Five simple ways to makeover leftovers

Many families throw away money every week when they clean out the fridge. Not eating leftovers or losing them in the fridge can bust the grocery budget. While many kids (and adults) might not like eating leftovers, there are simple ways to give leftovers a second chance. 

Taco Meat

Taco’s taste better the second time around after the meat has had time to absorb the seasoning. Give taco meat a new twist by serving taco salad, or mixing it with re-fried beans and cheese and rolling it in a tortilla. Add it to eggs for a spicy breakfast, or use it in a mexi-cali cornbread casserole. Serve nachos on game day with taco meat, chili beans, cheese, and sour cream. The kids will love tater-tot nachos and these twice baked taco potatoes are a super cheap meal when using leftover taco meat. 


Leftover rotisserie chicken can be transformed into many different meals. Chop it up and use for chicken salad, mix it with salsa and black beans for chicken tacos. Shred it and add bbq sauce for bbq chicken sandwiches. Use it in chicken pot pie, or add to to stir-fry veggies. Chicken is so versatile it is worth cooking a whole chicken in a crock pot and creating at least three meals from one chicken
Spaghetti and meat sauce

Serve it a little differently the next night as baked spaghetti. Use the meat sauce to top a pizza or fill a calzone. The noodles can be mixed with vegetables in a pasta stir-fry, or mixed with a little cream and romano cheese for an alfredo dish. 

Mashed potatoes 

Leftover mashed potatoes taste great for breakfast when fried up as potato pancakes. Use mashed potatoes to top shepherd’s pie or as a filling for twice baked potatoes. Mashed potatoes can take center stage with a potato bar. Set out several toppings and let everyone top their own cup of mashed potatoes. Taco meat, shredded beef, grilled steak, chili, shredded cheese, sour cream, grilled vegetables make great toppings. 


A large roast can last several meals with these leftover ideas. Use in shredded beef tacos, by shredding the roast and mix with salsa. Shred the roast and add to a salad with corn, black beans, and salsa for a twist on taco salad. Mix shredded roast with bbq sauce and serve on rolls. Use leftover roast in beef and bean soup or as a filling in shepherd’s pie. 

Leftover buffet

This is the easiest way to serve leftovers. Empty the fridge and create a buffet of leftovers. Family members can go through the buffet and choose their favorites on an oven safe plate. Reheat in the oven (or microwave) and serve. 

Grocery savings can be found in the fridge if by planning one leftover night a week. Don’t waste time and money by throwing leftovers down the drain.

Toni Anderson is founder of The Happy Housewife, where she blogs about practical ways to live well, save more and have fun. Toni is a military wife and stay-at-home (schooling) mom to seven kids. She is also a DealPro and teaches Savings Nation workshops that help people learn how to save up to 50% off their grocery bills.


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  1. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    We use left over taco meat for quesadillas, works great in the quesadilla grill. Taco burritos are also an option as well as taco nachos, just add a little refried beans then melt cheese on top. Yummy!


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