According to recent studies, roughly half of all food that is grown in the United States is thrown away either before it gets to the supermarket, or by consumers. This amounts to more than $1,000 a year of waste in a family of four. If you’re trying to be frugal, that can be quite a bit of money which could be put to use elsewhere. The solution? Eating more leftovers.
The fact of the matter is that while leftovers tend to have kind of a bad rap, they don’t have to be disgusting. In fact, I eat leftovers frequently and tend to look forward to them just as much as (if not more than) the food I cook fresh each night.0
So, next time you’re staring at the leftovers in the fridge and trying to force yourself to use them, try one of these tricks to make those leftovers more appetizing:
1. Take leftovers for lunch
If your work has a microwave, then why not take your leftovers and have a hot lunch the next day? I do this constantly, and it’s nice as it makes my lunches not only effectively free, but tasty and hot. After all, one can only eat sandwiches so many times, right?
2. Understand how to best reheat food
One of the worst things that people do is simply throw something in the microwave and hope. The result will be plastic-y veggies, soggy crusts, and dried-out meats. Remember that with the exception of baked goods, water is often lost when food is refrigerated, so sometimes putting a tiny bit of water or milk in your food before reheating can help revive it. Examples include all veggies and things like rice and potatoes (although for potatoes I often use butter instead of water). Milk can be added to gravy to help it thin out and taste good again, and macaroni and cheese is perfect with a bit of milk and some additional cheese.
Of course there are some things which are really better in the oven than the microwave. As a general rule, anything that was baked will taste better when reheated in the oven (with the notable exception of pie, which is good no matter how you heat it). To reheat something in the oven, place the food on a pan in the cold oven, then set it to preheat to 350°. By the time your oven is preheated, the food should be done.
Some foods, like stew and most gravies and soups, are best reheated on the stove top in a saucepan.
3. Turn leftovers into something new
No one likes to eat the same thing twice. So, instead of simply reheating the exact same meal a second night in a row, turn those leftovers into another dish. A casserole is the cliche option, but you can also do soup or any number of other things. I often make shepherd’s pie with leftover potatoes and meat, turn some leftover veggies into soup, or add some meat to leftover rice and make an impromptu stir fry. The options are endless; just be creative!
4. Make freezer meals
If you’re really tired of eating something, try making your own TV dinner by freezing a meal-sized portion in a freezer-safe container. Make sure you label it with the date. When you’re ready to reheat it, use the oven to warm it up again and enjoy a delicious quick meal!
5. Plan a leftover night in your menu
If worst comes to worst, force yourself to use your leftovers by planning them in your menu. When you plan out your weekly menu, leave one less day’s worth of food than you actually need. Then, right before payday, you’ll end up forcing yourself to eat those leftovers. This is sort of a last resort for me. Next time, take a note of whatever it is that you hate having leftovers for, and try and cook less next time. There’s no point in cooking more than you need if it’s going to go to waste, after all!
If you have other leftover tips or tricks, I’d love to hear them! Leave me a note below and let me know what you do with your leftovers!