How to Repurpose Leftovers & Leftover Ingredients to Save Money

Making good use of leftovers means that you can reduce waste, save money, and save time. With the help of our infographic guide, we make it easy and delicious to do!

  • By Jess Dang
  • July 9, 2019

So many of you are probably thinking, “I hate eating leftovers.” Honestly, we totally get not wanting to eat the same thing over and over again, but the thing is, cooking with leftovers in mind is one of the best ways to save money and stick to your food budget. In fact, you can dramatically lower your monthly food expenses by doing nothing but making use of leftovers!

If you’re not convinced yet, here are 3 different ways that being smart with leftovers can help you save money:

1. Not spending on takeout

Having leftovers on hand means not going out for lunch or grabbing a takeout dinner when you’re too tired to cook. Every meal that you purchase while you’re out and about will cost you so much more than the meals you cook at home. If you even cut out 3 pre-made lunches per week, you’ll end up saving $100+ per month (which is $1,200+ per year!).

2. Cooking for one

If you’re cooking for 1 or 2 people or family members have last-minute dinner plans, you’ll find that you’re left with odds and ends, especially since ingredients often come in 4 people servings. Unless you’ve planned your meals ahead of time or are good about freezing, a lot of those items will end up spoiling, which equals money in the trash. Using up those odds and ends in your cooking to make leftovers will save you money and time, which leads us to #3:

3. Save time

Remember that time is a valuable currency! Eating leftovers results in time saved in the kitchen (because you’re cooking once for multiple meals) or waiting in a lunch line, which means more time to do other things you value.

So logically, leftovers are a good thing. However, people rarely do things unless they enjoy them.

Many people find leftovers boring because they literally just ate that exact meal yesterday. However, we’ll show you creative ways to repurpose leftovers so they become an entirely new and exciting meal. For example, if you cook a chicken entree with a side of veggies on one night, you can easily use leftovers to make a flavorful Thai curry the next day. See! Similar ingredients, but a completely new dish. 

We have an infographic guide for you that shows how easy it is to get creative and make the most of your leftover ingredients like veggies, meat, beans, fruits, and herbs. This printable resource can serve as a handy reference chart and reminder to #reducefoodwaste and save money every day.

The idea of cooking once and then eating in two different ways is something we do all the time as part of our meal plan service. So, we’ve captured all our best ideas and secrets in our Guide to Repurposing Leftovers & Leftover Ingredients infographic here:


Guide to Using Leftovers & Leftover Ingredients

Get more life out of your leftovers, so that you can reduce food waste and save more money.

Helpful Tips

1. Plan for leftovers

When planning your meals for the week, purposely plan for leftovers by adding in a “Leftovers Day” on your calendar. This way, you won’t over-buy ingredients that will compete with leftovers to get used up before going bad. “Leftovers Day” can include eating leftovers as is, or if you want something creative, refer to the infographic above for ways to turn the leftovers into new, fun meals.

2. Utilize the freezer

If you are unable to get to your leftovers, put your freezer to work by cooking up repurposed leftover meals and freezing them for future busy weeknights when you don’t have time to cook.

3. Guide to pantry essentials

If you keep a well-stocked pantry, you can start transforming your leftovers into whole new meals immediately with a few simple, but creative, combos.

4. Join our cooking community

Lastly, when you join the efficient cooks in our community of Kitchen Heroes, you can get lots of great help and tips for leftovers when you post to the private group!

A little note:

This blog post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated with new and helpful resources.

Whether your aim is to save money or stop wasting so much food (or both!), putting our infographic to good use is a great way to start. For more tips on how to cook healthy on a budget and minimize waste, see our Cooking on a Budget series and our How to Reduce Food Waste Guide, or sign up for our newsletter below, where we’ll send you a weekly email with our best resources. And if you love our tips and want to help others save money and reduce food waste, please do share this post!

Guide for Creatively Using Leftovers | Cook SmartsGuide for Creatively Using Leftovers | Cook SmartsGuide for Creatively Using Leftovers | Cook SmartsGuide for Creatively Using Leftovers | Cook SmartsGuide for Creatively Using Leftovers | Cook Smarts

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