How to serve leftovers your family will actually eat

We eat a lot of leftovers these days. Mostly because my husband and I both hate cooking, so we’d rather intentionally cook enough for a couple of days. But also because groceries are HELLA EXPENSIVE and we feel bad wasting food.

Back in the pre-kids days, we ate out a lot (#memories). It took a while for us to get into the groove of planning meals and actually USING the groceries we’d buy, instead of guiltily dumping them into the garbage.

(Compost wasn’t our thang, and you didn’t *have* to do it in the era of What Are Clear Garbage Bags? Black Bags Rule!)

If you want to read a REALLY old post (2009-old) about me feeling super proud of myself for turning random, unappetizing fridge stuff into lunches for the next day, it’s here.

The other day I decided our fridge was getting too full of leftovers, and it was time to create a full meal out of them before they went back.


Ew, right? Nothing like a tinfoil-covered Mystery Plate to curb your hunger.

It was a total mismash of several days’ worth of lunches and dinners, along with random baby carrots and grape tomatoes thrown in for nutritional value.

The key to serving leftovers your family will actually EAT is presentation.

You need to take old, tired, sad food and make it look NEW, DELICIOUS and NOT LIKE LEFTOVERS.

So I took out a cutting board, knives, and a couple of clean plates, and I started cutting and microwaving things in batches.

After a few minutes, I had these four trays …

Cream-coloured trays are vintage Tupperware (available here*), and the pink and blue trays are vintage Texas Ware school lunch trays (available here*). All of them were saved from my childhood because I loved them so freaking much.

Let’s start with the grown-up trays, which were for me and my dad …


A little bit of leftover pizza, a few grape tomatoes, and neat rows of more dinner leftovers.


Doesn’t everything look better in rows?

I made sure to put “like” things together, so nothing was touching something weird — like chicken touching ground beef.

It’s sort of like that old riddle about crossing the river and making sure the wolf isn’t left alone on shore with the chickens because he’ll eat them.


It was all pretty delicious. The hamburgers weren’t very good reheated, so I gave most of mine to Annabelle.

Then there were the kids’ trays …


I gave them slightly different leftovers, including the uneaten A&W from lunch at the mall. C is a very slow eater and barely touched her burger, and D scarfed his burger but not the fries.

I never care if they don’t eat their meal in a restaurant (or a food court, in this case) because they’re usually distracted and/or excited, or just filling up on pop — their favourite dining-out treat. I just put everything back in the bags and bring it home.


The kids happily ate their full trays. I never say we’re having leftovers for lunch or dinner. I say we’re having “special tray lunch” or “special tray dinner,” and they’re pumped to see what it’s going to be.

When I’m including something they may not like, it’s all about the toothpicks. Anything looks cuter on its own little toothpick, even questionable lunch meat.


After our meal of leftovers, the fridge was looking a lot cleaner and we were ready for a fresh load of groceries!

Do you do this, too? Or does your family have no problem eating off the Mystery Tinfoiled Plates without elaborate presentation tricks?

*Affiliate links used

How to serve leftovers your family will actually eat {Heather's Handmade Life}
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LUNCH PUCKS: Premade frozen thermos meals for your child to take to school
Premade frozen thermos meals



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