An ongoing joke that my friends tell about me is how I am OBSESSED with leftovers. They often poke fun at my "no shame" attitude, and how I am willing to box, bag, or grab anything left on a table. Well, folks, I'm here to tell you that I save a BUNDLE by loving leftovers!
If I go to a restaurant (typically using one of many coupons I've discovered...check out my previous posts for great coupons that you can use too) I nearly always plan on getting at least two meals out of my dish. When I'm at home, I always plan on getting multiple meals out of one night of cooking. This saves tons of time, money, and helps you justify going out to eat once in a while.
Here are some "leftovers" tips:
- When you go to a restaurant, BUY BIG. For example... I recently went to lunch with a friend. We went to Noodles & Company. They have two sizes, regular and small. The regular is nearly double the size of a small, for only $1 more (or so...I'm doing this from memory). My friend got the small because she said she couldn't eat an entire regular by herself. I, of course, ordered the large. I ate half, boxed up the other half, and got two meals out of it for only $1 more!
- Ask the waiter what specials they have going. Often the specials are regular dishes that are temporarily discounted, or are new dishes they are featuring for a temporary lower price. Order the biggest dish possible to get the best value, then (using self-control...) eat half and save the rest for later!
- When cooking at home, always make generous portions. Don't half recipes. In fact, double them if it's a small recipe! I know this seems like it would be wasteful or could lead to over-eating, but if you learn to love leftovers, then this serves multiple purposes: A) cuts down on your need to cook for every meal, and B) gets more use out of food you've cooked.
- Make double of recipes and FREEZE the other half. You have all of the ingredients, you're doing the work already, why not cut down on future cooking? This way you have meals stored away for a rainy day, or you can give a meal away to someone in need. Plus, when you BUY BULK (which you should!) you'll have plenty of food around to work with.
- Stock up on tupperware. I, personally, hate saran wrap and find that it doesn't keep leftovers very fresh. Use airtight containers and your leftovers will stay yummy for up to a few days! When you take food home from a restaurant in Styrofoam or cardboard containers, immediately transfer to tupperware. It makes a big difference.
- Have no shame when it comes to taking things home from restaurants and get creative with saving your leftovers. I will even take home leftover steak fries from Red Robin (because they are my favorite!). We've all learned that fries go mushy in the fridge after a day. However...throw them on a baking sheet, broil for a few minutes, and vuala - crispy and delicious again. If the bun on your burger goes soggy, take the bread off and make it into a lettuce wrap, or add a new fresh bun.
- If ordering something like a big salad at a restaurant, or a big sandwich, ask for the sauces on the side. Keeping food sauce-free helps them stay better in your fridge for a few days.
- Get creative with home-made leftovers. If you make chicken and rice on day 1 and don't feel like eating it again on day two, shred the chicken and add it to burritos. Throw it over a salad. Add it to soup. There are tons of ways to get lots of leverage out of leftovers.
- Plan your meals around re-using leftovers. There are many sites out there than can help, here's one. Here's another.
- LOVE LEFTOVERS. No one is "too cool" to save, so don't be bashful or feel "dumb" when asking to box up leftovers. Even if it's only a small amount of food, this really will help save TONS in the long run.
Set a goal for yourself that you are going to cut your cooking in half this week, and try to get at least 2 meals out of every 1 meal that you buy or cook. Good luck, and
Happy savings to you! :)