Dietitians Dish Their Creative Uses for Leftover Food

by | Updated: December 9th, 2019 | Read time: 2 minutes

The end of the year usually means your list is packed with to-dos, like shopping, cooking and cleaning your house for holiday guests. While making sure every detail is in place for the perfect celebration, you’re not really thinking about what’s next after the big feast is over, which is why utilizing leftovers for as many meals as possible is certainly a welcome break. But if you’re bored with the same old next-day meals, it’s time to step up your leftover game! Check out these creative leftover hacks from the Kroger Health Dietitian team.

Leftover foods: herbs in ice cube tray

Leftover vegetables

· Smoothies: Many people shy away from adding vegetables to smoothies, but most veggies simply add fiber and nutrients without drastically altering the flavor. Try adding steamed and then frozen cauliflower or spinach to sneak in a little extra nourishment; add 1 cup of plain Greek Yogurt and 1% milk for a high-protein, well-balanced smoothie option.
· Soups: If you’re not into smoothies, try revitalizing leftover vegetables by adding to stove top soups or your favorite slow cooker recipe.
· Pesto: Another great idea is to create a veggie-based homemade pesto sauce with extra spinach or spring mix, by combining with basil, pinenuts or walnuts, olive oil and Parmesan (or hemp seeds). 

Leftover turkey & ham

· Pizza: Use leftover meat and veggies to top homemade pizza or flatbread.
· Salad: Turn Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham into turkey or ham salad, or use whole grain bread to make the classic leftover sandwich.

Other leftovers

· Soups & breading: Leftover potato flakes can be a great soup thickener or crispy coating for proteins.
· Herb cubes: Freeze leftover herbs from stuffing or turkey with oil in ice cube trays to be used for sautéing your favorite foods.
· Casserole: Transform many different leftovers in a quiche recipe, breakfast casserole, or as a rice bowl. 

If you have more leftovers than you could possibly handle, your freezer will be your new best friend. Many leftovers can be stored in the freezer for an extended amount of time and thawed when ready to be used. Make sure to date all the items, as frozen cooked items should be thrown out after 3 months of storage in the freezer. It’s great to have these home-made freezer meals available for those winter nights when time for cooking is nowhere in sight. Be sure to seal your meals in an airtight container to prevent freezer burn.

Editor’s note: Check out these eco-friendly food storage options for freezing your leftover ingredients!