Long Live Leftovers

When I was single, admittedly a long time ago, I used to turn my nose up at leftovers. It probably had something to do with the poor quality of my meals the first time around. When visiting once, my mother commented that she had never met anyone, other than me, who had to dust her stove. I’m a decent cook now, but even better, I’m married to a fabulous cook. Just as importantly we both hate the idea of throwing good food, and money, away. The result is we eat leftovers, and we love them.

Leftovers have many advantages. They are quick. You already cooked them, so there isn’t much prep time. They are great for those busy evenings when you don’t have time to fix a whole new meal. Often times, leftovers taste even better the next day. The spices have a chance to mingle and mellow, and the result can be fantastic. Best of all you reduce the cost per serving of the meal you made. You spread it across more servings instead of throwing out those extra servings that didn’t get eaten the first time around.

When I was working in the corporate world, I often had leftovers for lunch. It was easy to just grab them out of the refrigerator, and they helped me avoid eating out for lunch. The average American eats out for lunch twice per week at an average cost of $10 per meal according to a recent survey by Visa. That is a total cost of nearly $1,000 per year. Interestingly those who seemingly can least afford it spend the most. People making $25,000 per year or less spend $11.10 per meal, whereas those in higher income brackets spend between $9.20 and $9.90 per meal. If you are someone who buys lunch a couple of times a week, consider taking leftovers and banking the savings. Here are a couple of ideas for your leftovers.

  1. Everything is better on a salad. Consider adding your leftovers to a bed of fresh spinach or romaine. Toss in some grapes or an apple and you have yourself the equivalent of a $16 restaurant salad. The cost for the fresh produce is only about $1.75, and since there is no additional cost to stretching the original meal to more servings, the leftovers cost nothing. One of my lunch time salads is shown in the picture. I added leftover spicy chickpeas, lentils, squash and chicken to spinach.
  2. We like to make roasted root vegetables. We can make a big batch and eat them all week. Try roasting beets, carrots, yams and butternut squash together. Using about a pound of each, the total cost is less than $8.00, and we can get six to eight servings out of the batch. That’s around $1 per serving.

Leftovers can be even more delicious than the first serving, and often it doesn’t take much to make them new and exciting. If more of us ate leftovers, we could also cut down on food waste in this country, which amounts to a shocking 35 million tons per year. Looking for a way to save time, money and the planet in a single step? Eat leftovers.

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