Meal Planning Monday ~ Upcycle Your Leftovers

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Most people don’t get excited about eating leftovers for dinner.  “Oh, we’re eating that again?” I’m not the type of person that likes to eat the same thing over and over, so I completely understand!  However, I hate wasting food.  So rather than thinking of leftovers as last night’s recycled dinner, let’s learn how to “Upcycle” our leftovers into something even better!

Upcycling is a term that describes the process of converting waste materials (aka leftovers, for the purposes of our discussion) into new materials or products of better quality (tasty recipes your family will love).  Several years ago, I learned that Americans throw away one-third of the food they buy.  Ever since then, I have been on a quest to waste as little food as possible.  And that means using up my leftovers in creative ways!  My favorite thing to upcycle is roasted chicken (or turkey).  For Valentine’s Day dinner, I made Cornish hens seasoned with lemon, garlic, and rosemary.  They were delicious! Nick and I each ate half of a hen, which meant we had leftover chicken.  I actually get excited about leftover chicken because I have come up with plenty of ways to upcycle it, including:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup.  If you have juice from the chicken left in the bottom of the roasting pan or crock pot, strain and freeze it.  It makes the best broth!  You can’t buy anything that flavorful in a can!  I sauté sliced carrots, celery, and onions in a little butter.  When the onions turn translucent, I add the broth with a bay leaf and some parsley, salt and pepper. Usually, my frozen broth isn’t quite enough, so I’ll add a few cups of water and a couple chicken bouillon cubes.  Bring to a boil and add your noodles.  Add the cooked chicken to the pot the final two minutes of cooking.
  • Greek Chicken Salad.  Just add your cold, cooked chicken to a bed of lettuce, with black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, pine nuts, and Greek dressing.  I’ll serve this with warm, crusty wheat rolls and butter.
  • BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.  If you’ve got leftover dark meat chicken, BBQ sandwiches are the way to go!  Shred the dark meat and mix it with enough BBQ sauce to thorough coat the chicken.  I like Weber’s BBQ sauce because it doesn’t have any high fructose corn syrup in it.  I’ll heat it up in a skillet, pop some sweet potato fries in the oven, and make a veggie or salad to go with it.
  • Other ideas.  Chicken salad (mayo, sliced red grapes, chopped pecans); Chicken, Artichoke, and Spinach dip; tacos or taco salad; chicken spaghetti; Chicken & Rice Casserole (This casserole is a great way to upcycle leftover rice.  Make it healthier by using brown rice.)


One of my favorite side dishes to make with roasted chicken is Parmesan Potatoes.  They are super easy and absolutely delicious!  A few weeks ago, I had some of the Parmesan potatoes left over, which is pretty rare.  So a day or two later, I thought I would upcycle them into Twice Baked Potatoes.  I scooped out the insides of the potatoes, leaving the skins intact.  I mashed the potatoes and added plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, and bacon bits.  I didn’t need any seasoning because there was already Parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley on the leftover potatoes.  I filled the potato skins with the mashed mixture and baked them for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  One taste and my hubby declared that ALL potatoes should be Twice Baked Potatoes from now on!  Now that is leftover upcycling success!  (I’ll be making extra Parmesan Potatoes in the future so we can have the Twice Baked Potatoes more often!)

What’s your favorite way to upcycle leftovers?


  1. Can I come to your house for dinner? LOL. I usually just package up the food the way I made it and hubby takes it to work for lunch.

  2. Jennifer B says:

    These are some great ideas! We always try to use up the leftovers! Thankfully with 4 hungry kids in the house, it’s pretty easy to do! :)

  3. Allyson says:

    I love reusing leftovers! In fact, I usually meal plan so that I will have at least one recipe we can eat for a few days. This week I;m making a big lasagna in hopes that it will last for a few days!

  4. We rarely have leftovers in our house – I swear, my husband is a food vacuum! If we do, we will have a leftover night and each eat a little of different leftover meals.

  5. Jen V says:

    I usually upcycle my leftovers into a soup of some kind. You have some really great ideas!

  6. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Those are excellent ideas. We actually enjoy eating leftovers but I do try to upcycle when I can.

  7. Rebekah says:

    I always struggle with upcycling leftovers since we rarely have any, but once made some of the best pork fajitas with leftover pork loin. Nom. Thanks for the ideas!

  8. Love the idea of the Greek chicken salad and the chicken, artichoke and spinach dip. And those potatoes? YUM!

  9. brett says:

    this goes with my cook once eat twice or thrice motto!! I like being efficient in the kitchen

  10. I love twice baked potatoes. I just wish my boys and husband liked them as much as I do.

  11. I like the twice baked potatoes idea.

  12. Pam says:

    I love all these ideas! I usually make chicken salad when I have leftover chicken.

  13. Debbie L. says:

    You made me smile – Up Cycle … I am a Recycled Glass Artist and my family always tells me I can even recycle meals! LOL

  14. Wendy says:

    I make lots of soup with my leftovers! We all love soup!

  15. WoW on the twice baked potatoes. Great idea right there. I am really good at upcycling into salads. I will use chicken, steak, turkey and all kinds of left over vegetables to make a dinner salad on another day. I ned to get better.

  16. Amy Desrosiers says:

    I love upcycling meal ideas! I recently mass batch grilled chicken to use for my entire weekly meals!

  17. Today I put ‘meal plan’ on my To Do list, these are great ideas for me! I need something like this. We don’t re-use out leftovers efficiently and I am tired of throwing stuff away

  18. love leftovers, means less cooking the following night!

  19. Lisa Jones` says:

    What Great Ideas I Never Know Of Any Great Ideas To Do With Leftovers!

  20. Amy Qur says:

    Im usually clueless when it comes to reinventing an already made dish into something totally different and new

  21. I like the whole notion of upcycling left overs. It sounds like a privileged thing instead of a desperate measure.

  22. Cook once, eat twice! That’s my motto!

  23. Great post, I love using leftovers and only cook about 3 meals per week – in order to make other dishes with leftovers.

  24. Debbie Denny says:

    These are some great ideas for leftovers.