It was standing in the lucent glow of my refrigerator at 4 in the morning recently, spooning cold daal into my mouth wearing nothing but my boxer briefs, that I came to the following realisation: food really does better the day after. I admit that lightning bolt of clarity might have been brought on by a session of heavy drinking the night before. But seeing as we're currently in the thick of the Christmas season (and seeing that 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the UK food industry every year), I feel that my epiphany has come at the perfect time.

Nothing, after all, sorts a Boxing Day hangover like a fat sandwich constructed out of the big day's leftovers. I'd take a crusty baguette stuffed to the gills with turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, and stuffing over a roast with all the trimmings any day of the week. Bubble and squeak? Much better than the sum of its parsnip, carrot and potato parts. Christmas cake? Vastly improved by spending a few days in the fridge till it gets just the right amount of stale.

1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the UK food industry every year

My leftovers-are-the-best-overs hypothesis even extends outside the realm of festive food. Cold pizza, for one, holds a dear place in my heart – rich with memories of Xbox sleepovers and mornings spent eating slabs of deep-pan Pizza Hut for breakfast, resurrected Lazarus-like via the magic of the off-limits oven. And although it took until university for me to realise that day-old rice comes into its own when egg-fried, I can't imagine my life today without its presence.

It's going to take more than my personal sense of frugality to tackle the nation's growing food waste problem, but the fact that chefs like Adam Handling – whose restaurant Ugly Butterfly serves a cheese doughnut made from cheeseboard leftovers – and apps like Too Good Too Go are on a mission change the way we view leftovers is an encouraging sign.

So, the next time you're thinking about scraping that last bit of risotto into the bin, why not stop and think for a bit? Or read our guide to what to do with your Christmas leftovers? Because, baby, you've got the makings of an arancini ball on your hands...

Lucas Oakeley is editorial assistant at Foodism and The Foodist column author. Follow him on Twitter: @lucasoakeley