What To Do With Your Child’s Leftovers

Ever given your toddler an apple to eat, only for them to return it with an “I’m full” after one or two bites? Who am I kidding – we’ve all been there! And then there’s those sandwich crusts that kids refuse to eat, untouched carrot sticks, cold porridge, uneaten veggies at dinnertime … the list goes on!

Short of eating your child’s leftovers yourself (which I can attest is not recommended by your waistline!), it can be hard to know what to do with your child’s half-eaten food. You can try to re-serve it to them, either at a later meal or in a different way, or freeze it for another time. Sometimes it may take a little creative thinking to work out what to do with half-eaten or small amounts of leftovers.

The team at Love Food Hate Waste have some great ideas. As busy parents, they understand the temptation to just throw it into the bin but they believe that every mouthful of food is worth saving. So here is the ultimate guide to using up your child’s leftover food, including recipes from the Love Food Hate Waste website and the Kidspot Kitchen.

Raw vegetables

Raw vegetables, such as carrot or celery sticks, can be chopped up or added to your dinner. They will work well in a stir fry, pasta or stew, or can be steamed or roasted on their own. They can also be grated or finely chopped and used to make fritters. This will work for other vegetables such as capsicum and cauliflower.

If the vegetables aren’t quite at their best, throw them in a bag in the freezer and use them to make stock.

Cooked vegetables

There are lots of options for cooked vegetables, whether it is steamed broccoli or roasted pumpkin:

  • Puree it if you have an infant. If not needed immediately, freeze it in an ice cube tray for later use
  • Mash or finely chop it and put into a sauce or soup
  • Incorporate it into other meals like pasta, stew or stir fry
  • Use in a frittata or quiche
  • Make mini quiches or bread cases
  • Use as a pizza topping
  • Broccoli can be turned into broccoli balls

Pumkin hummus

Mashed potatoes

Raw fruit

  • If it is something that will last well, put it in the fridge for later. If a bite has been taken out of an apple, cut off the bitten area next time you serve it.
  • Pretty much all fruit can be used in a smoothie. If you don’t want to make one right away, save the fruit in a bag in the freezer for the next time you or your child fancies one. It pays to chop the fruit into chunks before you freeze it so you can put it straight from the freezer into your blender.
  • Similar to a smoothie, try making jungle gelato.
  • Make these fruit bowl buns or use it for other baking. Check out these recipes to use up bananas.
  • Add it to jelly or mix it through yoghurt or ambrosia.

Cooked fruit

  • Top it with a crumble
  • Serve it for breakfast or dessert
  • Add it to porridge or cereal

Cooked pasta

Cooked rice

Cooked rice is safe to eat, providing it has been cooled quickly.

Bread crusts

Bread crusts (and bread ends) can be a pesky leftover as you often only have one or two at a time, so it is hard to know what to do with them. We recommend keeping a crusts bag in the freezer and stashing them away until you have enough to make one of these delicious recipes.

Sweet bread chips


Depending on what is in them, they can be toasted – just make sure there are no salad ingredients, like lettuce or cucumber. Leftover sandwiches can also be frozen and then toasted at a later date.

Even sweet sandwiches can be toasted – try peanut butter and banana or a Nutella sandwich.


No one wants to eat cold toast, and it’s not quite the same reheated. Depending on what was on the toast, freeze it and use it to make breadcrumbs.

Alternatively, cut the toast into chunks and use it to make croutons to go on a soup or salad, or use it for a bread and butter pudding – sweet or savoury.


  • Save it and reheat it later
  • Use it in smoothies
  • Make porridge buns


Soggy cereal sounds pretty unappetising, but you can pour into ice cube trays, freeze it and then add it to your next smoothie (or skip the freezing step if you are going to make the smoothie the same day).

Stale cereal can be toasted in the oven to crisp it up – make sure to store it in an airtight container to keep it fresh.

The dregs of a packet or two of cereal can be added to compost cookies or made into a cereal slice.



  • Freeze in ice cube trays and then add them to the next smoothie that you make
  • Make frozen yoghurt pops
  • Serve in a bowl topped with cereal

Frozen yoghurt pops


Make sure it is refrigerated or frozen and then either eaten cold or reheated until piping hot.

Chicken nuggets

Cold leftover chicken nuggets can be unappetising. One quick way to reheat them is to pop them into a sandwich grill – it will get the outside nice and crispy.

  • Put in a sandwich
  • Slice and use as a pizza topping

Hot chips

  • Reheat and top them with mince to make nachos
  • Reheat and top with your favourite toppings e.g. cheese, bacon, gravy, and cook in the oven to make loaded fries
  • If you just have a couple, finely chop them and add them next time you are making a soup, stew or casserole
  • Make fish and chip pie

Potato chips

Compost cookies

Leftover cheese

Freeze it in a bag or container in the freezer. Next time you are making a pizza, cheese sauce or macaroni cheese, use it.

Baked goods (cakes, muffins, biscuits etc)

  • Freeze them for the next time you need a sweet snack
  • Heat them and eat with ice cream for dessert
  • Mix through ice cream
  • Turn them into truffles
  • Make cake pops
  • Layer with fruit and custard or yoghurt in small bowls to make individual trifles

This article was originally published by Love Food Hate Waste and is reproduced here with permission, with additional editing by Kidspot NZ.

Love Food Hate Waste

Every year Kiwis send 122,547 tonnes of food to landfill, all of which could have been eaten. Not only is wasting food costing us money, it is also bad for the environment.
Love Food Hate Waste has tips and recipes to help you reduce your food waste and save money. To find out more, visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz


  1. felicity beets 04/08/2018 at 7:08 pm

    I like using leftovers for homemade pizzas and bananas for banana cakes. A lot of our scraps go to the chickens which i feel better doing than just throwing out.

  2. Shelz69 02/08/2018 at 8:40 pm

    I love the smoothie idea, we always have a little bit left in the glass that just can’t be finished. From now on all be putting them into a ice block tray so I can have smoothie pops.

  3. Mands1980 01/08/2018 at 6:32 pm

    Yummy I love these ideas I’m definitely going to be doing some of these we always have leftovers in our house. I try and use as much as I can but there is always some things which just don’t get used which I have given to our pet sheep. This article has given me so much inspiration to make new things for the kids.

  4. kymmage 01/08/2018 at 5:08 pm

    Wow some really cool ideas here. I was getting so sick of bananas coming home all bruised up and “inedible” according to some children I live with 😂 that I started to use them to make food they would then yum up! Baking is my main way but the other thing I’ll do is throw fruit out on the lawn for the birds. We get a lot of wax eyes and they love fruit.

  5. Jen_Wiig 01/08/2018 at 4:42 pm

    Aww my life I must be the most uncreative mum I know… This list of ideas where like total light bulb moments and mini brain explosions in one… This has just turned my life around! SAVING LINK, 0PRINTING R RECIPES, SHARING FOR SANITY SAVING… I thhhink I’ve been living under a rock for an umber of years… All our food waste has wither ended up in the bin or more recently a very half hearted attempt at making compost as I just did not know what else to do with all the left overs and lunchbox reminents coming home in eaten or partly.

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