How To Meal Plan with Leftovers

Does your house ever sound like this:

“I’m hungry! What can I eat?”


“What’s for dinner?”


“Is this still good??”

If you do, know that you are not alone! These were things I heard (and hear) almost daily from the wonderful people I call mine.

Meal Plan with Leftovers in Mind

Motherhood is a busy job and there just isn’t enough time in the day to cook up a new meal for every mealtime.

In order to save time and maximize my work, I include leftovers into our meal plan each week.

Each week I select 4-6 meals that I plan to prepare. Some of these meals are made large so I can save the leftovers.

This allows me to have food ready for lunches or even other dinners later in the week without having to slave in the kitchen.

This system was implemented to help me limit food waste and save myself time.

Related: Weekly Meal Planning Tips & Printable

Food Waste Frustration

Despite putting forth the effort to plan our meals each week, I found myself struggling to remember the leftovers.

I am embarrassed to say there have been several times where those planned for leftovers were left to die in the fridge.

I found myself growing more and more frustrated that food was going to waste. In our busy lives, we would simply forget what was available or we would (worse) grab take out instead.

This meant each week money was being thrown into the garbage, LITERALLY!

Throwing out leftovers and prepped food (or eating take out) meant the money we spent on groceries was wasted because the food simply went bad before we ate it.

I knew I needed something to help our busy family remember what to eat.

My “What is There to Eat” Printable

With all the food that was going to waste, I knew I needed to add a new meal planning tool to my meal planning routine.

In our home, our work schedules are nontraditional and so I needed to create a system that would remind myself, the Hubs, and our once-a-week nanny, what was available to eat as leftovers, what were options for breakfast and lunch, and what could be eaten as other snack options for the kids.

With our wacky schedules and multiple adults tending to the little ones running through our feet, it is easy to lose track of what the meal plan was and what food is available for eating (vs needed for another meal).

And here is where my“What is There To Eat” meal planning tool was born.

Printable tool to help with food prep

A Meal Planning Tool to Help Everyone

To keep things easy for our nanny and the Hubs, I like to keep a list of options that can be used when preparing breakfast and lunch for our crew. These lists also help the Hubs know what is available for his lunch at the office.

Meal Planning Printable

I designed this meal planning tool to be a one-stop tool to help my family (and our nanny) keep track of food options and left overs.

Making It Work

You might be asking yourself… okay so how does this work?

To start I printed and laminated the meal planning tool.

Next, I simply placed it onto our refrigerator in an obvious, easy-to-see place

Meal Planning Printable

This location means every person who opens and closes the fridge will see this list.

At the end of the kitchen clean-up every evening, the Hubs or I write the meal and the date it was made.

This makes planning for leftovers easier because there is no more asking “when did you make this?

Simply check the list and you can see what day that meal was made and

Additionally, after shopping each week, I add to the list the snacks, lunch, and breakfast options we have available.

Helping Keep Everyone In the Loop

By filling this out each week and as our meals are made, the Hubs and our nanny are able to quickly see what in our fridge/pantry is “up for grabs” and what to leave alone (because it is needed for a future meal).

Meal planning printable to keep track of leftovers

This simple step saves me from being asked “what can the kids have for lunch today? or “Can I take this for lunch at work?”

It may seem silly, but these questions are ones that would often delay meal time for the little ones. And we all know hungry little ones is a recipe for disaster.

Meal Planning Routines That Simplify Life

Make the system work for your family!

This is my mantra to live by these days! I am a busy mom of three and as much as I love my crazy life, too much can quickly create stress and overwhelm.

My goal is to create a home that is full of life and love and empty of clutter and stress.

Adding this simple tool made the process of feeding our little ones easier and saved our family money by making sure food was not forgotten.

And all of that makes for one happy mama!

Simplify Your Meal Planning

Are you struggling with leftovers going to waste?

Related: Food Inventory Sheets

Do you have a house full of people asking you “what can I eat?

Are you ready to stop having to answer the same questions time and time again?

Tools to help create an eating plan with leftovers

Grab your own free copy of my printable by signing up below!


Meal planning tool to help with using leftovers.

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