Here it is! Our most controversial article of all time! It has inspired more offended, angry comments than any other.
Yes, we get it: no one likes to be shamed for their life choices. I thought that my comedic use of hyperbole would make it clear that this is nuanced advice, meant to persuade, not condemn. But apparently not! So if in extolling the frugal, environmentalist, and time-saving virtues of using all the food you prepare instead of throwing it away I’ve offended you, by all means, channel that righteous anger into a comment.
But I do hope you think twice before discarding perfectly good food. Children are STARVING in Wichita, Timmy!
To combat this slothful 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).
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.
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 pixelated bad guys in whatever video game I happen to be playing 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 THE FRUGALITY!!!!)
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!
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!”)
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 barbecue place?
Eating your leftovers is one way to reduce the total 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 as invested in this whole financial independence thing 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. Easily bored by eating the same food multiple meals in a row? Same solution: cook good food and love eating it.
The point is, nothing tastes quite as good as frugal smugness feels.