How to Create Fun & Delicious Meals with Leftovers

With grocery store shelves almost bare, we are all searching for easy recipes. The requirements are simple: healthy, delicious, and easy. And, hopefully, those recipes will make good use of the leftovers.

Here are a few that meet the requirements.  The best part is each one can easily be turned into more than one meal using leftovers!

Just so you know: This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission, but it does not affect the price you pay!

The Basic Easy Recipes

Fun Meals with Leftovers

Baked Chicken

1 whole chicken
1 onion, sliced or chopped
1 bay leaf
2 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in 2 cups warm water or 2 cups of chicken broth
Seasonings, to taste (I use garlic powder, Tony’s and  Seasoned Pepper)

Wash chicken.  Season on all sides and place in either a roasting pan, or a roasting bag.  Add the chopped onion and bay leaf.  Pour water in the pan, cover (or seal the bag) and place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.  Allow to cook for approximately 1.5 hours (if in the bag) or 2 hours (if in a roaster) or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork.

Note:  You can also bake your chicken in the Pampered Chef roaster in the microwave.  I have one and use it often.   40 minutes in the microwave and 10 minutes rest time (with the lid still on) and you have a wonderfully roasted chicken waiting to go on the table. 

If you use this, make sure you follow the directions (you don’t add water to it – it makes its own juices). 

Turkey can be baked the same way, only the baking time will change.  Bake a turkey at 350 degrees for 13 minutes per pound if not stuffed – 15 minutes per pound if stuffed.  If you bake it in a roaster and not in a bag, be sure to baste the turkey occasionally to prevent it from drying out.

Ham makes perfect leftovers

Baked Ham

1 whole Ham

2 cups Water

Pineapple rings, if desired

Place ham in a baking dish.  Add the water.  If using pineapple, place them across the surface of the ham, using toothpicks to secure.  Cover with foil.  Place in a 350 degree oven, and bake for one hour.  Remove foil, and return to the oven to bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Side Dishes

When thinking in terms of easy recipes to create more than one meal, choose your sides accordingly.  Casseroles can be used as leftovers, but not integrated into soups or other meals.

If you are serving chicken or turkey, consider having carrots, corn or a type of bean.  Green beans, limas and English peas work well when used in soups and stews.

Leftover broccoli and cauliflower can be added to Broccoli Cheese Soup. When chopping onions, celery and bell peppers, go ahead and chop up extra.  Those three can be added to almost any meal!

A pear salad is delicious as a side.  Chop up the leftover pears and add them to a chicken salad.  They can also be sliced and used in place of the strawberries in a Strawberry Spinach Roll Up.

Keep rice handy, as well as a few different types of pasta, and you will have easy recipes to make for a week or more!

Using the Leftovers

Chicken is one of the most versatile meats.  It can be cubed and used in casseroles.  Chopped, it makes a delicious chicken salad.  And sliced chicken can be turned into sandwiches.  Better yet, use leftover chicken or turkey and vegetables to create a delicious pie! 

make pot pies with leftovers

Turkey (or Chicken) Pot Pie

Enough Pie Crust to fill approximately 9 small pie pans, both top and bottom  – or – enough to fill one 9″ pie plate, top and bottom – or – enough to cover bottom and top of a 13x9x2 casserole dish. Prepare crust and line the bottom of your chosen pan or dish with crust.

For the Turkey or Chicken

Leftover turkey or chicken, skinned, de-boned and chopped
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 sm. Container Sour Cream
½ t. Salt
1 t. Garlic Powder

Mix salt, pepper and garlic powder together and sprinkle over the turkey or chicken. Mix well. Add the soup and sour cream and stir until well blended.

Vegetables for the Pot Pie:

1 c. sliced Carrots
½ c. chopped Onions
½ c. chopped Celery
½ c. chopped Bell Peppers
3 T. Butter
1 c. Water
2 T. Flour

Melt butter in heavy pan. Add all the vegetables and cook until almost tender, about 12 minutes. Add water and flour, stirring gently. Add chicken with sauce, and mix well.

At this point you can either pour the mixture into a prepared pie pan or casserole dish, or divide it into the smaller individual pie pans. Top with crust and crimp edges. Pierce the top with a fork. Freeze – or bake according to directions below:

When you are ready to bake them, thaw, then put them in an oven that has been preheated to 425 degrees. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until crust is lightly golden brown.

Fun with Leftovers

Chicken Noodle Soup

Boil one whole chicken.  Fill a pot large enough to hold the chicken with water.  Add two stalks of celery, 4 carrots and 1 medium onion that has been cut into large chunks. Add one bay leaf.  Season water with salt, pepper, Tony Chachere’s and a little garlic powder (to taste).  Add chicken.  Boil until chicken is very tender.  Remove chicken from water and cool.

Strain and reserve broth.  Chop up carrots, celery and onions and return to broth, chopping and adding more if needed.  Add broth back to pan along with vegetables and additional seasonings, if desired.  Cook broth until vegetables are tender.  In the meantime, debone and chop chicken in small pieces. 

Add 1/2 (approximately 3 cups) of the chicken to the broth, reserving remaining chicken for another use.   Add two cups of egg noodles or spaghetti noodles which have been broken in thirds.  You can always add more or less pasta according to preference.  Let simmer until noodles are tender.

Note:  You can easily substitute 1 cup of rice for the pasta.  Let simmer until the rice is tender. 

Note 2:  We have a bad habit of just cooking from the seat of our pants, adding what we think is a good amount. If this is confusing, let me know and I’ll try to make it more understandable. 

These measurements are approximate – add or delete as much of the chicken, vegetables and rice or pasta as you prefer.  But you really DO need as much broth as you can as some will evaporate with cooking and the pasta or rice will absorb some too!

Note 3:  If you think you’ll have leftovers, and want to freeze or can it, scoop some of the broth out before you add the pasta or rice.  Those will both become soggy and unappetizing when frozen or canned.  When you are ready to use it, just add those ingredients while it’s warming up and cook until they are tender!

Delicious Meals with Leftovers

Chicken Salad

2 cups chopped, cooked Chicken

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 to 2 Tablespoons Pickle Relish

1 hard-boiled Egg, chopped

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped pears or grapes

1/4 to 1/2 cup Craisins (or Raisins), optional

Salt & Pepper to Taste

Mayonnaise to Moisten

Mix first seven ingredients in a bowl.  Blend well.  Add enough mayonnaise to moisten.

Note:  If you want to add a bit of a kick to your Chicken Salad, add a few drops of Apple Cider Vinegar to your mayonnaise before it is added.  Blend well, then add to the salad mix. *You can also create a Ham Salad following this same recipe.  Omit pears or grapes, and add chopped pineapple instead!

Leftovers made delicious

Ham & Corn Chowder

1 c. celery, chopped fine
1 c. onion, chopped fine
2 T. butter, melted
3 c. fresh corn (off the cob) or 2 cans Whole Kernel Corn
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 c. Ham, diced
½ c. Grated Cheddar Cheese
1-1/2 c. Water
2 Chicken Bouillon cubes
¼ t. thyme
2 c. Milk
1 c. Half & Half
Tony Chachere’s, Salt and Pepper, to taste

Cook the onion and celery in butter in a soup pot, until tender. Add corn, potato, ham, bouillon and spices. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Add the milk, Half and Half and cheese. Cook until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly.

Other Ways to Use Ham

Leftover ham can also be cubed and placed into an omelet.  Don’t forget to add chopped onion, bell pepper and some grated cheddar cheese for extra deliciousness.

Although we traditionally use sausage, chopped ham can also be used in a Breakfast casserole. 

Substitute ham and pineapple in a Spinach Chicken Salad.

Leftover ham can also be substituted for the Bacon in Paradise Muffins.  Want the recipe?  Download the free version of my Cookbook.  If you love those recipes, there are more in the full version available in my Shop!

Pasts is perfect for leftovers


Have you got pasta? There are multiple versions of pasta on the market.  From egg noodles and spaghetti, to whole wheat and spinach.  Cook and serve with your favorite sauce.  Spaghetti Alfredo can be served plain, or with meats and vegetables.  The number of ways to use pasta is almost endless.

You can also use it to make any number of awesome, delicious salads.  Start with elbow, rotini, penne, shells, or any kind you like.  Cook according to the package directions.  Drain, and run cool water over it.  Completely drain.

Now.  What kinds of leftovers are in your refrigerator? Check your pantry supplies. With just a few extras, you can make an Italian Pasta Salad with ease.  Chop up bell pepper, celery and onions. Drain a can of black olives, and chop.  Add shredded mozzarella cheese.  Mix it all up with pre-made Italian Dressing. 

Serve with garlic bread, biscuits or Aunt Dot’s Hot Rolls. A perfect and easy meal!

Got leftover green beans or English peas, carrots and corn?  Toss them in a bowl.  Add small cubes of cheddar cheese.  Add some chopped bell pepper, onions and celery.  Mix this with Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing.  Serve it with muffins or Dot’s Hot Rolls.

The Farm Wife in the Kitchen Cookbook

Are you Ready to start Cooking?

There are so many delicious things you can create using leftovers.  Whether beef, chicken or pork, there are easy recipes that will help stretch your supplies. Add a few basics like vegetables, fruit, pasta or rice, and the sky (and your pantry, freezer and refrigerator!) is your limit.

Now.  Take your inventory and leftovers and get creative.  If you need a few more recipe ideas, get a copy of The Farm Wife in the Kitchen. You will find over 40 recipes (and can also get a ‘taste test’ with 9 free additional recipes) to please any appetite!

And be sure to let me know what you come up with.  I always love to hear from you!

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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