Tickle Fingers

making it easy & fun to cook with young children

Use up your leftovers: 8 easy things to cook with toddlers

Annabel WoolmerComment
copyright annabel woolmer

copyright annabel woolmer

Some of you may have watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's BBC programme, Hugh's War on Waste.  I rather naively thought that our supermarkets had taken note of a similar program made by Jamie Oliver a few years ago.  So I was truly shocked at the volume of unnecessary waste they are still generating, both on farms and what they chuck out.  

While not going to solve the supermarket issue (sign Hugh's supermarket waste petition if you want to pressure them on this), we can all do our bit to cut down food waste at home.  Apart from anything else, it saves money.  However, even if you are brilliant at planning meals and only buying what you need, you will inevitably end up with leftovers.  

I love leftovers, especially for cooking with children, because: 

  • cooked meat means I don't have to worry about them handling raw meat and then licking their fingers
  • cooked vegetables are much easier to chop up with a table (or child-safe) knife than raw ones
  • and squishy, over ripe fruit means I can let them have lots of fun mashing it up.  

I love leftovers so much that I often intentionally cook more meat, pasta or veg than I need so it's ready for the next meal.  Here are a few of the things I like to cook with children using leftovers:  


copyright annabel woolmer

copyright annabel woolmer

Whisk up some eggs and milk.  Then throw in some chopped, cooked veg and some grated cheese and bake!  


Paint some oil on a tortilla.  Turn it over and put some chopped, cooked veg and grated cheese on half.  Fold in half and bake or dry fry on both sides.  

Puff Pastry Pie

copyright annabel woolmer

copyright annabel woolmer

Mix some chopped veg and a cooked meat like chicken and/or ham with some chopped herbs and cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup.  Top with some puff pastry.  Paint the pastry with whisked egg or milk and bake! 


I try to make sure I always have coconut milk and a curry paste in the cupboard.  Then I can mix them with my leftovers and heat through thoroughly for an easy curry.  

Pasta Bake

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copyright annabel woolmer

I don't throw out leftover cooked pasta.  I mix it with a tomato sauce and whatever veg and/or meat  I have in the fridge, top with grated cheese and then bake for a yummy pasta bake.  NB. you must be careful about how you handle cooked pasta because if left at room temperature, it can harbour nasty bacteria.  Cool it in running water as soon as possible after cooking (within 1 hour), cover and put in the fridge.    

Eton Mess

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copyright annabel woolmer

Mash up whatever squishy fruit you have.  Mix it with whipped cream, natural or greek-style yogurt and crushed up meringue.

Home-made fruit yoghurts

Fun to make with a toddler and no added sugar.  Just mash up some fruit and mix it with some natural or greek-style yoghurt.  Just like a shop-bought fruit corner, kids love to make the white yoghurt turn a different colour.  

copyright annabel woolmer

copyright annabel woolmer

Banana ice cream.

There are a few things to make with over-ripe bananas like banana bread and muffins.  My favourite is to break them into pieces and put in the freezer for about an hour.  Then blitz the frozen banana in a food processor until you get a smooth, yummy, 1-ingredient ice cream!  If you want to make a softer version, dollop a little vanilla ice cream in the processor during blitzing; or fold in some whipped cream.  

If you want some more ideas of things to make with leftovers, check out the recipes on Waste Not UK