Love Yer Leftovers!

I don’t know about you, but I love leftovers. I mean really, what’s not to love?

They’re economical, easy and environmentally friendly. That first adjective is pretty self-evident. If you’ve already paid for the food—whether eating in or out—you may as well use it.

As for easy, it doesn’t get much more convenient than taking leftovers for lunch the next day. They’re already packed, after all. (Be sure to pack lunch-sized containers the night before so I don’t look like a liar.) And if you’ve already put in the effort of deciding what to prepare, getting the ingredients and cooking it, why not put it all to use?

But did you know that using your leftovers is the green thing to do, too? A sizable amount of fossil fuel energy goes into growing, processing, transporting and cooling our food. When we don’t eat it, those resources were used in vain. Also, when food rots in a landfill, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times as potent a heat-trapper as CO2.

In the first sentence of the above paragraph, I wrote ‘using’ for a reason. Simply saving your leftovers, only to have them turn odd colors in your fridge doesn’t really help.

If you’re just not a leftover person (and refuse to see the light), it may make sense to prepare less food, maybe halving the recipe. Another idea is to try repurposing your leftovers into a new dish. In so doing, you get to exhibit a little creativity.

There’s a good chance many of you regulars here already love leftovers. Or at least like them. But if you don’t, now may be the time to reconsider—to preserve your money and time and our environment. [he steps down from the soap box]

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  1. Posted October 4, 2010 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    I am not naturally a leftover lover. But, I’ve decided I don’t have to love them to eat them, and I’ve eaten a lot more leftovers in the last 2 years than I did before I started keeping an eye on my food waste.

    I also am careful to not overcook items that make really bad leftovers…if a particular main dish doesn’t do well the next day, I make a limited amount of that and fluff up the meal with side dishes that do well as leftovers.

  2. Posted October 4, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    That’s a really good point about knowing what items you won’t like as leftovers. For me, it’s fried foods. Do you make generous amounts of items you do like as leftovers?

    Thanks for fluffing up the comments section here…;)

  3. Posted October 4, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I was just thinking about bringing a container if lentil soup out of the freezer and into the lunchtime scenario. Your post has turned it into a done deal!

    -Katy Wolk-Stanley
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

  4. Posted October 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Just found your site from the Rubbermaid post. I love your message!
    I always tell folks that having a plan for the food they bring into their home helps them maintain control of their food budget. …and now we can learn more about how it helps minimize their impact on the environment!

    I’m looking forward to following you here!

  5. Posted October 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Katy, glad to hear your lunch will involve lentil soup–never a bad move!

    Jill, I’d wholeheartedly second that advice. And don’t be a stranger around here!

  6. janes'_kid
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Some leftovers just taste better. I’m having pasta and leftover sauce tonight. I fully expect the sauce to be more flavorful than it was Saturday night.

  7. Posted October 4, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    JK prompts an interesting question (thanks!): What foods do you think taste better the next day??

  8. Caroline
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Chili most definitely gets better with age :)

  9. Posted October 4, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Glad to find your site.

    I love leftovers. I have a family of six and work full time. When I cook, I always cook more than I need for that meal so I can take lunch with me for the next couple of days–sure beats buying lunch. I’ll often cook enough to freeze a whole extra meal to pull out for dinner on the hectic days. Our favorite freezer meals are homemade chicken tenders, homemade pizza, and meat loaf.

    Another favorite repurposing of leftovers is shepherd’s pie. Layers of ground lamb (or beef), corn, and leftover mashed potatoes heated up in a casserole make a great dish. The kids go crazy for it.

    Any food scraps or leftovers that make it past their prime get fed to the chickens or composted.

  10. Bellen
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I never have leftovers – I only have planned overs!!
    My husband of 40+ years was raised in a family that tossed the leftovers so he wouldn’t eat them – my upbringing was just the opposite. To this day he will not eat last night’s planned overs for lunch the next day, must skip a day. Most annoying, but at least the food gets eaten.

  11. Posted October 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Chili for sure!

    Jenny–shepherd’s pie would seem like it could take all kinds of variations. Yes?

    Bellen–I’m confused. Your husband refuses to eat leftovers the next day, but 2 days later is OK??

  12. Posted October 6, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Jonathan, sometimes I do, especially if it’s soup. I do like to eat soup as a leftover for lunch when the weather is cold.

  13. Posted October 6, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    In regards to re-purposing leftovers, sometimes when my mom gets a big pork loin she will cook enough for us to eat one night plus some. So the left over pork, we usually cut into strips or chunks and make pork fried rice. It is delicious!

  14. Posted October 6, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    In reply to Bellen, I too have a hard time eating leftovers the very next day. I don’t know what my problem is—I get weary of the same foods two days in a row. I am obviously from a privileged country where variation is valued. But as I hate to waste anything, and find leftovers in general a very convenient thing to use (one less meal to make for our 5 person family), I regularly freeze left overs and pull them out in a week. Somehow I am then ready for them—appreciative and ready to give them another go.

  15. Cathy
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I love eating leftovers, almost any kind- usually cold, while standing next to the fridge.

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