The Power of Planned Leftovers

  Raise your hand if you hate leftovers! You can't see me but I'm jumping up and down with my hands up in the air because this is me to a T. This wouldn't be such a big problem, but like many students, I currently meal plan and cook just for myself so leftovers are an *unfortunate* inevitability. Cooking for one is hard, y'all! However, trying not to have leftovers (or wasting the leftovers that happen) is super impractical for both environmental and budgetary reasons, so I'm here today to tell you about how I not only made leftovers bearable, but - dare I say it - even...enjoyable? Yep, I went there.

Here's how to pick food that will taste great all week + save you time!


The first step is to figure out what kinds of food make good leftovers and plan to have extra of those, aka "planned-overs." I've found that the best planned-overs have a pretty good amount of (apologies in advance for using this word so much) moisture in them to prevent them from drying out in the fridge and during reheating.


Dishes with sauce or actual liquid (noodles with tomato sauce or pesto, soup, etc) are the real deal for this. Not only does the sauce keep everything from drying, but the flavors actually combine and get better overnight. If you're making any kind of meat for planned-overs, I highly recommend cooking it in the slow cooker on low + slow heat to help it retain any natural moisture. If you're baking a cut of meat or using another dry cooking method, try brushing on a little healthy fat like olive oil before cooking to help ward off dryness.


Another one of my favorite tips is to combine planned-overs + fresh foods to make a meal that feels brand-new! For example, stock up on this sweet potato hash and make fresh fried or poached eggs to go with each time you eat! So simple and so delicious. Other ideas for leftovers include:

  • Top grains with leftover meat or entree to make a bowl
  • Put it all into a tortilla for a taco
  • Put an egg on it
  • Add broth for a soup (this works especially well with the kale salad linked below)!


Here are some of my favorite recipes to cook once and eat again and again:

Emphasizing dishes that can be eaten again will not only help you save money by cutting down on food waste, but it will keep you from eating out or grabbing quick convenience food that isn't satisfying (but sometimes it is!) because you know inside your fridge lies a homecooked meal that will be just as good and even faster! Save leftovers up to 4 days or freeze (use this chart as a guideline).

How do you plan ahead for success?

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How to meal prep and plan leftovers to save money, time, and your sanity