Stretch Your Leftovers into 3 More Meals With These Easy Recipes

a bbq chicken sandwich on a plate with vegetable sides
Photo courtesy of Sarah White

Food is a major part of our family budget, and I’m always trying to find ideas for fresh and healthy ingredients that won’t dig too far into our bank account.

Discounts, coupons and buying in bulk are all part of my regular strategy, but there’s an old-fashioned way to save some money on those meals: leftovers. Save extra food from one dinner and re-make it as breakfast, lunch or another dinner.

I plan dinners with the idea of using the leftovers for another meal. It becomes easier with time, and you will love the money it saves.

With this strategy, I’ve kept our grocery budget at around $90 a week for a family of four and still serve lots of lean meats and vegetables with every meal. Here are three tried-and-tested ideas for meals that will feed your family at least three times.

1. Oven-Baked Ham

For the first dinner idea, make a family-sized ham — 10- to 12-pound bone-in or 8- to 10-pound boneless — in the oven with whatever sides you like. Potatoes and corn are inexpensive, and cabbage is even cheaper. Frozen, canned or boxed, there are a lot of options for inexpensive side dishes to go with ham.

Leftover Idea No. 1

You should only need to use a pound or so of leftover ham for this ham and eggs recipe via Food.com. Jazz it up with some fresh salsa and wrap everything in tortillas to make breakfast burritos.

Leftover Idea No. 2

Dice up another pound of that leftover ham and make ham and tater tot casserole from The Southern Lady Cooks. If you want to add a vegetable, broccoli goes well with the cheesy tots and ham.

Leftover idea No. 3

Put that ham bone to work for Damn Delicious’ leftover ham bone soup recipe. Any bits of meat left can go into the pot too, giving you four separate meals from one good-sized ham.

Still looking for something that sounds good? Here are 22 leftover ham recipes from Taste of Home.

2. Slow Cooker Chicken

Frozen chicken breasts make a great dinner that won’t break the bank. I like to pack the slow cooker all the way to the top with about 10 to 12 breasts, which is about as much as you get in an 8- to 10-pound value pack of chicken. Then, I layer it up with some sliced onion, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Double-check the cooking times for your own slow cooker, but five hours on high or eight hours on low should be enough to cook the breasts. Dish up four servings, add a side salad or vegetables for a good meal and make sure to save the extra chicken.

Leftover Idea No. 1

Make these yummy chicken enchiladas from Food Network’s Tyler Florence. Use two servings of your leftover cooked chicken to cut down on prep time for his recipe.

Leftover Idea No. 2

Add a bun and some sweet smoky sauce for these barbecue chicken sandwiches from MyRecipes. Reheat three to four servings of the slow cooker chicken and stir in your favorite barbeque sauce for a shortcut that works just as well as the recipe.

Leftover Idea No. 3

Kale, apple and cheddar salad with cooked chicken, via Delish. By this time there won’t be much chicken left, just enough to top some delicious greens.

Need some more ideas for all that leftover chicken? Here are 30-plus ideas from Delish.

3. Rachael Ray’s Turkey Bolognese

Rachael Ray has an entire website dedicated to meals that double up as another dinner or two. There are lots of good ideas there, but her turkey Bolognese is one of the best. With lean meat and vegetables in a rich tomato sauce, this recipe will leave you with enough for another meal.

For this one, you’ll start with 3 pounds of lean ground turkey. Two cups of the savory sauce will go over whole-wheat spaghetti in the bolognese, and you can use the remaining 5 to 6 cups to create more dinners.

Leftover idea No. 1

Turn the pasta sauce into turkey vegetable chili for another satisfying dinner. Three cups of your leftover bolognese sauce will create the base for this meal and it’s packed full of veggies, beans and spices. Just add the sides you like, such as cornbread.

Leftover idea No. 2

Go from the chili to this veggie-packed Spanish rice via Oh My Veggies. A lot of the work of the recipe is already done, so this is a quick and easy meal.

Leftover idea No. 3:

If there is enough of the original Bolognese sauce left, you can stretch it a little further with some more ground turkey — another ½ pound of turkey should do it — and make these Bolognese stuffed peppers from Good To Know or just browse the archives of Rachael Ray’s Rollover Meals.

Sarah E. White is an author, blogger and full-time mom to three tiny destroyers, ages 10, 4 and 16 months. The kids assist in the writing process by asking when dinner is and hitting the power button at random intervals.