Saving Your Sanity with “Planned Overs,” by Cheryl

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My mom always made a roast that was twice what our family needed for one meal. A day or two later, we had vegetable beef soup. Rather than leftovers, she called it “Planned Overs.” I have started doing the same thing with a lot of our meals. It has made lunch and dinner on busy nights much less stressful.

Planned overs can be as complicated as planning to turn a roast into soup, or as easy as just making twice as much food as you need for any meal. In reality, either one is very easy. Here are a few of my favorite “planned overs.”

Crock Pot Chicken into Chicken Soup

This is our easiest and most cost effective set of meals. DAY ONE: I cook a whole chicken in the crock pot. I season it different every time but with my meal for the next day in mind. For our family of five, I purchase a 6-8 pound chicken. One shopping trip left me with only 5 pound chickens; I purchased two and cooked them together. It took them a little longer to cook through but left me with enough chicken for three good meals.

When we are done, I clean the chicken bones. The remaining chicken meat is placed in the refrigerator. The bones, skin, and giblets are returned to the crock pot. The pot is filled with water and left on low over night. We wake up to an amazing smell filling our house!

After I cool and strain the broth, I use it for soup that day or freeze it for soup later – sometimes I have enough to do both! What do we eat for DAY TWO? Chicken enchilada soup or chicken and dumplings. Either leaves us with dinner the first night and lunch for the week. Pick your favorite chicken soup and toss everything in the crock pot with your broth, let it simmer until dinner. YUM!

If I don’t make soup, I mix up some chicken salad. This is my second meal of choice when we have plans for a zoo trip or a picnic with friends.

Taco Night

One pound of ground beef makes enough taco meat for dinner for our family with lunch leftovers for one. Instead of cooking one pound, I make two. We all eat tacos for dinner, then we can enjoy tacos or taco salads for lunch the next day. Sometimes the leftovers last us for two lunches!

Chili in the Crock Pot

When we make chili, I brown my beef and then dump everything into the crock pot. This is another meal that I double. Chili and taco salads from the left overs provide us with lunches for a few days.


I make my own sauce when I make spaghetti. If I want spaghetti to feed us all for a few meals, I need more than one pound of meat but two is too much. My solution is to fill it with veggies. I brown a pound of ground beef. While that cooks, I chop an onion, a handful of mushrooms, a bell pepper, and a jar of artichoke hearts. I toss that in with a large can of crushed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, a small tomato sauce, and a small tomato paste seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper, and a selection of Italian herbs. The last time I made this recipe we had dinner for five people, lunch for 3 one day, lunch for 2 another day, and lunch for 1 the last day.

When I make roast, pulled pork, or brisket I always cook more than our family will need for one meal. Having leftovers for lunch has truly simplified our mid-day meals. Sometimes it means that I am reheating four different items for lunch, but we have healthier options than Ramen, mac ‘n cheese, and frozen pizza; and more variety than sandwiches. It has also proven to be very nice for our food budget.

Other ideas: Make too much grilled chicken – wraps, chicken salad, fajitas, tacos, quesadillas, or chicken on a green salad. Leftover roast – add some frozen veggies and make soup. Cook a pork roast and only eat half – shred and add BBQ sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.

I usually make two of these meals a week. That practically guarantees delicious lunches all week. In between we make smaller meals but almost always have a little leftover. To make “planned overs” work, you have to know the eating habits of your family. You also need to evaluate the staples you keep at home and how much space you have.

  • How much will your family eat at one sitting?
  • If you make extra of your main dish – what can you do with it the next day for dinner?
  • How much room do you have in your refrigerator or freezer?

What “planned overs” does your family eat? Let us know in the comments!

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

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