Hello best life seekers!
We all love food but our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. On average, we waste 40% of our food. In the U.S. we waste more than $160 billion a year. Yikes! Food is abundant and cheap but it comes with energy costs and when we waste that much of it, we sound disingenuous if we claim to not have the resources to feed our global population. While agricultural practices, harvesting, processing, and retail waste large swathes of that $160 billion, consumers share a portion of the blame because we purchase, cook or serve more than we consume.
It’s time we did better by our food and wallets.
However, when it comes to our leftovers, sometimes they seem less than appealing. Here’s how to save, rehab, and repackage them to keep them enticing without wasting the food or the money that went into buying it.
#1 – Make It Lunch
Make too much for dinner? Leftovers are great ways for busy people to prepare lunch for tomorrow. Many of us do this of course. With a little planning, you can get a lot of mileage out of meals and save yourself money by not eating out for lunch. You’ll also save yourself time and have more control over the healthiness of the food you’re eating.
#2 – Freeze It
Many leftovers are highly freezable, even takeout. Indian is fantastically freezable. I used to do this back when I worked insane hours of 75+ a week at the law firm. I’d order many meals worth of Indian takeout, divvy it up into plastic bowls and freeze it to take to work. Pizza, rice, veggies and all sorts of food freeze well. Use clear containers or zip lock freezer bags to store so that you can easily see the contents.
Freezing will keep meals good longer and if you make more than one meal, you can mix and match to keep from getting tired of them. In a pinch, they make handy dishes for times when you just don’t want to cook or even think about what to eat.
#3 – Getting Your Money’s Worth
Love to eat out but hate the hit to your wallet? Back in those law firm days, I had a rule that no meal could cost more than $3. This saved me hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in a year because it kept a short leash on my eating out all the time, especially for breakfast and lunch, but still allowed me to indulge now and again. I could buy either but they had to break down in cost to $3 per meal. For instance, that $9 kebab platter at the food court had to make 3 meals. My $6 breakfast had to also be lunch. A medium pizza for $6 was a win because it usually made 4 lunches (but came with health costs).
Putting a price limit on meals can help curb eating out and save your wallet. It can also save your waist line. Portion sizes almost everywhere are more than one serving. When you actually divide the meal into containers, you’ll see this more easily than when simply diving into that platter. You can usually get at least 2 meals out of anything you buy, sometimes more. Enjoy the leftovers and the extra jingle in your pocket.
#4 – Dress It Up
Some meals call for transformation. Take humble wild rice. On Day 1 I’ll make it in the rice cooker as a nice side dish or base. Unlike your average long grain American rice, wild rice, jasmine rice and most Asian rice varieties keep well in the fridge or freezer. Sorry, Uncle Ben’s, yours taste like chalk. On Day 2, I’ll mix it with edamame or other beans with corn, bell peppers and maybe another vegetable, add some vinegar or a squeeze of citrus or soy for flavor. Day 3, I’ll turn Day 2’s leftovers into a creamy soup by adding vegetable stock and a dash of coconut milk.
This works for a lot of bases such as veggies, rice or beans but also with many other sides. Day 1 have them as a side, Day 2 dress them up as a main dish, Day 3 turn them into a soup. If you freeze them as you go along, you can keep from getting bored with the same dish by putting it away for a bit, then taking it down to cook with.
#5 – Stocking Up
If you constantly have food scraps, you could save them for making broths. Keep a gallon zip-top bag in the freezer and add vegetable scraps and trimmings to make stock: carrot and fennel tops, ends of onions or leeks, tomato cores, stems of herbs and greens, corn cobs, etc. Any produce that’s past its prime in the fridge can go in. When the bag is full, defrost the contents, dump into a pot and add water to cover. Simmer for 2 hours, strain — and you’ll have better-than-store-bought veggie stock (which can be frozen in that same gallon bag).
You can also do this with meat scraps and bones to make various chicken, beef, lamb or pork broths – just make sure you’re not putting in anything spoiled and also make sure it’s being frozen, not going rancid in the fridge.
Putting a Lid on Excess
We waste a lot of food. Even if you don’t care about the energy foot print of so much wasted food, you probably care about the cost to your wallet. Put leftovers to work in a variety of ways to eat healthier and cheaper. You’ll also save time cooking, which anyone with a busy schedule can appreciate.
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