You need to learn to forgive.

If You Don’t Eat Leftovers I Don’t Even Want to Know You

Did you guys know there are people out there who just… don’t eat leftovers? Yes! These wasteful, snooty heathens exist! And they’re coming for your delicious yet frugal lifestyle decisions.

To combat this slothful, repugnant, and uncreative attitude, I’m going to extoll the virtue of leftovers in all their glory. Because I think leftovers are the cat’s pajamas and you should too.

What do you take me for?

Leftovers save time!

Most recipes we use (and most published recipes in general) make four servings, and my husband and I are a household of about two (not counting the dog and That Friend Who Comes over Unannounced Approximately Two Nights a Week and If He Doesn’t We Get Worried and Go Look for Him at the Brewery aka Chad).

So we just eat half of the meal for dinner and save the other half for lunch the next day. The leftovers get scooped into two Tupperware containers* when we’re washing the dishes, and that’s that. No extra food preparation required. We cook one dish and it feeds us both for two meals.

We cook one dish and it feeds us both for two meals.

Considering I wake up at 6 a.m. in time to beat rush hour and make it to work by 7:30, my morning minutes are precious and few. So time wasted on making a fresh lunch from scratch in the morning means extra time spent in traffic. And time wasted making lunch at night after I’ve already cooked dinner means less time to assassinate Templars before bed.

So you see the importance of this time-saving technique.

*(We don’t actually use Tupperware. We use recycled yogurt containers because I got tired of replacing Tupperware after lending it to friends and never getting it back. Sure, it looks like we’re hoarding fat free vanilla yogurt by the quart if you open our fridge, and it’s definitely fun to open four containers at a time to find what I’m looking for, but think of how frugal we’re being!!!!)

Leftovers save money!

Thirteen out of eleven personal finance experts agree that eating out is more expensive than brown bagging your lunch. That’s just science.

When I was trying to cut back on my expenses to massacre my accursed student loans, one of the first things I did was cut back on eating out.

I never thought of myself as someone who wasted money on food. Yet a sandwich at my favorite lunch spot near my office costs $8.45. I was eating two or three of these babies a week. So I was spending, conservatively, over $67 a month on deli meat between some toasted bread.

That’s ludicrous. And completely avoidable.

I realized I could eliminate that expense entirely by bringing leftovers to work every day of the week. No need to allocate extra toward my grocery budget for sandwich fixings. Just eat the extra food I already have made.

Money saved, tummy full.

Leftovers prevent you from overeating!

If I’m planning to eat leftovers for lunch, it means the amount I eat at dinner directly affects how much I have left over for lunch the next day.

This keeps me from gorging myself on the delicious meats, cheeses, and orphan blood my soul requires for sustenance. For if I overeat, my body might be too bloated and sluggish to catch said tender orphans!

For if I overeat, my body might be too bloated and sluggish to catch said tender orphans!

And while I try to stay healthy by working out and running as much as possible, exercise is only half the battle. Diet is the other half.

Leftovers prevent food waste!

Americans waste about sixty million tons of food a year. Your mom’s voice: Meanwhile, children are starving in Africa, so for Pete’s sake eat your broccoli, Jimmy!

Americans waste about sixty million tons of food a year.

No but srsly: that is a disgusting and unnecessary amount of waste. How much of that do you think is just Monday’s leftovers that don’t look quite as appetizing as Wednesday’s brand new takeout from that new barbeque place?

Eating your leftovers is one way to reduce the amount of food waste, at least in your own life. Just, like… eat all the food.

FOR FUCK’S SAKE EAT YOUR FUCKING LEFTOVERS

I know there are those out there traumatized by leftovers. I’m sorry grandma’s three-day-old Husband’s Delight Casserole hurt you that way.  I myself sometimes take leftover grazing to an extreme, much to my husband’s annoyance.

We just got back from a weeklong rafting trip, after which we divided the leftover provisions with our friends. We ended up with a bag of bagels, a bag of carrots, some almonds, and a jar of capers. On the drive home I just started… eating the carrots because why the hell not? I offered my husband a sandwich of stale blueberry bagels, whole carrots, and capers with a garnish of almonds and for some reason he insisted on stopping for “real lunch” instead. Why? Dunno. Between you and me, I just don’t think he’s invested in this whole financial independence thing as much as I am.

Between you and me, I just don’t think he’s invested in this whole financial independence thing as much as I am.

But you need to learn to forgive. Let go of that time your mom thought stale cornbread with a side of… cold egg noodles and ketchup?… was an acceptable dinner. You can control your leftover destiny. You’re an adult now. The trauma of reheated pork chops is behind you.

So find yourself a goddamn straw and suck it up.

It won’t hurt you. It’ll save money, time (which is money), health (which is also money), and the planet (way more important than pretty much everything including money). So you really have no excuse not to eat your leftovers.

Don’t have a microwave at work? That’s cool. You should be eating more salads for dinner anyway, and those don’t need heating up. Plus, you’d be astonished by how many once-hot meals taste pretty damn good at room temp.

Don’t have a fridge at work? You know you always wanted one of those cute mini lunchbox coolers stuffed with a couple of ice packs! They’re adorable!

Share a fridge with a sticky-fingered coworker? This is more opportunity than problem, since petty revenge is one of life’s truest delights. Pull an Orange is the New Black on your lunch containers a few times and they’ll never rob you of your leftovers again. (Or just season and salt the everloving hell out of your food. White people hate that.)

Don’t like the taste of leftovers? Can’t help you there, other than to suggest you try making better food the first time around.

The point is, your lame excuses are lame. I eat leftovers almost every day at work, and it’s glorious. Because nothing tastes quite as good as frugal smugness feels.

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19 thoughts on “If You Don’t Eat Leftovers I Don’t Even Want to Know You

  1. What she said! Not to mention that a lot of foods that are leftover, like stews, soups and pasta dishes actually seem to improve with a day or three in the fridge. And leftover pizza is great hot or cold for any meal from breakfast to midnight snacks! I have met a couple of people, guys usually, who refuse to eat leftovers. That is so crazy when you can nuke a cold dish and have an awesome meal ready in seconds with only one dish to wash. I think there is some childhood trauma at work in leftover haters because it just doesn’t make sense to waste good food. Come to think of it both of those guys are pretty strange!

  2. Um, leftovers save my freaking life!

    How else would I manage to juggle (note: I don’t say balance… “balance” is a sham and complete bullshit!) working full-time, pursuing my own goals/passions, living life/spending time with my husband + son AND not starving my family while I’m at it?!?

    Leftovers are amazing, end of story.

  3. HAHA I love it that 13/10 finance experts agree… I’m guessing most agreed like 1 1/2 times. And I’m fairly certain “So find yourself a goddamn straw and suck it up.” is my absolute FAVORITE new phrase! That will come out of my mouth at least once before the week is over.

    I not only love leftovers but I PLAN FOR THEM by making large things like a whole chicken or pork roast, and then using it creatively in soups, stews, casseroles, salads, and tacos throughout the week. And this is why the frugal shall inherit the Earth…

    1. DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS? YUP. My favorite frugal meal trifecta is to roast a chicken, use the leftover chicken on a salad, and then use the chicken bones to make soup. Use all the parts of the animal like our ancestors intended!

      And I KNOW you didn’t just check my math… 😉

  4. Second that, Steveark – some of my favourite meals are better as leftovers! Leftover stew will always be better than first-day as far as I’m concerned. And cold lasagna is one of my go-to breakfasts because I make it with lots of veggies and protein, so it’s a great start to your day. Leftovers are a great way to change up your normal meals too. I make waffles in batches and will make PB&J sandwiches with them for lunch if I’ve run out of bread.

    I grew up cooking with my mom for the whole family, but now that I live by myself, I find it harder and less budget friendly to scale down the meals that I grew up making. It works out that any meal that makes 6-8 servings will keep me fed all week, so it doesn’t make sense to curb that tendency. All I have to shop for during the week is fresh fruit to include in my lunch box and I’m golden. Team Leftovers 4 lyfe!

    1. Go Team Leftovers!!!

      Lawd, I am in awe of the leftover game of the single. With only one person to feed, you can stretch that food for daaaays.

  5. I use Paprika to organize my recipes and there’s a whole category I created called Lunch Leftovers for dinner-type recipes that make for excellent lunch leftovers. That list is EXCELLENT for meal planning.

    I work with a ton of people who eat takeout every single day and I just don’t understand how they’re affording it.

    1. Not only how are they affording it… but how are they staying healthy?! Most takeout is way too fattening for an every day habit.
      I need to try this Paprika business.

  6. I typically make two large pots of food every weekend and eat it all week. It lets me make really tasty food and relax while doing it (I love to cook), instead of coming home ravenous at the end of the day and trying to throw something together before my stomach devours itself. Some people think I’m nuts for eating the same thing on multiple days, but 1) I will often freeze some of the leftovers, so I can swap in other things from the freezer for variety and 2) I’m a boring person who doesn’t really mind eating the same thing multiple times. I love leftovers.

  7. 1. As STEVEARK points out, some foods are best when they are a day or two old. Pasta – good. Day old pasta – better. Day old mac and cheese that has been reheated until bubbly – freaking fantastic!
    2. I never understood people who liked the food the first time but don’t like leftovers. It’s the SAME FOOD. The only reason it would taste different is if a) the flavors had time to meld together (yum! even better!) or b) you don’t wrap/contain your food properly and it takes on gross random refrigerator smells. In which case, even the really good vacuum-sealed glassware is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying lunch every day!
    3. I bring my food to work every day. Some of my coworkers buy lunch every day. Strangely, even the higher ranking ones who are paid more “can’t” afford to save money because life is so expensive. 1 + 1 =/= 2 for these folks.

    And now for a funny story!

    Once upon a time, I had a roommate who absolutely insisted on always saving leftovers, but never ever under any circumstances would she eat the leftovers. I should also mention that however much food she was given, she would leave some so that she could have leftovers later. And then not eat them. The fridge had on average a dozen containers of leftovers that would never ever be eaten.

    She was not a particularly bright person.

    One day I had a bunch of friends over for dinner and regaled them with tales of said roommate’s eating habits. When she arrived home and claimed she was “starving,” one of my friends joked about giving her a tiny serving to see if she would only eat half. I decided to test it out. I gave her ten strands of spaghetti and half a meatball. She ate….half of that. “Saved the rest for later.”

    On another occasion, she came home from dinner at a Mexican restaurant with a fullsize styrofoam container of – no kidding – one tablespoon of refried beans, half a piece of lettuce, and about a quarter cup of rice. After sitting in the fridge for 7 days, I threw it out. Oh, the storm I created! She screamed at me for daring to interfere with her intent to eat said leftovers. This was over a year into our living together and many, many instances of me having to clean out the fridge from her stacks of styrofoam boxes.

    Some people’s children.

  8. I’m a big fan of pot pie. If we have a bunch of odds and ends of leftover meats or vegetables or whatever, make a pie shell and throw all that stuff in there! My roommate is balky about leftovers sometimes but if we do something to slightly *alter* the food she’s usually OK with it. Favorites besides pie are soup (obvs), and rice bowls. Dump those leftovers over some steamed rice, maybe add some sauce. Also, if you add a little corn starch or flour could that soup become a gravy or a pasta sauce?

    1. Also, for at least some of our most leftover leftovers, we have a worm bin. They can’t eat everything but they do a good job with stems and stalks and peels and shells. It makes me feel better to feed the worms that to send food to rot in a landfill.

  9. Best trick with leftovers is to plan to skip a night before you eat that same meal a second time. That way you are not depressingly eating the same food two days in a row.

    Makes all the difference to your anticipation of enjoying that great meal without having to prepare it.

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