Think You Hate Leftovers? Think Again.

A friend of mine was laid off from her job three months ago. Not surprising, given the current economy. Anyway, like many people, she’s in over her head financially. Without her salary her family is having trouble making ends meet. Since it looks like she might be out of work for awhile, she came to me for help on stretching their budget.

One of the first areas we tackled was food. With three kids, food is a big money drain in their house. As part of the plan, I introduced her to “once a month cooking.” (For those who don’t know, once a month cooking is when you spend one or two days cooking all of your main meals for the month. Then you freeze it all and bring out w


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24 Responses to Think You Hate Leftovers? Think Again.

  1. David G. Mitchell says:

    Jennifer — Excellent article and message! I very much enjoyed reading it.


  2. Annie Jones says:

    I would add that almost any time one eats in a buffet line, full service restaurant or catered dinner, they are eating at least some food that was prepared hours or even days ahead of time and reheated.

    Perhaps the steak was cooked fresh to order, but those cheesy smashed potatoes that go with it are probably made from leftover baked potatoes from the night before.

    No different than leftovers at home.

  3. kerry says:

    AWESOME. Thanks for this, Jennifer! This is a terrific article, and such a beautifully simple response to a really common perception problem. Great job!

  4. kerry says:

    @ Annie Jones:
    well… one small (or not so small!) difference — @ home leftovers are free :) good point, tho’!

  5. catmom says:

    Wow! Never thought of it that way. What a great story…. and thank you!

  6. Marissa says:

    LOL!…loved it!
    my family loves leftovers… but I cannot do the cook once a month thing because my freezer is super small…

  7. justme says:

    my family appreciates my cooking and it makes it easy for me to enjoy cooking for them,

    if anyone said that stuff was gross and needed to be prepared fresh that person would be in charge of cooking dinner

  8. Hilary says:

    Perhaps you’ve already posted on this, but I would love to see a post with the recipes and strategies that you described to your friend! I am struggling with cooking and could use some good advice for once-a-month cooking.

  9. Count me as a lucky one that doesn’t hear family complaints about ‘left overs’ or frozen dinner.

    I like to cook, am creative and make meals with several SMALL portioned items so there is always a choice for the kids.

    My BEST tip: Serve a fresh fruit or vegetable with EVERY meal. Even if it is just sliced apples with peanut butter dip. Or thinly sliced oranges rolled on toothpicks.

    Really, the shape and appearance make the difference.

    We also grow vegetables in the yard which are indispensible in freshening up any meal.

  10. M E 2 says:

    I myself don’t mind leftovers. BUT, if she is unemployed, I don’t get why your friend can’t cook dinner most, if not, every night? Plenty of people who DO have a job and/or work full-time do it. Plus, it doesn’t sound like her children are all that young si that they need all her time and/or attention.

  11. Aya @ Thrive says:

    Is it the fact that they knew the food was frozen that turned them off? If mom kept it a secret, would it not make a difference? Frozen food IS so expensive, I remember Smuckers had their PB&J uncrustable sandwiches that were about $5 for 3 sandwiches or so. If you bought a jar each of PB&J and bread, imagine how many sandwiches you could make!

  12. Caoineag says:

    I have to admit, my big objection to leftovers is eating something more than 3 times in a month (really just can’t do it). So I go the opposite way and am learning to cook smaller portions so we can have more variety and not waste food.

  13. catmom says:

    If this is okay to post…I don’t cook but I just found this great website the other day called
    she mostly seems to cook with the crock pot, generally very few ingredients and very easy stuff to make. If it wasn’t that I’m a household of one I’d be even more tempted to try her recipes. They all sound awesome. Caution: sometimes her language would be a little offensive to some.

  14. Analise says:

    Great post. I am thankful my DH loves leftovers, and I try to be creative with them. For example, tonight I made a stir fry with leftover pork roast and steamed broccoli but added fresh bok choy, onions and mushrooms. It was as good as anything made completely “fresh.” I was raised that it is a sin to throw away food when so many in the world are dying of starvation, so I am sure guilt is a factor with us. Nonetheless, we strive to never throw away food.

  15. shahrul azwad says:

    Excellent post! A fresh take!

  16. Jo says:

    An excellent article Jennifer. Buy meat and vegetables in bulk when on sale and then prepare and freeze By doing this, we save a fortune and can afford the odd meal out.

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  18. baselle says:

    I loved this post. It really tells you the power of branding – the frozen items the family picked up were all advertised on TV as something other than frozen food. Healthy, quick, good, tasty, not something nameless that your mom pulled out of the freezer. It might help leftover acceptance even more to note the food ads and to cut back on the TV a bit.

  19. Sammy says:

    How true! Cooking in advance certainly does help. Even if one cannot cook for the whole month, cooking for the next week will also make a difference.

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  21. ThiNg says:

    I hope my kids never read this, but we put homemade or no-name versions of the same items into name brand boxes in the freezer and the kids don’t know!!

    I buy the giant bulk box of something, let’s say POGOs (corn dogs) then when it gets about half way empty, we start ‘refilling’ it with our own homemade versions (much healthier) or no-name brands (which the kids won’t eat). So when I send the eldest down to get POGOs from the freezer, he can assure the youngest that were the real thing…

    We only run into trouble when items are individual sealed in the box, but we get pretty creative. We open 4-5 items and then reseal them in a vacuum sealed bag (family sized portions). We mix them up so some are brand name some are ‘alternatives’.

    Now, if only I could find away to individually seal cheese to substitute for cheese strings!!!

  22. CMS says:

    I enjoyed the article but this would not be a problem in my Family. Growing up i was expected to eat all of what was in front of me whether i liked it or not. Now i am a parent and it’s the same. There is no way any of my kids would show disrespect for any effort someone else made on behalf of the family.

  23. Ann says:

    Just can’t do leftover meals. I’m single, no boyfriend, no kids, no dog. I love to cook but then I end up with all this extra food. I’m not a big eater. With good intentions, I freeze some of the leftovers only to throw them out 6 months later when my freezer is too full. This sounds so wasteful, but I’m getting ready to clean out the fridge which means bye-bye meatloaf, bye-bye marinara sauce, bye-bye sauteed greens, etc. One of the reasons I don’t like leftovers is that on the day I made that particular meal, that was what I wanted that day. Later, it’s not appetizing. I try to prepare smaller amounts but some things just don’t work well like trying to make just 2 cups of beef stew. Oh well. I applaud those of you enjoying your leftovers. Want some of mine?

  24. kalex says:

    After reading that and seeing the whole “its the same as frozen at home leftovers” argument, I really gotta say its a crock. The author said it him/herself the difference between frozen store food and the stuff at home is the ingredients. All the crap at the store is made with stuff to make them taste good when reheated, at home stuff is made with ingredients to taste the best when it is originally made.

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