Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tips & Tricks #45 - Eat those leftovers!!!

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about ways to decrease the amount of money spent on groceries.  We chatted about my monthly crock pot meal planning, how I buy store brand organics to cut my costs, and how we don't eat out much at all - unless it's an infrequent treat.

But there's one huge factor in food costs that many families overlook - leftovers.

Depending on how you use {or don't use} your leftovers, your grocery bill could either slide in under budget or spike up out of control.  If you budget for one dinner plan to last for the following lunch and dinner, but then go out to eat instead, you've not only lost potentially $5-10 on the meals you'd planned but also dropped anywhere from $5-20+ on the meals you purchased in place.  So, on even 1-2 meals of leftovers skipped, you can waste up to $30 or more {*numbers based on our family's budget and what we spend on typical meals}.

If you think about it, eating your leftovers isn't only good for your pocketbook - it's also good for the environment.  By actually eating your leftovers instead of throwing them away, you're reducing waste from not only the food you'd have to toss but any additional packaging from the new meal you'd require to replace the leftovers you didn't want to eat.

It all makes sense, right?  

Eat the food you prepared and cooked to eat, and you'll save money, time, and probably the environment.

But if you're new to actually eating your leftovers, it may not be so easy.  Here are some tips to help you out in the beginning until eating your leftovers becomes habit:

1.  Label your containers.  If you know when you've prepared the food, you're more likely to remember when it's still appropriate to eat and visualize a deadline to eat it in your head.

2.  Check your refrigerator first.  If you're in the habit of checking your pantry/freezer/counters for food first, the chances are more likely that you'll grab something to snack on or eat that would last longer than your leftovers.  Functioning on a first-prepared, first-eaten philosophy can get your leftovers back in rotation.

3.  Try different methods of re-heating.  There are some meals I don't mind popping into the microwave for a quick reheat, but there are other meals I prefer reheated in the toaster oven or on a stove top - or even back in the oven.

Do you eat leftovers in your home?  What are some ways you stretch your grocery budget?

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  1. We've always utilized leftovers for lunches the next day which is awesome because leftover lunches = easy, cheap, and tasty! I used to plan a different meal every night until I realized we were all too often left with food we weren't eating. It didn't happen every week, but it happened enough that I needed to reevaluate my meal planning.

    Around the same time I also started doing some freezer cooking so now I plan at least one night a week for leftovers/freezer meal. This means that most weeks we are able to use up whatever random leftovers we have and if we don't have anything left I can just fall back on a freezer meal. It works out really well!

    One of the reasons I used to be hesitant to plan for a leftover night is because sometimes it's hard to tell how much we're going to have leftover. I didn't want to end up with nothing planned for one night if we ate everything beforehand and I hate grocery shopping so I know if we didn't have anything on hand I would fall back on take out of some sort. With freezer meals on hand I have it covered and either way it gives me a night off from cooking :)

    I love leftovers!

  2. You know our food budget is bigger than I'd like because of the type of food we are committed to feeding our family. We are leftover masters. It might take a little time to get used to eating the same thing 2 meals in a row, but once you do it saves time and money. Every night we make a meal for 4 people, eat 1/2 of it and have the leftovers for lunch the next day. We waste no extra time packing lunches, and no extra money either throwing away leftovers or eating out for lunch.


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