Leftovers Re-Imagined: 10 Ways to Transform Leftover Meals

Meal Ideas Dietitian Calgary NW

Leftovers get a bad rap. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. It really doesn’t. While some leftovers get better with age, others can be transformed into new and dare I say, better, creations. That’s what I’m here to talk about today - reinventing or re-imagining our leftovers. 



Stuff it!

Turn leftovers into a delicious filling for stuffed peppers. This works great for leftover curries, stirfrys, or some casseroles like Shepard’s pie. Just cut the top off of a bell pepper, empty out the seeds, stuff it, top with cheese and bake. Seriously, it's just that easy!


Wrap it!

This works for so many leftover dishes. If you have leftover meat and veggies (including salads), these make a great filling for wraps. What’s more is that while you can use a regular corn or wheat tortilla to do your wrapping, you can also get creative by using collard greens, nori sheets and rice paper (usually used for salad rolls). If it can roll it up, then you can use it to re-imagine your leftovers into a creative wrap. Don't stop with just adding your leftovers to a wrap, try adding your favourite condiments or cheeses to take your creation to the next level.


Change it (salad edition)!

Leftover salads are super versatile. What I love about salads is that you can use them as a base and exchange the toppings to create new meals. Try making a big salad (bigger than you need for your current meal) and keep the leftovers for making different types of salads. Add different proteins - meats, fish (canned fish works great), poultry, tofu (smoked tofu is particularly delicious) or nuts. Varying the salad dressing, and adding roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa or other whole grains are other ways to change up your salads and give them new life.


Freeze it!

While freezing isn’t necessarily transforming your leftovers into something new, it does give your leftovers a second chance at life (or, um...being a meal). It’s better in the freezer than being wasted. Just make sure you do an occasional inventory of your freezer to prevent a build up of frozen leftovers. 

Got leftover grains like rice, quinoa or barley? Freeze them. Grains generally freeze really well and, if frozen in meal-sized portions, can be easily brought out and defrosted for the next meal you plan with those certain grains. Of course, lots of other leftovers can be frozen, too. If you know you aren’t going to use a certain leftover in time, freeze it. Not sure if it will freeze well? If in doubt, try it out - try freezing it to see if it defrosts and reheats well. Again, this is a better option than just throwing out perfectly good food. This can give you a little extra time to plan out what you want to do with your leftovers, too!

For more information about freezing foods check out canyoufeezethis.com.


Soup it!

Ever find yourself with small portions of leftover veggies, meat, tofu, legumes or grains? Are these portions too small to make an additional meal? Then try putting them into a soup (or freezing them to put into a soup later). These leftover odds and ends can be added to a soup that you make from scratch or even added to a store-bought soup to make it a little more hardy. Soups are a great way to use up tasty bits of food!


Scramble it!

Leftovers can be a great addition to scrambled eggs. Excess vegetables are especially good when added to scrambled eggs (plus this is a fantastic way to get some veggies in at breakfast time!). Lots of other foods can also be added to scrambled eggs. Leftover chopped up meat (hello steak and eggs!) and even quinoa make a tasty additions to a breakfast scramble.


Sauce it!

Another clever way to revitalize your leftovers is to add them to a pasta sauce. Tomato-based pasta sauces are particularly good for housing leftover vegetables and legumes. Not a fan of too many veggies in your pasta sauces? Try pureeing them and mixing it in with your sauce - you may hardly know they are there!

Top it!

Potatoes (including sweet potatoes), portobello mushrooms and winter squashes are just asking to be topped (and baked). Leftover meats, sausage, pilafs, curries, chili, and veggies can be nestled on top (and perhaps, topped with a cheese) and baked to create a delicious re-imagined meal. Yum!

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Blend it!

Believe it or not, some leftovers can make great additions to smoothies. This works best for bland or unflavoured cooked veggies, lentils or black beans. It might sound crazy but if it’s bland enough, it won’t actually throw the flavour of your smoothie off too much. Leafy greens, zucchini and cooked cauliflower work great blended into your usual breakfast smoothie. I also hear great things about adding a small portion of black beans and lentils to your smoothie, as well. This way you can boost the nutritional power of your breakfast without much effort!


Search it!

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a suggestion of what to do with your leftover ingredients but a suggestion of how to discover new ways to use up what’s in your fridge. There are a number of sites that can help you use up leftover foods or random ingredients gathering dust in your fridge and pantry. These resources are a great way to get inspired and to decrease your impact on food waste.

Try checking the following websites out:


What about you? What are your favourite ways to transform Leftovers? Leave a comment below. 

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