Get Clever with Leftovers: Coffee, Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes

Leftovers and I have a kind of love-hate relationship. I can’t bear the thought of tossing perfectly delicious food into the garbage just because I made too much of it.

So I pack it, seal it, and fill the refrigerator with it. Once leftovers are past prime—looking more like a science project than tomorrow’s dinner—I find that they’re so much easier to part with.


The solution, of course, is to have an immediate plan for leftovers and then be diligent to follow through. Check out these terrific ideas!


Freeze it. Coffee ice cubes are great in iced coffee; they don’t dilute the drink as the ice melts. Or add your preferred milk and flavorings to the coffee and pour into Popsicle-type molds for a frozen treat tomorrow.

Make a Sauce: After pan-frying chicken or pork, deglaze the pan with coffee instead of wine for a deeper, Southern-style gravy.

Beef Jerky: Marinate beef slices in strong coffee and your favorite flavorings for up to eight hours, then dry the beef in the oven at 200ºF for about four hours.

Related: Make It Yourself: Beef Jerky, French Salad Dressing, Steak Sauce

Instead of Syrup: Combine hot coffee with melted butter and pour over pancakes or waffles.

Brine a Chicken: Coffee-based brines that include spices such as cloves, star anise, peppercorns and, of course, plenty of salt make for delicious and super moist roast chicken. Here’s a recipe for your consideration: Coffee Brined Chicken Breasts

Dress a Salad: For a simple coffee vinaigrette, cook equal parts brewed coffee, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup on the stove at a low heat until the mixture is syrupy. Top it off with a little lemon juice.

Don’t miss: How to Get Started Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans 


Chili: Use chopped up leftover meatloaf in place of ground beef to make homemade chili. It’s all seasoned and ready-to-go.

Quesadillas: So easy! Mix together chopped up meatloaf, onion and green pepper or other toppings of choice. Stir in your favorite BBQ sauce. Cover a flour tortilla with mixture, top with shredded cheese and top with the second tortilla. Place tortilla in the skillet cook for 1-2 minutes, until cheese starts to melt and the tortilla starts to turn brown. Flip so each side is golden and crisp.

Spaghetti: Replace ground beef with chopped leftover meatloaf in your favorite meat sauce. Over spaghetti, it’s fantastic!

Grilled Sandwiches: Add a slice of leftover meatloaf to your next grilled cheese sandwich!

Sliders: Tiny dinner split rolls plus a slice of meatloaf cut to the same size plus your choice of spreads—bacon onion jam, mayonnaise, mustard, you name it and what do you get? Party Food!, with no party necessary.

Related: Of Meatloaf and “Homade” Chili Sauce


Potato Cakes: Mix cold mashed potatoes with an egg or two, leftover pieces of fish, ham, corned beef plus chopped onion and a little flour to hold it all together. Form into small patties and shallow fry in oil, until brown and crispy.

Topping: Use leftover mashed potatoes as a topping on a savory pie filling. You’re not likely to have a lot of potatoes, so think individual shepherds pies or chicken pot pies.

Gluten-Free Cake: Mashed potatoes are an ingredient in many gluten-free desserts, paired with gluten-free self-rising flour, like this Lemon & Orange Cake or this Lemon Drizzle Cake.

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Question: What’s your favorite way to use up leftovers? Or do you even collect them?

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3 replies
  1. Betty Thomas says:

    Love all these ideas Mary and I wanted to share one more. My sister and her family aren’t big on leftovers unless they find a way to completely reinvent them. She uses leftover meatloaf to make a hamburger stew. Just add some diced potatoes, beef or chicken stock and a few fresh veggies and you are good to go. It’s delicious.

  2. caramelsmom says:

    My mom always used coffee when making chocolate frosting for cake. She would always use the larger coffee pot on weekday mornings if she knew she was going to make chocolate (actually mocha) frosting that day.

  3. Elaine says:

    These are so helpful to know. I meal prep for 4 days of lunches and dinners. Fridays are hodgepodge meals from leftovers, and any extras after that goes in the freezer.


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