6 Easy Ways to Use Leftover Vegetables

by Beth - Budget Bytes
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Did your New Year’s resolution include eating more vegetables? It’s a fantastic goal and one I get behind anytime of year, but there’s definitely a learning curve! I’m sure we’ve all had this experience: ambitiously buying a shopping cart full of vegetables at the beginning of the week, only to let half (if not all) of them wilt in the fridge by Friday. Having your vegetables end up in the garbage is practically the same as throwing your money away (except more smelly), so I wanted to round up six easy ways to use leftover vegetables, that anyone can do and with very little planning. Let’s reduce our food waste, save some money, and eat delicious food in the process. Sound good?

Make sure to bookmark this list so the next time you peek in your fridge and see something that is about to be on its way out you can browse these options and whip up something super tasty with those awesome vegetables!

A collage of six recipes that can use any leftover vegetable

Without further ado, here are six ways to use up your leftover vegetables before they go bad:

1. Stir Fry

Add Stir Fry Sauce to Ground Turkey Stir Fry in the Skillet

Great for: bell peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, squash, mushrooms, eggplant, cabbage, asparagus, spinach, peas

Stir fries are my go-to easy meal because they’re incredibly fast, you can add just about ANY meat or vegetable to them, and they’re different every time. Not only will you get variety with the vegetables that you add, but you can change up the sauce every time, too. Use a basic soy based stir fry sauce like the one in my Ground Turkey Stir Fry (pictured above), a coconut based sauce like in my Spicy Coconut Vegetable Stir Fry, or even take a short cut and use a bottled sauce like in my Sweet Chili Chicken Stir Fry Bowls. And while you’re at it, top that stir fry with your leftover green onion and cilantro. ;)


2. Pizza

French Bread Pizza is the perfect budget-friendly fast and easy weeknight dinner. Customize the toppings to fit your taste buds or what you have on hand! Budgetbytes.com

Great for: spinach, kale, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini

One of my jobs before I was a blogger was working the pizza station at Whole Foods. When I tell you we made pizzas out of everything, I mean everything. Any unused ingredient we could find in the kitchen made its way onto one of our creative “specialty” pizzas and we made some amazing flavor combination discoveries in the process. So when Friday rolls around, scan your fridge for leftover vegetables, leftover cheese, even your leftover meat from the week and toss it onto a pizza. And if you want pizza night to be even faster and easier, make French Bread Pizzas (pictured above), a “Quick Fix” tortilla pizza, or even a Pizzadilla.


3. Pasta Salad

Add Salad Dressing to Pasta Salad

Great for: zucchini and yellow squash, onions, spinach, kale, mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, cucumber, peas, radishes, cauliflower

Cook some pasta, chop your vegetables, add a little cheese, and douse with your favorite dressing. DONE. Pasta salad really is that easy and flexible. Again, you get even more variety with this meal if you change up your dressing. The easiest option is to use your favorite bottled dressing like in my Sweep the Kitchen Pasta Salad (pictured above), you can make your own homemade balsamic vinaigrette like in my Tomato Mozzarella Pasta Salad, a lemony garlic vinaigrette like in my Greek Chicken Pasta Salad, or even something creamy like in my Creamy Lemon Dill Pasta Salad.


4. Frittatas, Omelets, and Scrambles

Ratatouille Frittata combines the rich and complex flavors of ratatouille with the ease of an egg frittata. Great for low carb dieters or using up that summer bumper crop! BudgetBytes.com

Great for: tomatoes, onions, zucchini and yellow squash, spinach, kale, mushrooms, asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, avocado

Eggs and vegetables are total besties. I routinely chop up whatever vegetable I have in my fridge, add it to a skillet with a couple eggs, and make a super fast vegetable scramble. But you can also bake vegetables into your eggs like in the ratatouille frittata pictured above, bake them into little “egg cups“, fold them into an omelet, or even a breakfast egg quesadilla.


5. Soup

Overhead view of a pot full of vegetable barley soup with bread on the side

Great for: potatoes and sweet potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, kale, cabbage, corn, peas, cauliflower

Soup might be the original “catch all” recipe and they’re perfect for vegetables that may be a tad limp already (they’ll be soft after simmering in the soup anyway), and “hard” root vegetables that need longer cooking. It’s hard to go wrong when it comes to soup. Just toss whatever you have in a pot, add some water or broth, a bunch of herbs and spices, and it’s almost guaranteed to taste good. One of my favorite quick ways to use leftover vegetables in soup is to just toss whatever I have into a bowl of instant ramen. But many other soups, like the Vegetable Barley Soup pictured above, my “All You Can Eat” Cabbage Soup, or Beef and Cabbage Soup can really have just about any vegetable added to them without changing the flavor profile too much. Bonus, most soups are freezer friendly so it’s a 1-2 punch on food waste!


6. Roast Them!

Roasted Summer Vegetables are the easiest side dish of the season and can be served as a simple side, or added to several other dishes to add color, flavor, texture, and nutrients. BudgetBytes.com

Great for: potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, carrots, mushrooms, eggplant, bell pepper, broccoli, winter squash (butternut, acorn, delicata, etc.), beets, cauliflower

Roasting vegetables is like giving them a second chance at life. It’s a great option for vegetables that may already be a touch soft (and when I say soft, I don’t mean rotten, just not super crisp). Chop them up, toss with oil, salt, pepper, or your favorite seasoning blend, and roast in a 400ºF oven until they’re caramelized. Once roasted vegetables are great on salads, sandwiches, bowl meals, pizzas, pasta, burritos, tacos, omelets, or more. Or you can roast them right on the sheet pan with some meat, like my Smoky Roasted Sausage and Vegetables, and make a whole meal right on the sheet pan.


Okay, I guess I have just one more… Use them to build yourself an Ultimate Veggie Sandwich!

Got any tips for fellow readers? What are your favorite ways to use leftover vegetables before they go bad? Leave your tip in the comments below!!

 
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    1. Stocks and broths. Keep in a freezer bag until you have collected enough to make a batch. Cook in boiling water for 2 hours with herbs, salt (and poultry bones if preferred).
      Then freeze the stocks in tupperware or ice cubes. Good for carrots, potato, tomato, celery, peppers, onions, scraps and skins. Not great for sweet potato or squash.

  1. Fritters are also a great one for any veges that can be grated/mashed!

  2. Once a week, I gather up all the vegetables that are looking a bit sad, cut and place them in a greased baking dish ( diced sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cauli, broccoli, beans, carrots, mushrooms, etc). I make a white cheesy sauce to go over the top. I bake this in the oven and the kids, hubby and I love this each week. Always a big hit! Most importantly, little waste! I hate waste and love yummy food!

  3. Chop up your leftover veggies.  Put them in a greased 8×8 or 9×9 square pan.   Beat 4 eggs; add a cup of milk (whatever you like, I use skim, Mom uses cream).  Pour over the veggies.  Bake in. 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until lightly brown and cooked through.  Cut in 4 big squares.
    Voila!  Perfectly sized vegetarian sandwich fillings for 4 days!

  4. Wonderful post! I do love your recipes, but posts like these are very valuable :)

  5. I was told they will keep longer if you store them in the fridge and covered with a damp towel and it seems to work great so far!

  6. Some great ideas listed here! I like to make a big batch of zucchini and bacon muffins, and add a bunch of extra shredded veggies to the batter. My last batch had zucchini, pumpkin, capsicum, carrot, cherry tomatoes, and spring onion. 

  7. When the potatoes start sprouting, parboil and shred to make hash browns (can also be frozen in little patties for quick breakfast).

  8. I’m in the habit of incorporating everything into a dish. Sometimes I have to pause and remember that it’s fine to just fix the veg very simply and have them for sides or snacks. Fry the mushrooms and onions, simmer the carrots, etc. Season with salt and pepper. Good to go. I love pairing veggie sides with something easy like a grilled cheese sandwich.

    1. I do this too, mostly with veggie scraps like carrot peels, onion skins, capsicum cores, overripe tomatoes, etc. Tastes amazing, and when all the solids are strained out, they go straight into the bokashi bin. 

      1. All wonderful ideas! I like to blend up veggies like limpy celery, bell peppers, onions, etc. in a food processor and put them in my spaghetti sauce for added flavor.