What to do with leftover food: creative ways to use food leftovers 

Two children joyfully helps two adults cook, stirring ingredients in a bowl.

In a world where small actions can have big impacts on our planet, it's important to find innovative ways to reduce waste. One area we can all make a difference in is how we handle our food leftovers and food scraps. Instead of tossing them in the bin, why not transform them into something tasty? Transform the leftover dregs of roasted veggies into a vibrant frittata that reminds you of last night’s hilarious gathering where only half of the last bottle of red was sloshed onto the carpet... 

So, let’s dive into these different ways to reuse food scraps and leftover food and explore creative ways to care for the planet by cutting down on food waste. With our clever tips for what to do with leftover food, including delicious recipes that taste amazing, you don't have to sacrifice quality to reduce waste. 

What to do with leftover food?

Some food makes it into our mouths, some ends up as leftovers, and some ends up on the hob, the floor, walls and... ceiling!? Splashes, spills and stains happen in the kitchen (and just about everywhere else), but when you have food leftover, think of it as an opportunity. 

With a bit of creativity, you can turn it into something delicious and reduce waste in the kitchen. But what to do with leftover food very much depends on what type of food leftovers you have. From stale bread to the remnants of that tasty Sunday roast, join us as we go through the most common leftovers and learn how to reuse leftover food!

What to do with leftover bread

Bread is often left to go stale, but there are a few great ways to give it a new lease of life. Here are two simple ideas for what to do with leftover bread: 

  • Bread pudding. A classic comfort dish, bread pudding allows you to mix leftover bread with a few simple ingredients like milk, sugar, and eggs, to create a delicious, hearty dessert. Enlisting the help of a budding baker? Don’t be surprised if a spontaneous flour fight erupts... You might wish you’d dived for cover, as now there’s a perfect silhouette of flour on the kitchen wall behind you. It’s a good thing your baking buddy is also your clean-up companion... 
  • Croutons. Dice your stale bread, toss it with olive oil and your choice of seasoning, and bake until crispy. These are perfect for soups and salads. And if you can’t resist popping a few of those crispy cubes in your mouth while the coast is clear, just be sure to keep some kitchen roll close by to wipe the literal breadcrumb trail from your path! 

Leftover chicken ideas

Here are a couple of leftover chicken ideas that are sure to give your leftovers new life: 

  • Chicken salad. Shred the chicken and mix it with mayonnaise, mustard, and your choice of vegetables for a quick and easy meal. 
  • Chicken quesadillas. Combine your chicken with cheese, place it between tortillas, and grill. Serve with salsa for a delicious treat. 
  • Chicken soup. Throw your leftover chicken with skin, bones and giblets included in your soup pot to make a delicious leftover chicken soup, or to add more flavour to any other soup of your choice. With this idea, no part of the chicken goes to waste. 

What to make with leftover rice

If you're wondering what to do with leftover rice, consider these tips and tricks: 

  • Rice pudding. Combine rice with milk, sugar, and vanilla, and cook until creamy. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the pudding (as well as the obligatory dusting of the kitchen counter) for a sweet finish and even sweeter smiles on the faces of those diving into the delicious dessert. 
  • Stuffed peppers. Fill bell peppers with a mixture of rice, protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs, and beans, and seasoning, then bake until the peppers are tender. 
  • Fried rice. Stir-fry the rice with vegetables, eggs, and soy sauce for a quick and satisfying dish. 
  • Rice cakes. Mix rice with a bit of flour and egg, form into patties, and pan-fry until golden brown. 

What to do with leftover mashed potatoes

Potatoes are incredibly versatile and can be repurposed into loads of dishes. Here's what to do with leftover mashed potatoes: 

  • Potato pancakes. Combine mashed potatoes with an egg and some flour, shape into pancakes, and fry until crispy.
  • Shepherd's pie. Use the mashed potatoes as a topping for a shepherd's pie, adding a layer of rich, meaty filling underneath. 

How to reuse leftover food - general ideas

Beyond specific dishes, there are general ways to reuse leftover food to create a hearty, tasty meal. So, if you haven’t got a specific dish in mind and want a few simple and versatile ideas, here’s what to do with leftover food:

  • Frittatas. Whisk some eggs and pour them over any leftover food in a pan. Cook until the eggs are set for a quick frittata. This works well with loads of leftovers and you can get creative and add your own flair to it, too! 
  • Soup. Almost any leftover food can be turned into a soup with the addition of broth and a bit of seasoning. Whether it’s a hunk of ham leftover from lunch at the weekend, or a medley of vegetables from a midweek dinner, so much food can be saved by turning it into a soup.

Food scraps for compost

When your food leftovers have gone beyond the point of reusing, it might be time to repurpose those food scraps for compost. This age-old method allows you to convert what would be waste into nutrient rich compost for your garden.  

Whether you’re having a competition to see who can toss the slimiest banana skins into the compost heap, or laughing as you and your green-fingered helper see who can spread the crumbliest compost across the flower beds (and your jeans, t-shirt, shoes, hands, face...), composting is simple and loads of fun! What’s more, it teaches us that everyday waste can be incredibly useful.


Plenty Original, Flexisheets and Max kitchen roll sheets are now certified compostable!* Once you’ve finished using your compostable sheets on a compostable mess, throw them on the compost heap where they begin their journey to a new life. Check out our handy explainer to find out what you can and can’t compost and when to compost your kitchen roll.

By setting organic waste – like vegetable peels, fruit skins, and coffee grounds - aside in a compost bin or heap, they gradually break down with the help of microorganisms and turn into compost, which is great for enriching soil. New to composting? Check out our guide to the basics of composting to get acquainted. 

Composting can not only help reduce landfill waste but provides your garden with a nutritional boost, leading to healthier plants. Adopting composting habits is a simple yet effective step toward living more sustainably, allowing you to recycle kitchen scraps into something beneficial for your garden. Not sure what you should be composting? Find out what you should and shouldn’t put in the compost bin. 

Doing more, with less

We love smart solutions that help you reduce waste and make your resources stretch further. By sharing clever tips and innovative ideas, we hope you’re inspired to take a less-is-more approach to everyday living, especially in the kitchen. It's not just about using fewer resources; it's about using what we have wisely. 


Love doing more with less? Then you’ll love Plenty Flexisheets. Product of the Year 2024** winner, Flexisheets have more perforations per roll, meaning you choose what you use. With 50% longer rolls***, Flexisheets are the perfect partner for big or little messes around the house!

Whether it's turning leftovers into a new meal or finding a second life for food scraps (like this delicious homemade vegetable stock), we hope you're empowered to do more with the things you already have. Getting more out of less is a practical way to add value to our daily lives, and it's something everyone can appreciate.

Now you know what to do with leftover food

By following these simple, step-by-step guides, you can turn your food scraps and leftovers into delicious new meals. Not only does this approach save you money, but it also reduces your environmental footprint, allowing you to care for our planet in your daily life. Remember, it's about doing more with less—more flavour, more creativity, and more care, all while using and wasting less. 

Waste is a part of life, but with these top tips, you can turn that waste into something tasty. So, the next time you find yourself with leftover chicken, rice, bread, or mashed potatoes, don't throw them out. Use these tips to give your leftovers a second chance at delighting your taste buds and contributing to a sustainable lifestyle. Tuck in! 

*Plenty kitchen towels are certified as home and industrially compostable according to NF T 50-800 and EN14995. 

**Winner General Household Category. Survey of 8,000 people in UK & ROI 

**Length of roll when compared to Plenty Original  

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