Stay at Home Tips: Making the Most of Leftovers

See more Extension Stay at Home Tips from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension

 For reliable information you can trust about COVID-19 go to


Making the Most of Leftovers 

Using your leftovers in later meals can save time, money, and trips to the grocery store. Here are some ideas to help you use your leftovers:

  • Have a “leftover” night, where you get out all your leftovers and everyone has a bit of everything, or people choose their favorites.
  • If you don’t have enough leftovers for another whole dinner, use them for breakfast or lunch instead, adding a salad or fruit to round things out.
  • When using leftovers to make a new meal, you can combine them with fresh ingredients, but also consider looking in your pantry or freezer.
  • Here’s some more ideas on how to use leftovers:
    • Vegetables: Add leftover vegetables to scrambled eggs for a hearty breakfast, combine them with pasta for lunch, or reheat with some rice and add a pre-made sauce for a quick stir fry dinner.
    • Protein: Shred leftover chicken for sandwiches or mix with taco seasoning and add to a tortilla with rice and your favorite veggies.
    • Grains: Use extra noodles or rice as the start of a soup or casserole, adding in frozen vegetables and a protein source like canned beans.

If you’re not sure what to do with your leftovers or need recipe ideas, try exploring MyPlate Kitchen from the USDA, where you can search by meal or ingredient.

 Leftovers and Food Safety

It’s important to begin by cooking foods safely the first time around, and letting meat and poultry reach the appropriate internal temperature. Leftovers should be used within 3 to 4 days if refrigerated, or 3 to 4 months if frozen. Follow these food safety guidelines:

  • Keep food out of the temperature Danger Zone – bacteria grow best between 40°F and 140°F, so we call this the “danger zone.”
  • Cool food promptly. To help do this quickly, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers and cut large items of food, like chicken breast or roasts, into smaller pieces. Refrigerate foods as soon as possible, and definitely within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Store leftovers in airtight packaging or containers to help keep bacteria and odors from other foods out and retain moisture.
  • Thaw frozen foods safely in the refrigerator, with cold running water, or in the microwave (making sure the internal temperature reaches 165°F). You can also reheat frozen foods without thawing them first, but it will take longer.
  • Always use a food thermometer to check temperatures!

For more details on leftovers and food safety, visit the USDA.


Know the basics about COVID-19

FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION YOU CAN TRUST, about staying safe and what to do if you have COVID-19 symptoms, go to

What are the symptoms? Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms. For many, symptoms are mild, with no fever. It is important to know that you can still spread (transmit) the virus to others even if you have mild or no symptoms. Two to 14 days after exposure, people may experience:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What should I do if I develop symptoms?

If you become ill, stay home and call your doctor if you feel you need medical care or advice. If you are having an emergency, call 911.

  • Each day, write down your symptoms so you can share accurate information with your doctor.
  • Make sure a family member or friend knows that you are unwell and ask them to check on you by phone or video chat every day. Even mild illnesses can quickly take a turn for the worse.
  • Practice good self-care. Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids.

How can I lower my risk of getting COVID-19?

  • Stay home as much as possible to protect yourself and others.
  • When possible, shop for two weeks of groceries at a time to expose yourself less often.
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after touching door handles, keypads, pens, and other frequently used surfaces.


  • Call the National Disaster Distress Helpline to speak to a trained crisis counselor
    • 800-985-5990
    • 800-846-8517 (TTY)
    • Or text:  TalkWithUs to 66746
  • Access information and resources to help you meet your immediate needs
    • Call 2-1-1
    • Contact your local Aging and Disability Resource Center


See more UW-Madison Division of Extension Safer at Home Tips 

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