This weekend I was reading “You’re Broke Because You Want to Be: How to Stop Getting By and Start Getting Ahead” by Larry Winget. (A pretty good read, by the way. The advice is nothing groundbreaking, but his straight talk and no excuses approach is entertaining.) Anyway, in the book he states that most people who are financially secure don’t eat out often, if ever. I agree. Eating out is expensive and easy to lose track of. The meals add up before you realize exactly how much you’ve spent. It’s much cheaper to cook at home. We all know this already.
Thinking about it further, I came up with a corollary to that statement that perhaps Mr. Winget should include in his next edition. People who are financially secure eat leftovers. I realize that I’m potentially opening a can of worms here. I’ve met quite a few people in my life who adamantly defend the reasons why they won’t eat leftovers. The kids won’t eat it. It doesn’t reheat well. It’s a pain to store excess food. And on it goes.
As a leftover lover, I don’t buy any of it. Since when do the kids get to dictate what’s served at dinner? If they don’t like it, send them to be without dinner. There are few things that won’t reheat well, if you pay attention to the needs of the food and don’t just blindly toss it in the microwave on high for five minutes and hope for the best.
I think a lot of these excuses are a cover-up for the real problem, which is that some people feel like leftovers are beneath them. It’s not hard to understand, I guess. The USA is a country of plenty and we encourage people to go for the best. Leftovers, in a lot of people’s eyes, are not the best. Why eat leftovers when you can have “new” food? Aren’t leftovers only for people who have no other choice? Before you say that I’m reaching here, let me assure you that I have heard actual people utter statements just like these. Since I doubt they’re alone, I’m willing to bet that a lot of the excuses people give for not eating leftovers are their PC versions of “It’s just not good enough for me (or my kids).”
No matter the reason people give for refusing to eat leftovers, the end result is the same. Waste. It wastes money and resources to simply throw away food. I don’t see how anyone who is comfortable with such waste can be comfortable financially, at least not long term. It would seem to me that those who blithely toss excess food are probably not that careful with their money, either.
Tossing perfectly good food in the trash is much the same as tossing money in the trash. You paid for that food. In order to get your money out of it, you need to eat it. If you pay $10 for an entree at a restaurant, eat half and then leave the rest behind, you’ve tossed five dollars into the trash can. Is that smart? Nope. Will this lead to long term financial security? No way. So with that said, what are some of the reasons to eat leftovers and how can you make them more appetizing if you or your kids really have a problem with them?
1. It saves money. This is one of the biggest reasons to eat leftovers. If you bring your leftovers home from a restaurant or you eat food that’s leftover from something you cooked at home, you’re getting the full value out of what you paid. It’s also one less meal that you have to pay for, thus reducing your overall food bills.
2. They make it easy on the chef in the family. As the designated chef in our house, let me tell you that people in my house would go hungry if not for leftovers. I don’t want to cook every night. I have other things I want to do. I seize every chance I get to serve leftovers. In fact, I intentionally make many dishes that I know will be served more than once. It allows me to maximize my time.
3. It gives you a great lunch. If you regularly brown bag your lunch, you probably get tired of sandwiches. Why not bring your leftovers from the steakhouse for lunch? Watch your coworkers drool as they eat their bologna sandwiches.
4. It reduces or eliminates waste. Food that gets tossed goes to the landfill. It wastes not only the food, but the resources that went into making it. A cow had to die for your steak. Is it fair to the cow for you to throw half of it in the trash? Is it fair to the farmer that spent his time and labor on those vegetables that you throw them in the trash? Not to mention the energy that goes into processing and preparing the food, and the packaging that is used. It’s not just throwing food into the trash. You’re wasting all of the labor, energy, and materials that went into that food, as well. The USDA estimates that Americans waste 96 billion pounds of food each year. Another study estimates that we throw away one grocery bag’s worth of food out of every three that we buy. One in three bags you bring home from the store is likely wasted. Stop and think about that for a second. Blows the mind, doesn’t it?
5. It demonstrates overall financial responsibility. If eating leftovers is “beneath” you and you’re willing to waste that money, you probably have deeper financial problems. You aren’t willing to do the work and make the sacrifices necessary to bring wealth into your life. You may not be willing to take a job that may not be your dream job, but allows you to pay the bills. You may not be willing to pick up change off the street, or shop for the best bargain you can find. In times of financial troubles, you may be the one who won’t cut the cable TV. There’s an attitude of, “I shouldn’t have to do that because I’m better educated, smarter, wealthier, etc.” I’m not saying that eating leftovers will net you millions, but it can be an indicator of your overall financial outlook and your willingness to do what is required to get ahead in life.
6. It’s healthier. Restaurant portions are huge. It’s far better for your waistline to divide the dish in half and eat it over two meals instead of cramming it all in at once. Eating leftovers of something you made at home is also preferable to eating too much at one meal. You might find yourself losing weight by eating leftovers.
7. You don’t have to eat it on back to back days. So you just had spaghetti yesterday and don’t want it again today. Who said you had to eat it today? Most foods will keep for a few days if refrigerated correctly (and some can be frozen for longer periods). Spread your leftovers out so that you don’t have to eat the same thing the next day. Or use the leftovers as a starting point for a whole new meal. Use leftover meat and vegetables as ingredients in stew, for example, or pool all your leftovers for the week and have a buffet on Friday night.
8. Invest in containers that make food transport and storage easy. Don’t want to take your leftovers to work because it’s messy or a hassle? Invest in reusable plastic containers of varying sizes to make it easy to store, heat and transport food without mess or hassle. If something makes a good snack for the kids, like mac and cheese, consider putting some of it into small, snack sized containers to encourage kids to eat it. If they can just heat and eat without having to hunt for plates ands serving utensils, they might be more receptive to leftovers.
9. Learn how to properly reheat food. Some foods shouldn’t be nuked on the second go round because they get soggy. Cook these in the oven or toaster oven. Some should be put in the skillet. Some foods are best eaten cold the second time around. Experiment until you know how to get food to come out as good the second time as it was the first. It is possible.
10. Learn how to season leftovers to get rid of the blandness. Some foods do require a little extra spicing up the second time around. Keep a stock of basic spices or sauces on hand and experiment until you learn which foods require which spices to liven them up a bit.
11. You spend less on gas. I hear you now. What do leftovers and gas have to do with each other? Every meal of leftovers that you eat postpones that trip to the restaurant of grocery store a bit longer, saving you the gas required to get there. With gas going nowhere but up, eating at home as much as possible saves money in more places than just the food budget.
12. Label things as to what they are and when they were put in the fridge. This makes it easy to see what you’ve got and when it should be eaten to avoid spoilage. No more guess work or, “But I didn’t know we had that” moments.
13. Learn to cook and buy knowing you’ll be eating the leftovers. If you know there are some things that you absolutely will not eat as a leftover, don’t buy or make it unless you are prepared to eat the whole thing in one go. Only cook and buy meals that you know someone in your house is willing to eat again. Otherwise, you’re wasting money and food.
14. They save time. If you’re super busy, having a fridge stocked with leftovers is a great alternative to fast food. You can just heat and go without having to make something new. This is great for those nights when people are rushing around to activities and the only other choice is the drive thru at McDonalds. (And, by not eating fast food, you’re saving even more money, see #1, and getting healthier, see #6.)
Hopefully you’re now converted to the idea of eating leftovers. However, if you absolutely cannot reconcile yourself to the idea of leftovers, then buy and order less. Share meals in restaurants or order smaller items like appetizers. Buy and prepare just enough for your family to eat it once. Smarter shopping and ordering still saves money and eliminates waste, but doesn’t make you eat leftovers.
Image courtesy of bunchofpants