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Never Waste Food Again: 9 Genius Ways to Use Up Leftovers

Feeling guilty with the leftover container staring at you? Try these ideas to use up every last bit.

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Once you’re done making your pancakes or baked goods, don’t let that extra buttermilk go sour. Whip it into homemade ranch dressing that tastes way better than the bottled stuff, like this version from Five Heart Home. With a big salad on its way, you can feel good about whatever baked goods you bought the buttermilk for in the first place.

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Sour cream

All you needed was a dollop of sour cream for taco Tuesday, and now you’re stuck with a big ol’ container of it. Instead of just using a little here and there well past expiration, whip up a batch of Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes from Cooking Classy. Like the classic buttermilk, sour cream makes your breakfast favorite even fluffier. You can also head straight to dessert with this Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Crumb Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Make sure you don’t store sour cream or these 16 foods in the freezer.

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Tomato paste

Sure, you could freeze that leftover tomato paste, but then you’re just moving your problem from the fridge to the freezer. Get it gone by stirring it into a soup, stew, or chili. Try this tomato soup recipe from Alexandra Cooks, which uses ingredients you probably already have on hand.

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Cooking rice in leftover stock instead of plain old water will give your grains a major boost of flavor. With just a cup of stock, you can also transform basic fingerling potatoes into these braised beauties from A Beautiful Plate. But stock isn’t the same thing as broth—here’s why.

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Because broth has seasonings that stock doesn’t, you could just toss in a few veggies or beans to make an easy, homemade soup. At breakfast, cook oatmeal in broth instead of water or milk for a savory take that you can top with an egg and veggies. If you’d rather stick with dinner options, try this Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Curry from Pinch of Yum. Keep it vegetarian with vegetable broth, or feel free to use chicken broth instead.

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Don’t resign yourself to eating white rice with every dinner just because you made too much for last night’s meal. Transform them into simple, tasty Parmesan Rice Cakes from An Oregon Cottage. (Bonus: This recipe is great for using up leftover breadcrumbs too.) Or for a sweet take, use it in rice pudding, like this one from Tastes Better from Scratch. While you’re at it, also learn what happens when you eat leftover rice.

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Sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk can transform a dessert chewy, sweet, and just plain delicious. But if you’ve already got one cake or tray of bars on hand, you probably aren’t rushing to make more sweet stuff (though no judgment if you are). Instead, drizzle a little sweetened condensed milk over fruit for an instant dessert, or stir it into a coffee drink even your barista would be proud of. Try this recipe for My Ultimate Iced Coffee from Simply Delicious.

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Hot dog and hamburger buns

Who decided to sell hot dogs in packs of ten, but their rolls come in packs of eight? If you had to over-buy buns, don’t toss them just yet. Bake them into croutons (like these from Happy Hooligans) to toss into a salad or soup. You could also get creative by turning them into breakfast pastries with this recipe from Cupcake Project. Best of all, even stale bread works for both options. There’s an easy hack to stop bread from going stale.

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Heavy cream

Whip up any leftover heavy cream into fresh whipped cream to dollop on dessert or fruit. If savory is more your speed, a little goes a long way for making a next-level soup, scrambled eggs, or sauce. Try this Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce from Damn Delicious, which uses just half a cup of heavy cream.

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Pumpkin puree

If you think pumpkin only belongs in pie and lattes, think again. Pumpkin pumps up breakfast with filling fiber in Damn Delicious’ recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. You could also add fall flavors to your favorite comfort food with this recipe for Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Bacon from Inspired by Charm.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.