The Beauty Of Leftovers

Mr. FAF told me that he was surprised that I boxed the leftovers to bring home the first time we ate together (as friends) at a restaurant.

But from that point on, Mr. FAF realized that he too could eat leftovers and not throw them away after every meal.

In other words, he picked up that frugal habit from me and now practices it religiously.

Mr. FAF once jokingly told me that he didn’t eat leftovers because he was noble (not).

Now his work lunches are almost always leftovers from dinner the night before or even 2,3 days ago.

Related: How Frugality Brought Us Together As A Couple

Leftovers in our family

Our family set aside at least one meal on the weekends (usually lunch on Saturday or Saturday) to finish all the food we have cooked over the week that hasn’t gone bad.

We always feed Baby FAF relatively new food because we don’t want him to get food poisoning.

But Mr. FAF and I will eat leftovers like there’s no tomorrow. And if there’s any food left, we will try to finish it at dinner.

When we have new food and leftovers displayed together at a meal, we tend to ignore old food and gravitate towards the more delicious-looking dishes that were just made.

However, when there’s only leftovers, we have no choice but to eat them. Sometimes, we can spice things up by making a simple soup like tomato and egg drop soup.

But the key to finishing leftovers is not to make a lot of new food at the same time.

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The beauty

I find that leftovers are beautiful in four different ways.

1. Save time and energy

One reason why I’m excited about Saturday lunch is that Mr. FAF and I don’t have to make new dishes from scratch. Instead of spending 1-1.5 hours cooking, I can spent less than 20 minutes heating up all the old food from the fridge.

Pork ribs, fried tofu, and stir-fried radish

When we got tired of leftovers, we usually made simple dishes like cucumber salad or soup to accompany the old food.

When I lived together with two other roommates while Mr. FAF was still in school in another city, one of my roommates jokingly said that she never saw me cooking.

Instead, the only thing she saw me do at dinner was microwaving food. And that’s exactly what I did.

If I were to choose between spending an hour cooking up a new dish or microwaving leftovers for 5 minutes, I’d choose leftovers without a doubt.

Related: 10 Simple Things We Do To Save Money

2. Prevent impulse eating out

No pre-made food or groceries in the fridge on weekdays or even weekends? Eating out tends to be the number one solution for us. It’s fast and easy.

We don’t have to do grocery shopping, cook or clean up. All we have to do is drive ourselves somewhere, order something, and start eating.

Sure, we will spend more money. But in moments of hunger and desperation, our laziness tends to win over frugality.

However, when there’s food in the fridge, Mr. FAF and I can try to dissuade ourselves from eating out. I will try to talk Mr. FAF into not wasting food and/or making a new simple dish. It’s a win-win situation.

Related: Eating Out v. Home-cooked Meals – The Dilemma 

3. Save money

When we cook in big batches, it can help save electricity and water. It’s the value of economies of scale – “factors that cause the average cost of producing something to fall as the volume of its output increases.”

When we make enough grilled pork for three meals, we don’t need to cook it three separate times for each meal. We will chop the pork, grill the pork, wash the pot, and clean the kitchen only once. For the next meals, we can just microwave the dish for a few minutes without having to go through the whole cooking process.

The only downside is that the food might not be as fresh. But I think it all has to do with our mentality and attitude mroe than the food itself. If we think the food is not fresh, then it definitely won’t waste as good. For me, I think of it as me not having to stay in the kitchen for an hour, and I’m happy about it.

Related: Why We Don’t Order From Blue Apron

4. Have more free time

As a result of not having to spend hours cooking new dishes every day, we have more free time to spend with family, work on our passion projects, pursue our side hustles, or just enjoy our down time.

We all have 24 hours a day and need to prioritize what we want to spend our time on. Eating is important. It is what keeps us alive and has a direct impact on our health and long-term well-being.

I wouldn’t advise eating bad, cheap or low quality food to survive throughout the week. But if we can eat healthy while being able to save money and time, I think it’s a big win for us.

Related: How I Talked Hubby Out Of A $400 Gym Membership

Cautionary tale

I once had a serious case of food poisoning after eating fish that had expired and left in the freezer for almost a year.

I had to take two days off and suffered an alarming loss of productivity, income, and happiness. It wasn’t leftovers, but eating food that has expired or is too old can do great damage to your health.

I’ve also had stomach cramps after eating leftovers. I have since figured out what food I can’t eat after it’s been in the fridge for a couple of days (my stomach is a bit more sensitive than others’ due to IBS).

Saving money is good, but extreme frugality can be detrimental to your health and your finances.

Related: When Frugality Goes Wrong

Conclusion

Growing up, I saw my parents and extended family eating leftovers all the time. It’s become somewhat second nature to me to finish all the food that I make. I have no problem eating old food as long as it doesn’t make my stomach hurt.

I have heard that some families don’t eat leftovers. At first, I was a bit surprised. Why not? But then I realized we all have our own preferences. Our approach isn’t necessarily better than others’ and vice versa.

Many have found ways to cook exactly the right amount so that there won’t be any leftovers, and I think it’s a great way to prevent food waste.

For our family, we have gotten so used to eating leftovers that the idea of throwing edible food away just sounds really wasteful to us. We do what works best for us. And the FAF family thinks that leftovers can be a wonderful thing in our lives.

Related:

3 Reasons Why I Love Instant Noodles

What To Bring To A Potluck

Eating out v. Home-cooked Meals – The Dilemma

Why We Don’t Order from Blue Apron

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10 thoughts on “The Beauty Of Leftovers”

  • Oh good it’s not just me, I didn’t eat leftovers until I got a little older. Food is artificially kept low price in China so food was a cheap expense. I didn’t eat very much leftovers. My parents would eat it for me so I grew up thinking leftovers were uncommon before I immigrated to the US. After age 14 I finally got used to eating leftovers! Lol, noble!!!

  • I’ve never heard that about China. Maybe it was that way in Thailand when I was a kid too. When I was a kid, the fridge was not common so you can’t really store food. So you just cook enough to eat, I guess.
    Today, it’s easy to keep leftovers and not throw them away.

  • Hubby wouldn’t eat lunch 90% of the time if not for leftovers! It’s a great time saver. In fact I often double or triple things I know we both like on purpose, so we can have leftovers. It’s a big money saver too, as you noted, because of economy of scale. I can buy the huge jars of canned tomato to make a big batch of chili rather than a smaller one, same for beef, beans, rice, noodles, etc. And leftover buffet is one of my favorite things to do! We come up with some weird combos sometimes haha

  • Oh my gosh, I totally relate. I have (dangerously) low standards for food expiration dates/safe handling haha. I mean come on, who of us actually knew that soy sauce goes in the fridge? Luckily, I’ve never gotten sick like you. I just hate waste! It definitely makes for easy lunch planning, that’s for sure.

  • We love leftovers! I like to freeze leftovers in meal size portions so that we don’t have to eat the same thing three days in a row or worry about it spoiling.

  • If I have dinner out, I make a point to bring half home for dinner the next day. Otherwise I gain weight as restaurant portions are hugh!

    Now that I live alone, I make four servings at once. I eat one portion that night and the others the next three nights. Some people might get bored, but it really doesn’t bother me.

  • I enjoy cooking but I only want to spend time doing it once or twice a week-usually on the weekends when I’m not rushed and I don’t have a hungry family clamoring for food. I adore leftovers. They save money, energy and time. And sometimes leftovers force you to get creative. All good things, in my opinion. Also, I don’t consider it “old food.” I’ll eat leftovers that have been in the fridge for three or four days as will my husband. We are still standing. 🙂

  • I was raised always to bring home leftovers from restaurants or to make enough food when you cook to have some later. It was an economy of both money and time. There are some foods that I definitely question keeping for more than a day or so, and your cautionary tale speaks to one of my prime categories of food for which I try to avoid having leftovers. Seafood leftovers can smell, well, fishy if left too long in the refrigerator. But not the good kind of fishy you expect after cooking or ordering. My rule is not to eat seafood beyond one day after cooking.

    But revisiting my first comment, I intend to raise my children to practice the same habits. Preparing enough food to have the next day and making sure you don’t waste food are great habits to instill in your children. This will teach children the value of money and not to waste. As you observe, this the beauty of leftovers.

  • Working in a restaurants when in university really opened my eyes up to just how long food remains good and healthy versus my perception. One finer restaurant I worked in preped most of the more complex foods on Wednesday (closed Monday and Tuesday) and finished and served it through Sunday! These were things like short ribs and baked stuffed crepes.

    Now I cook in large batches for myself, freeze individual portions and augment with fresh foods like raw veggies or fruits. This way I minimize the risk of forgetting I have something in my fridge and letting it go bad.

  • Leftovers is something I’m a little more cautious about during pregnancy. Like, I’m pretty chilled (still eat sushi, salads etc) but I must admit, after having a lot of stomach/digestive issues after eating leftovers (even when thoroughly heated) I’m not currently as big a fan of leftovers as I normally am!

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