Generation Cedar

Stretching Your Money in the Kitchen Creative Ways to Use Left Overs

I love scrimping. Well, not scrimping, but seeing how far I can stretch a dollar. Even though Americans are known as the most wasteful of the world, I like to think we homemakers can redeem that stereotype with a little creativity.

Saving money in the kitchen is one of the best places to start.  You can reduce the cost per meal for your household by saving leftovers and using them to create new dishes.

Start with the obvious ways:

  • Leftovers for hubby’s lunch
  • Devote one night a week to eating up all the leftovers. A smorgasbord.

Then, do a little intentional planning.

croutons   Homemade croutons from bread ends/dry bread

These are so easy, and so scrumptious, you’ll be tempted to make a meal of them. If you love Ruby Tuesday’s croutons, these are close. Simple cut bread in small    squares, melt butter and garlic/garlic salt, and coat bread squares. Drop in hot oil   and fry for 1-2 minutes. Salt lightly, if desired. Crispy perfectness.


  • Leftover potatoes

Have a small bowl of potatoes too small to serve? Mash them and top a thick beef stew for Shepherd’s Pie. Or add them to any soup to thicken it.

  • Small bits of meat/vegetables


Save up small leftover portions of meat and/or veggies to make a savory soup. Just add stock, garlic and seasonings, diced tomatoes, and you’re done.

  • Peppers, onions going bad

Whether you found a great buy on produce and you can’t use it fast enough, or you just let some veggies get old, try to catch them before they’re ruined, chop them and stick them in the freezer. Another option is to throw them in a pot with water, butter, spices, etc. and cook up a nice broth to save later for soup.

  • Leftover chicken

It only takes a handful of chopped chicken to make a delicious casserole. Broccoli and rice, corn and rice or mixed vegetables and rice are a few optional additions. You can also make a simple, creamy sauce, flavored with curry to pour over for a Chicken Divan.

Or, add black beans and rice, taco seasoning and serve with tortillas or chips.

  • Leftover ham or beef

Chop, add cooked, cubed potatoes, onions, corn (optional) and a creamy sauce, and top with cheese. Delish!

  • Leftover oatmeal or grits

Turn them into a breakfast casserole.

What are you favorite leftover ideas? I would love to extend this post into the comments with all of your ideas. It’s all part of making the most of what we have been given.


For more inspiration, check out my ebook, Simple Cooking to Save You Money

Spread the love

22 Responses

  1. Ha! Yesterday I found onions I was going to throw away (or plant) today – but now they are ‘broth fodder’! 😉 Thanks so much! All the suggestions are super helpful. Praise God for His perfect timing!

  2. I use leftover cooked oatmeal in muffins that my whole family loves.

    1/2 c. oil
    2 eggs
    1 c. cooked oats
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 c. raisins
    1 c. brown sugar
    1 c. flour
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. baking soda

    Beat together oil, eggs, oats, vanilla, & raisins. Mix in sugar. Add last 3 ingredients. Stir until moist. (Makes a thin batter.) Pour into greased muffin tins, filling halfway or 3/4 full. Bake at 350* for about 18 minutes. Makes about a dozen muffins.

    I’ve made the following variations:

    *I use more oatmeal than called for (& my batter winds up thicker).
    *I use less sugar than called for.
    *I use less oil than called for, sometimes substituting applesauce for some of it. (My sis-in-law replaces all the oil with applesauce, & the muffins are tasty but a bit dry.)
    *I never measure the raisins; I just throw some in, but these are good without raisins, too, & other dried fruit also works well.
    *If I don’t have 2 eggs, I’ve just used one. (I’ll bet you could completely substitute mashed bananas for eggs.)
    *I usually have cinnamon in my oatmeal, & that adds nice flavor. I’ve also grated in nutmeg.

    This really is a versatile recipe. I’m sure you could also put pumpkin, pear sauce, or other pureed fruit/veggies in it. Zucchini would also be good.

  3. Universal Casserole

    Use whatever you have that are leftovers and add a little bit of fresh if you need it.

    Mix together:
    Rice or Noodles (optional, of course)
    Cream soup or gravy

    Top with:
    Breadcrumbs or Cheese

    Bake at 350 for 30 minutes

    Or you could make a universal quiche instead of a casserole (idea from the Tightwad Gazette)

    Mix together the following and pour over a pie crust.
    3 eggs
    1 cup of milk
    leftovers of whatever
    1 cups of cheese
    spice to taste

    Bake @ 425 for 10 minutes, then @350 for 45 minutes. I did a quick search, and this lady has a good recipe for it. I’ve tried the rice crust in the past and it’s pretty good.

  4. If I have 1 or 2 bananas going black, & I don’t want to freeze them, I add them to pancakes. I mash them in the bowl first (often substituting them for an egg) & use a bit less milk & add the rest of my ingredients. Then I also often add about a cup of rolled oats & some cinnamon for yummy banana pancakes!

  5. Don’t forget to use the chicken bones to make a stock. This is easy to make in the crockpot and needs very little attention.

    We tend to use left over mashed potatoes to make potato cakes. We shape the potato with an egg, roll in flour and shallow fry.

  6. Recently, I’ve started making falafels on occasion! Soak a cup or two of dry chic peas overnight (or all day). They plump way up. Whirl them in food processor (i have to do it in 2 batches) with an egg or two a small onion, salt, pepper, and parsley. Garlic is good too. Scrape down. It should make a pasty mash. Use a small meatball scoop, form balls and deep fry or pan fry til golden. Serve in pitas or rolled into a tortilla with lettuce, tomatoes and homemade ranch dressing. The kids actually LOVE them. They taste a little like a chicken patty. A regular one pound bag of them would probably make 50 1-inch balls (which would feed all 7 of us for 3+ suppers). I buy 20 lbs unclassified potatoes that are grown locally (and not sprayed!) for about $3. I try to plan my menu around leftovers too. I’ll buy a slightly bigger beef roast then shred the leftovers and crockpot them with onions and peppers and make fajitas with rice. Or Roast 2 whole chickens, pick the meat off, make broth, can it(for making delicious soup and rice dishes), and chop and freeze the meat in small portions. Defrost it for chicken salad, tacos, omlettes (oh yes chicken omlettes are awesome!). And a whole roaster is usually around $1.25/lb compared to boneless skinless which are $2 or more per pound (and you can’t make broth!).

  7. Don’t forget a garden! Last year we actually planted 1/4 of our total garden space with onions (about 8lbs of sets) and I STILL have a couple hanks of onions left. I know onions are not that expensive, but I would probably spend $8/month on onions alone (we eat a lot of them), and I only just started buying them 2 weeks ago! We pulled our onions in late August…. We also grew almost a bushel of carrots that lasted til mid march(in a patch only 6x10ft).

  8. I like to buy bananas when they go on sale. Our local grocery store will sell bananas for $.25/ lb when they are just getting good to eat (with spots and ripe). But for some reason most Americans don’t like them like this. So I buy them all when they are on sale. I peel, cut and freeze the ones that are really ripe. The ones that are not fully ripe I use for banana bread and freeze; use them in smoothies and the kids will snack on them all day.

    Left over oatmeal is also great to add to fruit smoothies. You can go for less milk more water since the oatmeal will thicken the smoothies nicely.

    I make hummus with beans I find at the store. Chickpeas is more expensive and hard to find sometimes.

    Add beans to any soup and you have a big pot of nutritious food. I cook my dry beans in big batches and then freeze 2-4 cups at time. When I need quick lunch I defrost a container and make some rice. When I need soup to go farther, I add a container of frozen beans to the pot. When I want to make ground meat go further, I add frozen cooked beans to the them and make chilli. Beans are so versatile and so easy to cook and have ready whenever you need.

    Sometimes I have greens or other veggies that the kids will not eat. I make a big batch of soup and blend it all. Serve with chips or cheese/ sour cream and they devour it all. 😉

    Left over cooked chicken breast: I add to eggs and a little milk and blend it. Cook like a big crepe/ pancake. Fill each one with cheese or veggies. It’s a protein packed breakfast. My kids can go for 5 hours without eating after our “chicken pancakes”. 🙂

    I also make breakfast casserole: eggs, milk and whatever you got leftovers in the fridge. Pour into a 9×11 glass dish and bake for 20-30 min. Serve with ketchup and/or fruit.

    ah, one more! (last one promise!) when I am chopping veggies (carrots, celery, onions etc) I save the scraps (ends and peels) and put them into a container and freeze them. When I need to make soup stock I just add them to a big pot of water and you got soup stock. NO need to waste whole veggies making stock.

  9. Love posts like this.. Reminds me of my Gramma saying “make do or do without!” or “If you don’t eat it up then we’ll all go hungry!”

    Haha I miss the “old days” of saving things and making do – I manage to feed our little family of 5 on about $200 a month in groceries!
    Also most of what you buy in a store CAN be planted of you’re short on $$ and want to grow some foods!

  10. Loved all the comments, ideas, and recipes, Here’s one idea that is fun. Children will enjoy. Whenever I cut up vegetables, I save the cores and discard pieces to plant. I keep a nice sized pot near a window and always have cabbage, beets, onions, garlic, etc, growing there. These are great to add to salads and soups, and I grew them inside all winter or outside when it is warm from the what-would-have-been discarded parts of vegetables. Give it a try; it is soooo easy to do.

  11. Phyllis,

    If you have a chance, I would love to hear a tutorial on how to plant discarded veggie ends, etc. Do you plant them all in one pot? And, what do you plant in terms of specific veggie discards?

    Thanks for your help.

  12. One of hubby’s favorite meals is meatloaf and baked potatoes (with sides). We all like this, so we make a pretty good-size batch that yields leftovers for at least a couple extra meals. My husband likes cold meatloaf sandwiches for his lunch the next day, or he’ll mix together the leftover meatloaf and potatoes with a steamed veggie or some cooked pinto or kidney beans, and put it all in one microwaveable container with butter on top of the potatoes to reheat at work.

    Leftover meatloaf and potatoes (baked or boiled) make a good breakfast, also, when fried in butter and olive oil. Often when that is finished frying, we push it to the edge of the pan and fry a couple eggs to go with it. Makes a really good breakfast that isn’t so heavily grain-based, something I’m trying to rely on less than I used to.

  13. To plant veggie parts, I just keep a large planting pot by a window with good potting soil. When I cut up a head of cabbage, for exmaple, I just cover the core (that would have been thrown away) with soil in the pot and water it periodically. Surprisingly, soon you will see young, tender cabbage leaves growing out of the soil covered core. I snip these off and put them in a salad or cook them for a small, fresh serving of a homegrown vegetable, right from my windowsill. I’ve tried this with beet ends and they grow beautiful beet greens and eventually little beets under the dirt. I’m sure everyone knows that you can plant onions and garlic that start to sprout out of the bulbs. So far, I have not been able to get a cauliflower core to sprout, but I just plan to try any hearty vegetable part in the planting pot; I guess the failures will just become compost :). I’m so amazed by this serendipitous discovery. Who knew that discard veggie parts can become edible plants?

  14. Phyllis, this is truly ingenious. I have had potatoes, cabbage, flowers and herbs growing out of my compost pile. I just move them to a raised bed or a pot/ container and enjoy this unexpected gift from God. Last year, we had 2 cantaloupe plants volunteer grow out of one of my raised beds that had been filled with some of my compost. We truly enjoyed those sweet melons. 🙂

  15. Actually, that’s how I discovered this “blessing”: I also found a cabbage growing from the core in my compost bed. From there I’ve branched out to all kinds of veggies, including celery, ginger, avacado, and BTW, my cauliflower did grow. I’ve got greens coming up out of the cauliflower stalk. It just amazes me, that so many wonderful plants can grow out of the discard stalks and other parts right out of the kitchen trash bin or what might have gone to the compost bed. God provides sweet gifts in so many surprising ways!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *