Eliminating Leftovers and Food Waste

It seems I am the only person in my home that will eat leftovers. Would you throw cold hard cash in the garbage pail or down the garbage disposal? Of course not, but allowing leftovers to go uneaten or allowing dairy products and produce to go bad is the equivalent of throwing money away. To demonstrate this, try this experiment for one week:

Each time you throw a meal size serving into the garbage, set aside $2 (the approximate cost of a Lean Cuisine meal). In the same fashion, set aside the equivalent cash for each container of milk, sour cream, half consumed bottles of pop, half eaten pop tarts, bags of chips and stale or moldy sandwich bread you dispose of. You will be appalled at the amount of money you are throwing away! I guarantee if you do this for several weeks you will reduce your grocery bills.

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Plan on having a leftover meal a week to use up those leftovers or freeze and take in your lunch instead of purchasing a frozen meal. Do not purchase perishable items unless you have a plan to use them before they expire. As potatoes or onions near their shelf life, cut and freeze for hash browns or to use in casseroles in the future. Place a large container in the freezer and place tablespoons of vegetables or roast beef into it. When the container is full, we add a can of tomato sauce and have a deliciously rich beef vegetable soup. This is a great way to use up leftover vegetables! With a bit of practice you can slash your grocery bills and stop throwing money away - literally!

By Diana from Prospect, KY

March 19, 20090 found this helpful

Great idea! I save leftover veggies for soup. When my boys were home we had a weekly "Leftover Night" and served it buffet style in the kitchen so each plate could go into the mircowave. Now that there is just the two of us we have "Scrap Night"!

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March 19, 20090 found this helpful

Amen, I totally agree! My DH and I never believed in wasting food and have eaten leftovers.

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March 19, 20090 found this helpful

A good habit to get into is to clear out the fridge a few days before going grocery shopping. Make food with what you need to use up even if you don't feel like eating it. I have done this and brought lunches to work made from fridge leftovers. Some days I don't want to eat it but I still do. Since I've been paying closer attention to what I have on hand now, I go grocery shopping less and spend less $$. I am one that has thrown out SO much food because i love to cook/bake and there are only two of us living in the house. I also now cook less amounts of food. I've noticed a difference in my compost the last few weeks, less food waste :) Thanks for sharing too!

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March 19, 20090 found this helpful

I am eating last nights leftovers for lunch as I read these posts :-)

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March 19, 20090 found this helpful

We find that leftovers usually taste better than the original meal.

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March 19, 20091 found this helpful

When I was a kid, left-overs often became a curry or soup a day or so later.

My work lunches are usually left-overs from the previous evening's meal, with added garlic, chili, pepper and so on.

"What the dog don't eat, Dad will!"

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March 19, 20090 found this helpful

I did that just tonight. Had some fresh spinach that going bad and some leftover pasta sauce that I froze in the freezer. I made some fresh bread dough; let it rise for 30 minutes and shredded the spinach and added some shredded mozzarella cheese and made some calzones. Poured pasta sauce over and made a salad. Voila! Dinner for 11 for less than $3. Not bad for leftovers!

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March 20, 20090 found this helpful

We eat leftovers quite often. If you have leftover chili but not enough to make a dinner add cooked macaroni to make it enough for all. Just made a dinner the other night with 1/2 cup over leftover cooked ground beef with onion and spices I'd thrown in the freezer, a cup of leftover tomatoe sauce I'd used to cook meatballs in also from the freezer, baby zucchini's that were going to go bad if not used threw it all together with some italian herbs boiled up some pasta to go with it and WALA dinner and we had enough for everyone and still have a serving for me for lunch today!

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March 20, 20090 found this helpful

When my husband and I started dating 10 years ago, he informed me that his mom never made him eat leftovers. I said that wouldn't fly with me because I can only cook for 5 people. After several hungry nights watching me happily eat leftover soup, casserole, chili or sandwiches made from leftovers, he got over it.

Now I try to cook for 3 people. My husband, myself and which ever one of us is going to eat the leftovers. I immediately put the leftovers in a container, label and freeze. I keep a list on the side of the freezer of what's in there.

We also eat leftovers for lunch alot. Leftover pasta (no sauce) gets made into pasta salad. Grilled meats get sliced for salad or wraps. Cooked veggies go into soups, wraps, pasta salad. Mashed potatoes become potato salad, potato soup, potato pancakes or the top of shepherd's pie. Leftover baked goods get wrapped and frozen. Muffins, rolls, bread, biscuits are great to have on hand. Premade pancakes can be popped in the toaster. (Fry or microwave an egg, top with cheese and place in a biscuit or between two pancakes for a quick and easy breakfast.)

Have a "getting rid of leftover night" (or call it something else). Bake some potatoes or biscuits. Top them with heated leftovers in whatever combos the diners want.

Just rethink your food. Recently I wanted to make nachos and only had 1/4 pound ground beef. However I did have 1/4 cup spaghetti sauce with ground beef. I cooked the ground beef, added the sauce at the end and spiced it up with taco seasoning. Hubby commented that he liked the saucy taco meat a lot. He had no idea it resurrected spaghetti sauce. Leftover pork chops can go in stir fry or fried rice. Crumbled leftover meatloaf or meatballs can go into soup, pizza sauce, casseroles. Think of simple grilled or broiled meats as toppings or stir in for veggie or pasta salads.

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March 21, 20090 found this helpful

I use a Reynold's Handi Vac with Reynold's Handi Vac Bags. The Handi Vac removes the air from the food. I can't promise it won't get freezer burn, but my food never has using this. The Handi Vac was only about $10 (I think) when I bought it a couple of years ago. The price of bags varies depending on size. A more expensive alternative might be one of those Seal a Meal type things. They sell for about $100.

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March 21, 20090 found this helpful

Where can I buy Reynold's Handi Vac? Thanks.

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March 22, 20090 found this helpful

The Reynolds Handi Vac can usually be found at Walmart or Target stores.

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March 22, 20090 found this helpful

I don't get the whole "won't eat leftovers" bit. I love leftovers. In my house, the boys would eat them for snacks. We would take them for lunches -- our schools and workplaces have microwaves. One of my sons didn't care for breakfast foods (toast, cereal) so he would eat leftovers for breakfast. Sometimes I combine leftovers to make "soup of the day" or add them to canned soups to give some variety. I am always appalled when I see people toss serving sized amounts of food. How wasteful!

I might add that I am also appalled by people who don't take their leftovers home from a restaurant in a doggie bag. My youngest son EXPECTED me to bring him home something when I was out for a restaurant dinner. It would be his bedtime lunch! LOL

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March 23, 20090 found this helpful

I always cook extra just for the leftovers. We eat them for lunch the next day, or I recycle them into new meals--my own personal "cook once, eat twice" method.

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March 23, 20090 found this helpful

I have been saying that exact same thing about throwing out money for years! I'll say it about more than just food too. I'll say, "Go ahead. Throw your money in that trash can. You can look at it, but you can't use it because it's garbage now. If you won't do that with real money, why do it with things? It amounts to the same thing." Thank you!

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March 26, 20090 found this helpful

As a single Dad on a very tight budget, leftovers are a real bonus to the weekly budget. They have been great at getting my young son interested in cooking and it's great fun working together to come up with new and tasty ideas.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

Leftover stuffing made with sage and lots of onion . All on wholemeal toast, pop under the grill and add a dollop of chutney. Yummy! So much harder to throw away when it's all home-made. Part of my day goes in that loaf!

Marg from England.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

Amen! I spent too many years going hungry trying to keep four small children fed on a tight budget to blithely toss out edible food. I argue with hubby and his grown son about this frequently. Thanks for the reminder.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

This was a great post! What I really like about it was that you can freeze and save small quantities of veggies and use to make soup at a later date. It all comes down to a mindset. I wasted loads of food when I was younger because I didn't know you can freeze almost anything.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

We've been eating leftovers for years, too. When all the kids were still living at home, one night a week would be "Smorgasbord Night", when I'd take out whatever leftover portions were in the fridge in the three-day-or-under range ( still safe to eat) and any small portions of anything I'd frozen.

Our oldest always whined about these nights, right up until the time she went into her first apartment on her own and finally saw firsthand what it meant to put food on the table. She's thirty now and has her own Smorgasbord Night, LOL!

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

These are great posts. My leftover problem was always milk. We have milk delivery and I always forget to call and cancel. Making pudding etc. never used it all up; until I discovered I could make my own ricotta cheese (for lasagne) I got the recipe from allrecipes and it has been a lifesaver. The cheese is better than anything you can buy. It takes about 10 minutes to make, and if the milk isnt real fresh it works just fine. I also have a handheld vacuum sealer as well as the bigger model. both work equally well and save me a fortune. I just took some hamburger out ot the freezer that had been there for 3 years. It looks like I had just frozen it. No freezer burn. they are amazing.

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March 19, 20100 found this helpful

The basic premise that roast beef "leftovers" is stew, etc., mind-set has not taken hold on some people's minds. They'll throw last nights roast beef in the garbage and buy "stew meat". Amazing ain't it?

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April 29, 20130 found this helpful

Just finished leftover spaghetti. One family member doesn't even like leftovers.

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March 2, 20151 found this helpful

Fools who pay attention to "best by due dates" are being conned by marketing gurus who use this gimmick to get grocers to place their items on "sale" so a re-order can happen. 60 Minutes recently had a 20 minute segment "Americans throw away 4 billion dollars worth of perfectly good food because they do not understand this fallacy". Stop it, America.

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March 2, 20150 found this helpful

Any family member refusing to eat anything put on the table, should be assigned the chore of cooking for the family for two months. Add: do the dishes, too!

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March 5, 20150 found this helpful

Maybe if we stopped calling them "leftovers" and called them bonus meals? I love extras from a meal, like a pre-planned meal for the next day, not left over but pre-made for another day's meal. Most things actually taste better the next day. I don't throw anything away but when I put the food away I put it in a microwavable container and it's ready to go.

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March 5, 20150 found this helpful

I personally think fully cooked leftover meals, reheated, are gross. This is because when I cook a meal, I make it done but not overdone. That's the way I like my food. When you re-heat a meal, the meat becomes overdone and cheese goes from freshly melted to hard rubber. Milk based sauces boil and oil-based ones separate. Other ingredients suffer as well.

What I found I can do, though - I make more food than I need and save ingredients such as meat, veggies, pasta and potatoes when they're almost done. You can even assemble the meal ahead of time.

I can assemble that evening's meal and finish cooking it. Then the next day finish cooking the already prepped second meal. Or I can use the almost-done ingredients to make something different.

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March 20, 20160 found this helpful

I have never had any of your problems. Sounds is if you 'reheated' your food uncovered, in a blast furnace.

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