I think everyone struggles with what to do with leftover food. How do you get your family to eat leftovers? What are some ways to make them last longer? Can you plan meals around them? Absolutely! Let’s talk about “13 Clever Ways to Manage Leftovers & Save Money”!
Leftover food management is nothing new at my house.
Raising 9 children demands good food management, like it or not.
Yet, I consider leftovers to be more of an asset than a liability today. Given the fact that over 40% of food in America is thrown away, can you imagine how much money we could save on our grocery bills if we just managed our food better?
While there’s a lot of food wasted in the production and distribution process, most of that 40% is actually household waste. That’s what you and I throw away!
Think about it this way.
Every time you spend $100 on groceries, imagine leaving 40% of them ($40 worth) in the parking lot of the grocery store as you drive off. That’s crazy to think about, isn’t it??
More Food Waste Facts:
- Americans throw away close to $218 billion worth of food each year.
- Much of this food lays in landfills emitting methane, which is harmful to the environment, and accounts for the largest percentage of solid waste in landfills.
- The average American throws away between 4.6-7.5 pounds of food per week, per household. Dude, that’s an average of 312# per year!
- Many Americans realize that they waste food, and have good intentions of improving their food stewardship, but often fail because they don’t have a plan.
Here’s where my point is today.
In order to make the most of the food that comes into our homes, we need a plan and a strategy in place.
Plan for Leftovers But Don’t Overcook
Before you start cooking a meal, stop and think about how much of it is likely to be eaten that evening.
As we approach “Empty Nester” stage in our family, we really only need to feed my husband, myself and one teenager who may or may not be home for dinner that evening.
The way I look at it, I have 2 choices.
- I can prepare a small meal for my husband and I and completely consume it. The teenager can make himself a sandwich or eat other leftovers.
- I can prepare a little more food and freeze it for another evening.
Don’t cook “mindlessly” and prepare more food than can reasonably be consumed in a night or two.
Store them in a Way They Can Be Seen and Identified Easily
This is so important if you’re going to manage your leftovers well.
Family members will be much more enthusiastic about eating leftovers if they can be seen and identified quickly.
When I was a kid, leftovers were always put in re-used butter or margarine tubs! You had to open and peek into each and every container to decide if you wanted to eat any of it.
Today, I keep and use a set of good quality, glass containers with lids.
Glass isn’t the cheapest, but in the long run, it makes more sense. Plastic containers can leach toxins into your food, especially if you use them to re-heat food!
Glass containers can be used to freeze and re-heat your food in a much safer way!
Store Food in Easily Consumed Portions
I’ve made the mistake of freezing a huge portion of a meal, only to watch it sink to the bottom of the freezer, never to be eaten.
Now, I store food in “serving sizes”, which makes it much easier for a family member to just take what they want, without committing to a big portion of food.
My Food Saver is wonderful for this! No freezer burn!
I can vacuum seal a leftover sandwich and pop it in the freezer in a flash!
Have an “Eat Me First” Shelf or Bowl for Food that’s Close to Expiring
When I want to get the family’s attention about food that needs to eaten very soon, I put it in a large bowl on the countertop or on the first shelf of the refrigerator, with a note that says “Eat Me First”!
This little system also keeps me on my toes to look for ways to use up what needs to be eaten!
Keep a Covered Tub in the Freezer for Bits of Leftover Veggies
I did this for years when all the kids were home!
I kept a quart-sized container in the freezer. Whenever we were clearing dishes from a meal, I would scrape the last few green beans or chunks of meat from someone’s plate into my container and freeze them.
Now, before you mention the “cootie factor”, keep in mind that you’re eating with your family! Unless someone is ill, I don’t give it a second thought.
So, with a few leftover vegetables here and there, it doesn’t take long to fill that container up!
That’s when I’ll make a big batch of soup with all of my veggies, and it cost me virtually nothing!
Make a Habit of Eating Leftovers for Lunch
I don’t know about you, but I love eating leftovers for lunch!
Especially when it’s soup or Italian food, it’s always better the next day!
Make Weekly Meal Plans and Don’t Overbuy
Most of us go to the grocery each week without a meal plan or list.
I guarantee that if you make a meal plan for the week and bring a list to the store, you will save money and waste a lot less food!
Be Creative with New “Leftovers” Recipes
When the family is tired casseroles and soups made from leftovers, get creative and make some new recipes!
Allrecipes.com is a website I use when I have a lot of one or two particular ingredients. You simply put the ingredients in the search box and allrecipes.com will give you recipe suggestions!
Have a “Leftovers” Night
This is something we usually do on a Sunday evening, before the beginning of the new work week.
Our family really likes “Leftover Night”, because they can choose from whatever they enjoyed most from last week’s meals!
Consider Getting Chickens
While I think everyone in America should have a few chickens for fresh eggs, chickens are also wonderful at eating up things that you might otherwise have to throw away. Chickens are pretty much pigs with feathers.
My “girls” absolutely LOVE leftover spaghetti, stale bread, macaroni and leftover oatmeal!
Finally, composting your food is a great option to managing leftover food.
With the exception of dairy and meats, most foods can be composted and used as fertilizer for your garden!