Cook Once Eat Twice: Using Leftovers

Planning to turn your leftovers into a specific meal can help save time and money. See more leftovers pictures.
©2007 Corbis

Q. How can I make the most of leftovers?

A. Leftovers are a fact of life. Sometimes they can be wonderful, and sometimes they're the last thing you want to face again. However, there is another way to look at leftovers -- a way that can save you time, effort, and money.

Instead of having unplanned leftovers, why not have "planned-overs" on hand? Planned-overs are a key extra ingredient such as beef, chicken, fish, pork or turkey, that you prepare in extra quantities to use in a future meal. With planned-overs, you cook it once but eat it twice. What could be easier than that?


Putting a cook-once, eat-twice plan into action is easy. If you roast a chicken, for example, why not roast two at the same time?

Or roast a chicken larger than your immediate needs -- the extra cooked chicken meat can be shredded or cubed for a number of dishes later in the week, from delicious Mexican-style chicken soup to steaming pot pie. The cooked shredded or cubed meat can also be frozen for future use.

Cooking once and eating twice also means you can save money by purchasing and cooking extra chickens or roasts when they're on sale.

Here are some ideas for cooking once and eating twice with cooked beef, chicken, fish, pork, and turkey.

Beef: Make a shepherd's pie by mixing cooked, cubed beef with ready-to-use frozen pea, carrot, and corn medley and jarred or homemade gravy or white sauce. Top the meat and vegetable mixture with ready-to-use mashed potatoes. Top the potatoes with ready-to-use reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese.

Chicken: Make quesadillas by layering cooked, shredded chicken on warmed low-carb, multi-grain wraps or whole-wheat tortillas with reduced-sodium, fat-free refried beans, ready-to-use reduced-fat shredded cheese, sliced red and green bell peppers, sliced green onions, salsa, and a dollop of nonfat sour cream.

Discover great tips on how to use leftover chicken.
©2007 HowStuffWorks

Make a pot pie by combining cooked, cubed chicken with ready-to-use frozen stewing vegetables, low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth or homemade white sauce, and refrigerated biscuit dough for the crust.

Make stuffed tomatoes, red or green peppers, cantaloupe, or honeydew half with chicken salad made with cooked, cubed chicken, celery, sweet or dill pickle, and reduced-fat mayonnaise. Add grapes, a little curry powder or bottled chutney for a flavor twist.

Fish: Make burritos with cooked salmon, catfish, or other firm-fleshed fish. Stuff the burrito with chopped cucumbers, sliced scallions, chopped tomatoes, reduced-sodium, fat-free refried beans, shredded lettuce, ready-to-use shredded reduced-fat cheese, salsa, fat-free sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice. Wrap everything in a whole-wheat tortilla or a high-fiber, low-carb wrap.

Make baked fish cakes and potato wedges with cooked firm-fleshed fish such as catfish or salmon. Flake the fish and mix with minced celery, green onion, red and green bell pepper, egg-white and a little reduced-fat mayonnaise. Form into patties.

Cut unpeeled baking potatoes into wedges lengthwise. Brush lightly with olive oil and season to taste with salt, black pepper, and dried herbs or Cajun spice blend. Bake the fish cakes and potato wedges on a lightly oiled baking sheet until golden, turning potatoes occasionally.

Pork: Make chili with cooked pork roast, pork chops, pork tenderloin, or pork sausage by adding reduced-sodium kidney beans, diced zucchini, red and green bell pepper rings, onion, garlic, reduced-sodium crushed tomatoes, chili powder, and black pepper. Serve with ready-to-use reduced-fat shredded cheese.

Turkey: Make a barbecue turkey pizza using shredded cooked turkey roast, turkey breast, or sliced turkey sausage by layering sliced green onion, celery, reduced-sodium black beans, ready-to-use reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese, and reduced-sodium barbecue sauce over ready-to-use whole-grain frozen bread dough that has been thawed and shaped into a round.

Roasted Turkeys
Too much turkey? Use your creativity to make the most of leftovers.

Make a stir-fry using cubed turkey roast, turkey breast, or sliced turkey sausage cooked with ready-to-use fresh or frozen oriental vegetable medley, reduced-sodium soy sauce, sesame seeds, and canned and drained mandarin oranges. Serve with cooked brown rice and garnish lightly with chow mein noodles.

Make Mexican-style soup with shredded cooked turkey roast, turkey breast, or diced turkey sausage heated with reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth, frozen, canned, or fresh corn kernels, frozen or canned lima beans, reduced-sodium garbanzo beans, reduced-sodium crushed tomatoes, frozen or fresh chopped spinach, and salsa. Serve in a shallow bowl garnished with 3 baked corn tortilla chips, reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese and a small dollop of fat-free sour cream.