My favorite ways to repurpose leftovers into not boring, actually delicious meals

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Cameron Rogers (@FreckledFoodie) is an In The Know Cooking contributor. Follow her on Instagram and check out her website for more.

Over the past few years, I have become dedicated to minimizing my food waste. To me, there is nothing more frustrating than spending money on groceries only to toss the majority of them in the trash.

To lower your waste, my first piece of (obvious) advice is to plan out your meals for the week — and buy appropriate amounts of ingredients for just those meals. But even if you do that, there will be times when you find yourself with leftovers because, well, life happens. Instead of immediately turning to the trash can, find ways to repurpose these ingredients.

Here are some of the most common leftovers I have throughout the week — and how I repurpose and revamp them.

Leftover vegetables: This is probably the most common leftover that people will find in their fridge. I repurpose leftover veggies in two main ways. If the vegetables are raw, I cut them into small pieces and toss them together in a skillet with some coconut aminos, sesame oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and ginger to eventually mix with rice in a stir fry. If the vegetables are already roasted or cooked, I use them to make a veggie-heavy egg frittata, sautéing the vegetables and adding in whisked eggs and cheese. For more details on how I do this, check out this Instagram post. If the leftover vegetables are scraps (i.e. celery leaves, carrot tops, etc.), I save them in a freezer bag alongside leftover chicken bones. Once the bag is full, I use the leftovers to make a homemade delicious and nutritious bone broth

Vegetable frittata
(Credit: Cameron Rogers)

Leftover fruit: Every time I buy strawberries, I turn around and suddenly they’re on their last leg. I know I can’t be alone in this! If I have fruit that’s about to mold, I pull out my blender and use them for smoothies or freeze them for later. Another way I love to repurpose fruit is in berry chia jam that I mix into my yogurt or oatmeal. 

Leftover grains: If you’re like me and make a large batch of quinoa, rice or farro for the week — and sometimes accidentally make a little too much of it — I have a trick for you. I love to toss leftover grains in a skillet with olive oil to crisp it up so that I can use it as a salad topping for that additional crunch factor.

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, $22.97

Credit: Amazon

Leftover ground beef, turkey or chicken: If you’re someone who, like me, makes weekly tacos, this may be a leftover you’re familiar with. If the ground protein is already cooked, I use it in a pasta sauce. In a pot, I throw together my favorite canned tomato sauce (recently, it’s Primal Kitchen‘s marinara sauce), the ground meat and some additional spices. I let that simmer for around 20-30 minutes to absorb the flavor and then pour the mixture on top of pasta. It’s an incredibly easy — and minimal effort — meal perfect for a Sunday dinner!

Pasta with meat sauce
Credit: Cameron Rogers

Leftover sauces: When I make a pasta sauce, I often end up making too much because I usually try to use up the full cans of whatever products I’m including. When that happens, I use my large silicone ice cube tray to freeze the sauces so that they are in individual sized portions for later use when I need a quick meal.  

Large Cube Silicone Ice Tray, $7.95

Credit: Amazon

Obviously, your leftovers may be different depending on your food preferences and habits. But I hope this inspires you to repurpose the most common items you have left at the end of the week. No matter what you find leftover in your kitchen, I encourage you to get creative and brainstorm ways to repurpose them. Forget the trash can!

If you enjoyed this article, check out Cameron Rogers’ pantry essentials!

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