Planned Leftovers

— Written By Jeannie Leonard and last updated by Jill Cofer
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Container of leftovers in frigUsing leftovers not only saves money, but it can also save time. The most obvious way leftovers save time is that the dish is already cooked and usually all you have to do is warm it up. Instead of just reheating the leftovers, think about having planned leftovers.

“Planned leftovers” means to plan on cooking more of something in your current meal to use for an upcoming planned meal. For example, if you are having roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and roasted vegetables for dinner tonight, you could plan on cooking double the amount of roast beef that your family normally eats so you can use the extra already cooked roast beef in tomorrow nights dinner which is planned to be open faced, hot roast beef sandwiches and green salad. You could even go the extra length and make double the amount of mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables to make potato pancakes and pasta salad with sliced roasted vegetables to go with the open faced hot roast beef sandwiches. You would have most of your meal already prepared for you.

Of course, this takes a little time to plan, but cooking this way will save you a lot more time than what it took to plan it. Planning will ensure that you have the right ingredients on hand for your planned meals.

You don’t need any special cookbooks or recipes to plan meals this way, just some thought about the way you use your leftovers. You could sit down with a notebook and pen and write down all the ways in which you use leftovers. If you need more ideas, surf the web or ask your friends. Note: This notebook could have ongoing leftover ideas for variety. Once you have this information, you can then plan your meals for the week either in your notebook or on a calendar. Say you want to have chili and cornbread this week. Plan on making a double batch of chili to use the next night as chili dogs (or maybe even a triple batch so family members can use some for lunches). Once you have your menu planned, then you’ll need to make a shopping list to ensure you have all ingredients needed.

Recipe #1: So-Easy Spaghetti Bolognese


  • One-fourth lb spaghetti, uncooked
  • One-half lb lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (one half of 14.5 oz can) Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp Zesty Italian Dressing
  • One- cup Grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. Cook pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, brown meat with onions and garlic in large nonstick skillet. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and dressing. Bring to boil; cook on medium-low heat 5 min or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta; place in large bowl. Add meat sauce; mix lightly. Sprinkle with cheese.

Recipe #2: Zesty Beef Chili

  1. Plan ahead! Cook pasta and prepare meat sauce as directed, doubling all ingredients except pasta and cheese. Remove one-half meat sauce; refrigerate overnight. Continue with main recipe and serve as directed. The next day, spoon meat sauce into large saucepan; stir in 1-15oz kidney beans (drained), one-half cup salsa and 1 Tbsp. chili powder. Cook and stir until heated through. Top evenly with one-fourth cup Mexican-style shredded cheese.