In the culinary world, leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving. Don’t have anything to fill your sandwich with? Add the leftover chicken from last night, and viola! Your boring sandwich just went from 0 to 100 real quick. Cooked a delicious roast lamb that didn’t get eaten? Save it for tomorrow night’s casserole. Want to spice up your homemade pizza? Add the leftover roast ham from Thanksgiving.
Turning recipes that are not only delicious right after serving, but also as leftovers a day or two (or three or four) later can help save you time and money, and reduce your carbon footprint by cutting down on food waste.
How can you make leftover dishes interesting?
Using leftovers also gives you the perfect excuse to get creative with your culinary skills. Think stews that get better with age, salads that pop with flavour and hearty soups that’ll warm your soul.
If you’re stuck for inspiration and often find yourself wondering, ‘what should I do with leftover dinner?’ Look no further, as we’ve rounded the best forward-thinking ways you can use your leftovers.
Easy Roast Meat Leftover Recipes
Bulk up your super-food salad with protein by adding leftover roast chicken, or take inspiration from Jennifer Garner with leftover chicken soup. Cooking in batches? Use your leftover chicken as a substitute to fill healthy lunch recipes for the week.
Use leftover holiday ham as the ultimate baked potato filling, or make an easy dinner even easier by adding leftover ham to Cacio e pepe. Can’t be bothered cooking? Use leftover roast ham to make mini ham and cheese sandwiches.
Easy dinner ideas
Once your leftovers are stored correctly, there’s no need to trawl through recipes for dinner ever again! Okay, maybe not ever again (everyone loves a fancy dinner party), but it does make weeknight dinners easier. Pile your leftovers onto nachos or turn your leftover rice into rice pudding.
Not sure what to do with the excess hot cross buns you bought at Easter? Try making bread and butter pudding.
Too much turkey leftover from your Thanksgiving dinner party? A creative way to mash all your Thanksgiving leftovers together is by making dumplings. Simply fill a spoonful of the leftovers together into a circle of dough, and you’ve got turkey dumplings.
Give Christmas leftovers a second chance with some of our favourite holiday leftover dishes, from pudding, stuffed mushrooms and omelettes.
Are leftovers safe to eat?
Part of using leftovers is safely knowing the best ways to store food and for how long. If you forgot to put your leftovers away and it’s only been an hour or two, you’re in the clear. But if the food temperature drops under 60 degrees, the risk of bacterial growth – and food poisoning – increases.
Take note of the food expiry dates before storing leftovers. Although the leeway with best-before dates and use-by dates vary, it’s still good to keep track. Look for signs of deterioration like mould, slime and discolouration. If you see any of these then it’s best to turn the leftovers in question into food scraps for the garden.
How to store leftover food
Having a well-organized fridge and pantry is oh-so-satisfying. So your first step to storing leftovers is making sure you have practical food storage containers. Glass storage containers are good for leftovers because they are reusable and sustainable. You can also see through glass which helps when deciding what to eat.
To help fruit and vegetables last longer, store batches in snap-lock bags in the freezer. Don’t forget to label and date the bags. That way, you can keep track of how long the leftovers have been in the freezer. You can also use wax paper – a more green solution – to keep frozen foods from sticking together.
When should you throw out food?
Leftovers should be used within three to four days if refrigerated, or three to four months if frozen.
Help limit food waste
Why use leftover food? According to OzHarvest data, a third of all food produced around the world ends up in landfills. In Australia alone, 7.6 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year. Using leftover food is a good habit for avoiding food waste and loss. It’s just one of several food waste tips you can follow to help reduce your impact on the environment.
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