45 Creative Leftover Hacks For Less Food Waste And An Expanded Menu
Some of us are lucky enough not to be struggling to put food on our plates. But, no matter who you are or where you’re from, food waste will always be a big problem! It’s easy to get used to our comfortable lives and start throwing away anything we don’t want anymore. Those mushy fruits, wrinkled vegetables, and sad-looking cuts of meat — all go to the garbage can because we simply don’t know they can still be safely eaten! Not only is this habit bad for your finances, but also morally wrong. So many people don’t have access to proper food, and you’re over here throwing stuff away? We don’t think so! Of course, this kind of global problem cannot be tackled by the average citizen alone, but we can always do our best to help! That’s why using your leftovers on new dishes is so important! Are you ready to go on this culinary journey with us? Well, buckle up because here are 45 ways to give a new life to your leftovers!
French fries’ breakfast
No matter how healthy our lifestyle is or how much we exercise, we all have our cheat days! If you’re anything like us, then you probably get your face stuffed with as much fast food as you can possibly chow down at once when those days come!
If, for some reason, you end up with leftover fries, don’t worry! We know they are terrible the next day, so just chop them up and refry them in bacon grease with some onions, eggs, and cheese. Boom! French fries hash browns for breakfast!
Savory French toast
If you’re one of those people who knows how to enjoy the good things in life, you probably have a taste for French toast. Seriously, absolutely nothing else can beat it when it comes to breakfast or even brunch dishes!
If you’re dying to eat some, but all you have is garlic bread, don’t worry! Go ahead and make your toast as usual, but make sure to add salt, herbs, and even cheese to your egg dip. We guarantee you won’t have them any other way from now on!
A new life for your stale bread
If you think about it, bread is probably one of the most consumed things in the world! It’s literally everywhere — from breakfast to dinner, homemade to fast food! Bread is the staple of our diet and has been for quite a few centuries!
If you love bread so much you buy more than you need, don’t worry; we have the perfect solution for that pile of stale bread in your pantry! Just slice them up, cover them in butter, and bake them in the oven until you have a thick toast. It’s delicious!
If it’s green, it’s good
Sometimes, good food options and even food alternatives come from the places we expect the least. Sometimes, though, they’re right in front of us, and we just can’t see them! Especially if you live somewhere where some vegetables come with their leaves.
For the most part, those leaves are edible, but most people throw them away. Don’t do that! Those leaves are usually super nutritious and tasty, too; especially those that come with beets. You can use them in stir-fries, soups, salads — the options are unlimited!
Easy rice pudding
If you think about it, rice is a big part of the human diet, especially if you’re not from northern Europe or the United States! Many different cultures have rice as the staple of their cuisine, and that’s no surprise — rice is extremely filling and just as tasty!
Next time you get carried away and cook too much rice, why not use these leftovers to make rice pudding? Just mix the rice with some milk and whatever sweetener you like and bring it to a boil. Let it cool, and serve it with cinnamon! Super easy!
Stinky kitchen no more
If you want to eat healthier, the first step you need to take is to reduce the amount of red meat in your diet. Just substitute it with white meats such as fish, and you’ll soon see how much of a difference it makes to your body!
Of course, fish can be super stinky and doesn’t really hold up as a leftover, but you can always use what you haven’t eaten yet to make fish cakes! Just follow whatever recipe you love best, and you’ll have a dish that can easily be re-heated without stinking up your house in no time!
Creativity goes a long way
If you’re something of an amateur chef and have a lot of different ingredients at home, you may end up finding yourself with a bunch of foods in very little quantity; not enough to make a dish out of it alone!
Just remember: anything can become a good frittata or quiche if you try hard enough! All those little pieces of mismatched leftover cheese, all of the small portions of cooked vegetables you’ve saved up; you can use it all. Just be creative!
Italian food is beloved not only in Italy but also all over the world! Nothing beats a good Italian dish to make you feel full and reminiscent of the good old days in the old country, even if you’re born and raised somewhere else!
If you love some Italian cuisine but can’t stand eating risotto and spaghetti anymore, you can turn your leftovers into something else! Just mix your risotto with some Bolognese sauce and cheese and fry it up! This is called “arancini,” and you’ll be addicted by the time you’re done!
No matter how good of a job our mothers did to make us eat our veggies, there are still some parts of them we simply refuse to consume. If that’s your case, but you’re feeling bad about throwing it away, don’t fret!
Most leaves, stems, and chopped-up ends — pretty much everything you remove you’re your vegetables and throw away — can be turned into a delicious vegetable broth! It doesn’t take much time either! Just bake it all and simmer them together! Perfection!
Stews are a great way to keep yourself warm during the colder days of the year, especially if you’ve been out on the streets for too many hours. Every family has its own recipe and secret ingredients. But you don’t need that here!
All you need to make a good stew is whatever meat and vegetables you have on your fridge — no rummaging in the attic for your grandma’s old cookbook. Just take all the veggies and meat that are about to spoil and boil them with some broth and herbs. That’s it!
Rice all day
If the end of the month is near and you need space to store your new groceries, then you’re better off knowing nothing cleans up a fridge with old meat, vegetables, and eggs faster than a good batch of fried rice.
It is especially good if you have a couple of bags of frozen veggies forgotten in your freezer. Just thaw them and throw everything in a pan with the rice, a couple of eggs, soy sauce, and whatever seasoning you like.
One man’s trash
No matter how creative we get with our leftovers, there will always be something we don’t really consider a proper ingredient until it’s too late. Take orange peels, for example. They always go to the trashcan straight away, but they have their uses, too!
It can go in cakes and even soups! It also makes a superb tea that is both tasty and healthy. Just let your peels dry naturally and then make tea as usual with them. No cold or cough will ever survive that!
If you live somewhere with hot weather, then you know just how important it is to stay hydrated. Nothing beats a good cold beverage on those unbearably warm days, and no other beverage is better than tepache. You can even make it yourself!
All you need to make this refreshing Mexican drink is water, sugar, and those old pineapples you won’t eat anyway. Just put all the ingredients inside a glass jar, cover it with a cheesecloth and wait a day or two! Just remember, if you wait too long, you’ll get pineapple vinegar instead!
Beans are one of the most versatile ingredients out there! They are super filling, and you can make and serve them in many different ways. The only bad thing about them is they tend to spoil rather quickly, even if stored in your fridge.
If you have some beans that have been sitting in your fridge for a couple of days, you don’t have to throw them away. Just refry them! Basically, boil them until most of the water is gone, then mash them and fry them. It’s perfect for your tacos and burritos.
During the recent pandemic, in the height of lockdowns and social distancing, many people decided to learn new skills, with cooking being one of the most popular ones! Who wouldn’t want to learn how to make their own bread or pizza, right?
Unfortunately, when it comes to pizza, it’s easy to overproof your dough on your first few tries. If you’ve experienced this, don’t worry. Just turn your “ruined” dough into delicious focaccia, and your dinner will be saved in no time.
If you think about it, no other food is as controversial as soup. We’re probably exaggerating, of course, but so many people love them, and so many don’t; it’s easy to find arguments against it, and in favor of it pretty much everywhere you look.
If you like soup or want to try something different, you’ve come to the right place. Just grab whatever leftover meat, vegetables, and even bones you have on your fridge and throw them into a pot with a broth of your choosing. Let it boil, and that’s it!
We all know Americans love it, but if bacon wasn’t a big part of the entire world’s diet then, it definitely is now. Bacon became a bit of an internet sensation a few years ago, and now it could not be more popular.
If you, just like everybody else, love bacon, make sure to save its grease when you fry them. Bacon grease is the perfect substitute for whatever oil or butter you use for cooking. Your dishes will never taste the same. They’ll be 1000x better!
Perfect banana bread every time
If you’re the kind of person who took to cooking during the pandemic, you probably got into the whole bread-making thing, which is awesome! There is nothing cooler than eating a bread you made with your own hands for breakfast, after all!
If you still struggle with baking banana bread after all these months, don’t worry; we have the solution for you. Just use overripe bananas. Use them, and your banana bread will always be fluffy and moist and baked to perfection. Yummy!
The Brits are at it again
The United Kingdom is not exactly known for its food. Sure, they have some pretty famous dishes, but those foods aren’t known for their incredible taste and distinguished appearance. They’re known because they’re weird! We’ll never know how an entire nation survives off fish n’ chips and kidney pies.
Anyway, if you have a bunch of leftover vegetables on your fridge, why not go ahead and make some “bubble and squeak”? No, that’s not the name of a car wash; that’s a very traditional British dish. Potatoes, onions, cabbage, eggs, everything goes in there. Good luck!
A use for bruised apples
Apples come in many different varieties, but it doesn’t really matter what kind they are; everybody loves them. They’re great for many different things too — from apple pies to cakes, caramelized apples, apple sauce…the list goes on and on.
If you have some apples in the fridge but notice they are bruised and starting to get mushy, you can use them to make a delicious apple sauce. This particular sauce can be used in a bunch of things, but they go especially well on porridges!
Like any other vegetable, cauliflowers have a legion of passionate fans behind them — and another one of haters following close. If you’re one of the fans and love eating your cauliflower, then this little tip is for you. Check it out:
Stop throwing out the leaves that come with them! Even if there are only a few on the floret, they can still be used for cooking. Just chop them up and toss them in a skillet with butter and garlic, and you’ll have a snack that’s both delicious and healthy.
A new life to Bolognese
We’ve all been there — we spent a couple of days craving some spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, then we finally have the opportunity to make some, and we end up making way too much. We know what to do with the leftover spaghetti, but what about the Bolognese?
Well, it turns out there are plenty of things we can do with it. For example, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your week eating it as is, you can turn it into a delicious filling for some wraps! Just add whatever vegetables you like best, some cheese, and you’re done!
Tips for fish broth
It’s a shame there are so many people out there allergic to seafood, because no one deserves to not be able to taste how awesome it all is. Shrimps, lobsters, and even your average fish is a step up in deliciousness compared to other dishes!
If you can have seafood and, like us, can’t stop buying and eating it, know that you can make a great fish broth using nothing but your leftovers. Fishbones, fish heads, shrimp, and lobster shells; they can all be used to make a delicious broth.
Sometimes, the leftovers we have in our fridges don’t exactly match together. A cup of old rice here, a serving of yogurt there. What are we supposed to do? Well, if you’re creative and don’t care much about culinary accuracy, it turns out you can do a lot!
For example, did you know you can turn rice, yogurt, eggs, and whatever veggies and seasonings you have available in some tachin? That’s right! Just mix it all together and bake it until it’s golden brown on the outside. Yummy!
A little winter treat
When the winter months hit, there is nothing we want to do more than to crawl under our bedsheets, all cozy and warm, and watch Netflix all day. We’ll only come out of our comfort cocoon if we smell some delicious food!
And there is no better winter treat than a steamy corn chowder! You don’t even need to get fancy about it, just throw whatever old corn, ham, onion, and celery you have around into a big pot, and you’ll have an amazing, comforting dish in no time.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a simple visit to the supermarket and end up buying much more than what you actually need. Some things hold well in the fridge or pantry, while others have to be consumed quickly; otherwise, they’ll get spoiled!
That’s definitely the case with bananas! If you have some overripe bananas around, just throw them on a skillet with some butter until they’re brown, then sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon! The perfect treat for a cold day — or a hot one, if you serve them with ice cream!
The magical water
No matter how healthy you are, it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to eat some good pasta whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you’re the one cooking it, make sure to save the pasta water, though. It has its uses!
Pasta water is full of many beneficial nutrients, carbohydrates, and, of course, starch, which makes it perfect for making some really tasty sauces. You can also use it for baking bread and even water your plants, if you can believe that! It’s truly magical water.
For those of you who have never heard of it, jambalaya is a traditional Cajun dish usually made with rice, chicken, crayfish, and a bunch of vegetables such as bell pepper, onions and celery, and many characteristic herbs and seasonings. It’s absolutely delicious!
If you don’t care about historical accuracy, though, you can improvise and use pretty much any type of meat and vegetables available. Last night’s chicken dinner? Go in the pot. Breakfast sausage? Go in the pot. Just use similar seasonings, and you should be good to go!
Rolls and rolls
Sometimes it can get pretty hard to find other uses for our leftovers, especially if we’ve been cooking with them for a while already. There are so many recipes we can improvise with what little we have available, after all.
But with quick research online, you’ll probably find a dozen new ideas to try. For example, if you buy a bunch of spring roll wrappers, you can make spring rolls with your leftover dinners and lunches. Caesar salad rolls, steak and potatoes rolls, even Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls! Yummy!
There is not a single person in the world who doesn’t watch a cooking show and get the urge to start cooking right away. The problem is, chefs on shows have all the time in the world to perfect their recipes, while a working adult relies only on their days off.
Don’t worry, though! For this particular spaghetti recipe, all you need is your cookout leftovers. The burgers and sausages can easily become a delicious meat sauce, while the buns can become garlic bread. Cook your spaghetti as usual and serve it all together. Super easy!
The best smoothie
No other creation in the history of mankind has made people want to exercise more than social media. It doesn’t matter where you live or where you go; gyms, parks, and even empty parking lots are always packed full — no one wants to look bad in their selfies, after all!
A good way to stay in shape but still enjoy your food is through smoothies. You don’t even need fancy ingredients to make a good one. If you have some overripe bananas at home, all you have to do is blend them with peanut butter, milk, and ice, and you’re done!
Brand-new veggies again
If you’re not used to it, eating healthy can be super hard — especially when it comes to vegetables. If you aren’t used to eating them, getting into the habit is a big pain. If you want to give them a try, though, then this one’s for you.
Everybody who uses vegetables in their meals knows how quickly they become soft and unappetizing, but you can make them crispy again! Just fill up a bowl with ice cubes and water and let your veggies rest in there for a few minutes!
If you think about it, potatoes are one of the most famous ingredients out there. Boiled, fried, or baked; it doesn’t matter. They are delicious in any shape or form! That’s why it’s hard to believe anyone would have leftover mashed potatoes around.
If you do have some leftovers and are struggling to think of how to cook it, why not turn it into homemade tater tots? Just mix in whatever meat and vegetables you like, take small portions and shape them like a ball and fry them up! The perfect snack!
Old cherry tomatoes
If you know anything about your veggies, then you know cherry tomatoes are a great alternative if you or your guests don’t really like the standard kind of tomatoes. They’re usually sweeter and less acidic, which is easier for some to stomach.
Once they start to get all old and wrinkly, though, many people may feel tempted to just toss them away. Don’t do that! You can easily turn them into tomato sauce or even a tomato dip. Just get creative, and you’ll love the results!
Old bell peppers no more
If you enjoy cooking, then you probably know bell peppers are a great addition to any dish you make. Not only do they taste fantastic, but they also look amazing and always bring that je ne sais quois, that something else to your food!
They can get old really fast, though, even when they’re on your fridge. So, if you have a bunch of wrinkled bell peppers and don’t know what to do, just toss them in the oven with some olive oil and whatever stuffing you fancy. They’ll taste just as good!
Stale bread no more
If you don’t have any kind of allergy or medical condition that prevents you from eating bread, the chances that you absolutely love them are huge. They’re everywhere, after all, and they taste amazing both on their own and as part of other meals.
If you’re craving some bread, but all you have is stale ones, don’t worry! Just spray them with water and pop them in the oven until the water evaporates. They’ll come out fresh and fluffy again! How amazing is that?
Stop throwing your parmesan rind away!
Everybody loves a good cheese, and no cheese is better than parmesan when it comes to cooking! After you remove its rind, it’s super easy to grate it on top of pretty much anything you want! But did you know the rind is actually edible as well?
That’s right! Despite its tough texture, it’s are safe to eat, even if it becomes a bit hard to chew on over time. So, instead of nibbling on it, just cut it up and use it in your sauces and soups! It will definitely improve them!
Italian leftover cuisine
Mashed potatoes are a great side dish for your steaks and roasted veggies, or even on their own, but they can be much more than that. Especially if you made too much of it and don’t know what to do with all the leftovers!
If you fancy having something different for dinner — something Italian, for example — all you need is your leftover mashed potatoes, flour, eggs, and salt. Just mix it all up, shape the dough like little balls and steam them. Voilà. Perfect gnocchi!
Straight out of medieval Europe
If you’re interested in the culinary world, you may have noticed that there has been a huge revival of historical food in the past few years — from early medieval all the way to the Victorian era. Breads, cakes, stews, it’s all coming back!
If you like that sort of thing and are interested in learning more, know that you yourself can apply some techniques at home with no fancy ingredients whatsoever. Just take some stale bread and use it to thicken your soup, just like they did back in the day.
Make your taste buds happy
At some point in life, we all want to expand our horizons. A great way to do that is through cooking and eating many different foods from all over the world! Why not start with Mexico, then? Ingredients and recipes are readily available pretty much anywhere!
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this recipe. Just take whatever corn tortillas you have around, add some cheese, eggs, onion, and whatever other vegetables and sauces you want, and stir fry it all together. Best chilaquiles ever!
Pasta primavera all year round
Pasta is one of the best ingredients out there. You can use it in pretty much anything, especially if you’re cooking Italian meals. Did you know, though, that pasta primavera isn’t really Italian? It is born and raised American. From New York City, baby!
Anyway, if you love its taste and versatility, then you’ll probably love to know you can make it using leftover vegetables! It’s especially good when it’s the end of the week, and you have a bunch of veggies left in the fridge.
Lazy man’s breakfast
It’s important to start our days well, with enough fuel in the tank to last for the many waking hours to come. That’s why doctors always tell us breakfast is the most important meal of the day! What better way to start your day than with a yummy plate of food?
Don’t believe us? Well, it’s true! This is especially good when you have a bunch of leftover food from the day before. Just toss it all in a pan with some eggs, and you’ll have a deliciously filling “lazy man’s breakfast” in no time!
If you enjoy making bread and have taken it upon yourself to make the perfect sourdough, then you probably have had to throw away many, many failed attempts before. If you want to stop wasting food, though, this is a great solution for you!
Sourdough discards are basically water and flour mixed together, and they can become pretty much anything. From muffins to pancakes to pretzels, the options are almost endless! Just pick whatever recipe you like best and use the discard accordingly. Now you can get more yummy food, even in your trial and error.
Middle eastern goodies
When it comes to the different cuisines around the world, people tend to love the Italian, French, Mexican and Japanese ones the best. What not every foreigner knows is just how good middle eastern food is! Sure, everybody knows hummus, but have you ever tried shakshuka?
This amazing dish may be considered street food elsewhere, but we guarantee you won’t have a better breakfast! All you need is whatever onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, and parsley you have in your fridge. Simmer it all together, then crack an egg on top. Wait for it to cook, and it’s ready to be eaten!
More leftover spaghetti
We have no idea where these people with leftover spaghetti come from or how they manage to not eat a whole batch of it in one sitting, but apparently, they do exist and walk among us! Anyway, do you have leftover spaghetti in your fridge? Here’s a quick recipe for you!
Just make fried spaghetti! It goes pretty much like fried rice — just throw your leftovers in a pan with some olive oil or even bacon grease. Then, dump all your old, diced vegetables in there with an egg or two! Mix it all together for a while, and it’s done!