Say the word leftovers to a group of people and you usually end up with a wide variety of reactions ranging from, “we live off leftovers in our family” to the more dramatic “eeeew, leftovers are gross!” I fall into the first category of people—I don’t know what we’d do without leftovers at our house!
You see, I grew up eating leftovers regularly as a kid. It was a normal occurrence and I didn’t know of any other way. Then in college, leftovers became essential. There was no way I had time to cook every night (and sorry, but Ramen Noodles just weren’t appealing). My roommates and I enjoyed cooking massive feasts on Sunday nights and eating the leftovers during the rest of that following week.
Fast forward to the present and many of you have probably already noticed how many times per week I plan ‘leftovers’ into my Meal Plan Mondays posts. I haven’t lost my love of leftovers and today I’d like to share why.
Why I think leftovers are so great
Leftovers save us time
Let’s get the obvious out the way right off the bat. Including leftovers as a meal one or more times per week just plain saves time. It normally doesn’t take any longer to cook your casserole or pasta bake slightly larger to ensure leftovers. But it does take time to have to cook a brand new meal every night!
I try to plan eating leftovers for those nights during the week when my husband and I have meetings and cooking is a little harder to squeeze in. In all, I usually only end up cooking new meals 2 to 3 nights out of any given week!
Leftovers prevent waste
Let’s face it. As hard as you might try to make the exact amount of food for any given night, it is downright impossible to achieve this feat for some recipes. Whether you have several servings or just a couple of bites left, it certainly doesn’t make any sense to throw it away!
You aren’t only throwing away your money, but in reality you are also throwing away your time—time you spent cooking that food in the first place and time you will have to spend cooking in the future because you aren’t saving that food for another meal. Pack it in your husband’s lunch the next day or find ways to creatively mix small amounts of leftovers into your next meal. Whatever you do, just don’t settle for tossing them in the trash.
Leftovers help us plan ahead
One additional reason I love leftovers is because of the potential to plan ahead and freeze food. For example, when I make large dishes like lasagna or enchiladas for just my husband and me, I often end up removing several servings and freezing them in small containers for a rainy day.
That ‘rainy day’ might come when you are scrambling last-minute before a meeting, or when you are too sick to cook. I actually find it quite fun to dig through the freezer and see what exciting food I can find from months before. When does lasagna ever take 5 minutes to prepare? When you pull it out of the freezer!
What to do if you can’t stand leftovers
If you fall into that latter category of people who make a face and say, “eeeew, leftovers are gross” then you might not be totally convinced by my three points above. But all hope is not lost. Here are a few tips to help you deal with dreaded leftovers:
- Ensure you won’t end up with leftovers. As stated above, it can be tricky for certain recipes to make exact amounts. But once you figure out your family’s eating habits, you can tweak your recipes to achieve perfect or near-perfect results.
- Change the way you prepare leftovers. If you hate leftover pizza because it gets all rubbery and gross in the microwave, then try reheating it in the oven. Another way you can change things up a bit is to try to take your leftovers and work them into something else. For example, we sometimes take leftover fajitas and fry them into quesadillas the next day.
- Wait to eat your leftovers. I mentioned freezing leftovers above, but you can also just wait a few days to finish them off if the reason you don’t like leftovers is because you don’t want to eat the same food two days in a row. Variety is a good thing! Sometimes my husband and I wait several days to eat leftovers so that they end up feeling almost like a new meal when it’s finally time to eat them again. Just be careful not to wait too long as food obviously only has a limited time before it spoils.
- Just give leftovers a chance. Perhaps your issue isn’t with eating the same food two days in a row, but with eating food that isn’t fresh. Have you actually ever tasted leftovers? While not everything tastes great re-heated, certain leftovers can actually taste even better than the first time around because flavors have time to meld in the refrigerator. Try leftovers sometime, you might be surprised.
I obviously love leftovers, but what about you?