I don’t know about you, but we have A LOT of leftovers.
My kids just leave on their plates and in their cups from my making too much at one time or only the small bits and pieces from meals.
It’s soooooo wasteful just to throw them away.
What’s worse is that I find myself putting them in the fridge.
That’s not so bad, though, right? Except that leftovers like that just sit in there until they’re thrown away.
I had to call up my best friend to discuss how do YOU deal with all the leftovers?
Is there something I am missing?
So after my hour and a half long conversation, I’m sharing with you the top 11 creative ways to use leftovers from kids
We don’t always have a ton of leftover veggies and fruit lying around.
My oldest daughter is a veggie eating machine and is still happy to finish someone’s broccoli, but the half-eaten apples, bananas, and oranges seem to run rampant.
To combat just throwing those leftovers in the bin or compost pile, think smoothies!
Smoothies are a great way to incorporate some hidden veg if your kiddos put up a fight for wanting to eat something green.
Bonus - if you find there’s leftover milk in a cup after mealtimes, just freeze it in an ice cube tray, and you have your ice cubes for smoothies.
Most cooked vegetables and raw/cooked fruit freeze well.
You can keep adding to your “smoothie bag” until you have enough collected to make a smoothie. Blend and serve!
2. French Toast Bake
We love french toast like LOVE french toast.
My kids ask for it all the time, and making straight-up french toast can be more work and effort than I’m willing to put in, especially on a weekday.
French toast bake is an easy make-ahead meal that you can prep overnight, pop into the fridge, and stick in the oven in the morning (or night if you’re having brinner!)
All of those bits and pieces of bread?
The crust that HAS to be cut off that sandwich?
Save those leftovers!
I like to let them dry out on a plate for a day or two, and then they are placed in a reusable bag or container until I’m ready to prep the bake.
Not a fan of french toast?
We can’t be friends anymore. Just kidding.
Make some breadcrumbs for meatballs, homemade chicken nuggets, or anything you would end up purchasing store-bought breadcrumbs.
3. Get Your Freeze On
This one, while not creative, can still reduce your waste and help out on the days you just can’t, don’t want to, or your day got away from you.
Noodle and Rice Dishes tend to freeze well and can be reheated in the oven or stovetop with ease making them an amazing option for leftovers.
Dole out a family size or individual portion into your leak-proof bags and stick in the freezer.
Have extra plain rice?
Repurpose that starchy goodness and whip up some rice pudding or one of our favorite desserts, Zarda!
4. Mozzarella Sticks
I love me a good mozzarella stick.
Heck, sometimes that’s dinner.
Yep, we don’t always make the best choices, but sometimes momma is tired, and the kids are having one of those days, cheese to rescue.
Fried or baked gooey cheese is almost always a win.
Don’t pitch those leftover sticks, though!
That mozzarella cheese can be put to good use.
De-crumb and reuse that cheese! Mac n Cheese Night, Pizza Bagels, or even that lasagne you were planning on making.
If you cheese it - those leftover bits can be used.
5. Fruit Cups, Pouches, and Cans
Have you almost stepped on a half-full fruit pouch? No? Just me?
Canned fruit cups, pouches, and cups can be added to any baked good in place of eggs. Sure, apple-based may work a bit better, but nearly any mushy fruit will do!
Okay, but what about the veg? Same deal!
Leftover carrots and zucchini make a fine bread.
You can even dump in that ¼ cup of chocolate chips that are leftover from the last time you made cookies.
The kids will love that they’re getting a little bit of chocolate, and you’ll rest better knowing that they ate some vegetables.
6. Pancakes and Waffles
Pancakes and waffles for days.
My kiddos are carb obsessed. We just talked about french toast after all.
We can make these a bit healthier while using up some leftovers!
Some add-ins we love:
Leftover canned pumpkin, apples, bananas, fruit and vegetable pouches, and even those chocolate chips we talked about.
Eh. Live a little, right?
Don’t forget to check cups after mealtimes for water and milk that can be reused in your favorite pancake recipe.
If your kids are still handsy, I would probably just skip this, but if they are drinking responsibly, don’t dump out that water they didn’t finish!
Make ice cubes, save them in a reusable water bottle for later or keep it handy for the next time you make rice or noodles.
That water can also be used in your favorite homemade play-doh recipe!
Are you an essential oils momma?
Use that in your diffuser! I mean, why not?
8. Ice, Ice, Baby
We’ve talked about ice cubes a few times now, but it doesn’t stop with milk and water. JUICE!
Oh my gosh, so much juice.
I’m also guilty of leaving a few sips of juice in my cup, and there’s not really a good reason it should just end up in the sink - which was my first thought.
Juice can be used to make popsicles!
If you don’t have a popsicle mold, just use your ice cube tray and some popsicle sticks.
No popsicle sticks?
I’m sure your child would still love a bowl and juicy cube or two.
9. Winner Winner, Chicken Nugget Dinner
Many chicken nugget dinners happen here.
Due to many sensory needs on many different levels in our family, sometimes it’s just the best course of action - no shade to my chicken nugget mommas.
You have found your safe place.
But what about that one or two leftovers?
Sure, I could add some more calories to my day. Not a problem.
Load that up with some honey or bbq sauce and done.
OR you can decrumb and save the meat!
If your house is anything like mine, you’ll have enough chicken by the end of the week to supplement meatballs, cheeseburgers, or really anything that calls for a ground protein!
10. Mashed Potatoes
Are you sensing a carb theme? MMMM.
Homey, creamy mashed potatoes.
Is there anything better? YUM.
I can never figure out if my family will scarf everything down or if they’re just going to play in them and nibble.
It’s never consistent. EVER.
Again, we could reheat, but we’re creating today!
Are you a fan of donuts? Ya?
Work those into your favorite donut recipe! Just do it. Trust me.
Shepherds Pie tends to be the go-to for these, though.
Okay, so it’s not a real shepherd’s pie.
I don’t lamb. It’s more of a ground beef casserole with some onions, peas, mashed potatoes, and cheese, but it’s SOOOO GOOOOD.
Have some leftover mozzarella?
That would probably pair pretty well!
11. The Simplest Way
Dedicate one day a week as a leftover day!
This gives you a day off. WHOO!
Moreover, it would ensure that your fridge is effectively cleaned out once a week, and there won't be a surprise waiting for you.
The worst. Literally. The leftover day is really just like a buffet.
There’s something for everyone!
You can even dress up your leftovers pretty quickly with some tortillas.
You get a taco, and you get a taco! Everyone gets a taco!
As some of you may know, we eat quite a bit of Pakistani food here, and I’d be lying if I said we never put chicken biryani in a tortilla….It’s akin to a burrito. YUM.
Conclusion - Creative Ways to Use Your Leftovers
I hope you have been inspired!
Even if you don’t end up being super creative with your leftovers, we can definitely up your food storage game!
Have you ever just dumped your leftovers into yogurt, butter, or sour cream container only to forget that they’re in there until weeks later?
Guilty as charged.
The easiest way to change this is to start using Planet Wise's Leak-Proof Bags. I did and I will never go back.
Planet Wise Leak-Proof Bags are freezer safe, leak-proof, and CLEAR!
You can quickly identify what you’ve frozen or tucked into your fridge without it being forgotten amongst the other containers and jars in your fridge.
All of my frozen veggies and meats are freezer burn-free thanks to Planet Wise, and your leftovers can be too.