatever, and I know it will not get eaten in the next day or so, I just ladle it into one of the sections and freeze it right away. If in a couple of days, I have another leftover portion, say a vegetable, I add it to another compartment in the divided dish and put it right back in the freezer (the previously frozen section does not have a chance to thaw). I continue doing this until I have a supply of homemade "tv dinners" in the freezer, which are handy for nights when we all have places to go, or we don't all feel like eating the same thing. And I feel great knowing that nothing was wasted. Also tastes much better than bought tv dinners, and I know exactly what ingredients are in them. Hope this is helpful.

Planned Leftovers (from an unidentified reader): I make manicotti or lasagne at least once a month but there is always more than we can eat in one sitting so I plan these meals with leftovers in mind. I divide the manicotti or lasagne into serving size portions then place all but what is for dinner that night into divided plastic freezer plates and allow them to cool. I make sure that I put a slice or two of garlic bread into each one. I usually get about 5 to 6 plates from manicotti and the same for lasagne. Since I serve veggies with every meal, they go into the plates too. When everything has cooled to room temp., into the freezer they go and we have great home cooked meals for the days that there's no time to cook. We do this with meatloaf and just about everything else that freezes well. By planning left overs to freezer, I don't have to spend a day doing freezer meals but I always have them in my freezer. And those same freezer meals can become a very satisfying lunch.

More planned leftovers from Tom Brisco: Once a week I cook something "big"...a 10 lb. ham, a 6 lb. chicken, a 12 lb. leg of lamb. While something like the leg of lamb or ham can be a little expensive, I can get about 5 meals for my wife and me from it. We have ham and some roasted potatoes or roasted onions for the first meal. We slice it and freeze the ham slices and ham bone. Later meals can include fried rice with chopped ham, lentil soup with chopped ham, or ham sandwiches. Of course, you don't want ham 5 days a week but if you alternate cooking a chicken one week and a ham (or lamb or roast) another you can freeze and add variety. Right now I'm cooking black bean soup with ham and a ham-bone from the ham two weeks ago; but yesterday I made chicken pot pie (from last Sunday's roast chicken). We maintain variety by stocking and mixing about two or three weeks of cooked goods that we did from scratch! It's hard cooking cost-effectively for two - but this approach does it for us! (Don't forget to save all your bones - they make great stock, or additions to soup!)