Leftovers: A Recipe For Food Savings

If you have any interest at all in reducing your food budget chances are you often find yourself eating leftovers. We certainly have our share of leftovers in the Frugal household. In fact, I’ve found certain foods are even better a day or two later (spaghetti and meatloaf come to mind).  But how long is too long? Do you have to wait for penicillin to start growing on the surface before chunking it?

I posed the question of leftover longevity to Twitter followers last week and received a number of thoughtful responses. One reply from “jessc098 caught my eye. It referenced a site called StillTasty.com, which allows visitors to search from a list of food choices and receive feedback on how long that particular item will keep refrigerated and frozen. The search results also include a number of tips related to your selection for helping to preserve foods longer.

Here’s an example from StillTasty.com using the previously mentioned meatloaf – a crowd favorite in our house:

Meatloaf – Homemade, Leftovers

Refrigerator: 3-4 days
Freezer: 3-4 months

Tips

  • Refrigerate within two hours of cooking
  • Refrigerate cooked meatloaf in shallow, airtight containers or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap
  • Freeze in covered airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags, or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer wrap.
  • Freeze time shown is for best quality only – foods kept constantly frozen at zero degrees will keep safe indefinitely.

Shared with permission from StillTasty.com

There are a couple of ways you can use this information to help shave money off your food budget. One idea is to stockpile ingredients for various dishes when they are on sale, make the dish, freeze it and enjoy it later to realize the cost savings. We frequently do this with things that keep for a couple months in the freezer, and it’s great to simply thaw and reheat a dish on nights when the kids have football practice, or you just don’t feel like cooking a big meal after a long day at work.

Another strategy for reducing your food costs by incorporating leftovers is to plan your meals around recipes that naturally produce a lot of leftovers. In our house, we all eat spaghetti the night it is cooked, I eat it for lunch the next day at work, and we all finish it off the next night. That’s nine servings of spaghetti enjoyed at home with salad and garlic bread for a fraction of what you would pay at a place like Olive Garden.

Leftovers can also be combined with new ingredients to produce new meals. My grandfather had a knack for this and frequently used leftover meats to “beef up” new meals. For instance, spicy smoked sausage sliced the next day and added to a pot of red beans and rice, onion, and Tabasco sauce made an excellent semi-cajun dish we could eat for another couple days.

Frugal living is not only about thriftiness, it is also about reducing waste and using resources wisely. I’m convinced reducing food waste is a great way to help your wallet by stretching out the cost of food purchases across a number of meals. Plan your meals, properly store leftovers for safe keeping, and enjoy maximum savings on your food bill.

Comments

  1. I live for second day chili and meatloaf. I’m having meatloaf with mustard on rye right now. Mmmm…

    Leftovers usually don’t last long enough in our house for reuse. A 6 serving recipe is dinner for the 3 of us (hubby and roommate being big guys) and then lunch (or breakfast for me) the next day. Occasionally I’ll cook a whole pork loin or shoulder and plan to re-purpose half the meat, but even then it doesn’t always make it.

  2. We have such a small family that we always plan to have the same meal two days in a row. We sometimes dress up the second day with a different vegetable or bread.

  3. I purposefully make chili a day or so in advance for exactly that reason – it tastes SO Much better. I was the Child-In-Charge of cooking for my 6-member family growing up – dad was military, frequently deployed & mom had classes after work while pursuing various teaching certifications & 2 diff. masters degrees. To this day (18 years since I left home for college), I cannot cook as well for 2 as I can for 6 or more! Especially since our 6 included my voracious teenage brothers and whichever friends decided that our meal plan was better than their homes…And it is a physical thing – not cooking as well – I can’t judge spices/herbs as well, I can’t get proportions right, etc. So most things I make get dual-purposed as leftover lunches for hubby & me AND as ingredients/side dishes to meals later in the week (or triple purposed, since we get the ‘primary’ meal out of them, too). I have gotten better at judging meals-for-3 (we also have a toddler), but it’s good I have that ability to integrate left-overs, otherwise, our food budget would be out of control! We spent about $100/week – including household supplies & HBA. Tip for meatloaf – crumble it up & use it in your favorite red sauce/marinara over pasta…that is mighty fine eats.

  4. Frugal living is not only about thriftiness, it is also about reducing waste and using resources wisely. I’m convinced reducing food waste is a great way to help your wallet by stretching out the cost of food purchases across a number of meals. Plan your meals, properly store leftovers for safe keeping, and enjoy maximum savings on your food bill.

    ***Beautifully put FD! My neighbor brought over two GIGANTIC zucchini yesterday – these are volunteers because they didn’t PLANT zucchini this year! They were huge and I cut them up, boiled them and made an excellent zucchini casserole for the freezer. This is the season of people leaving bags of squash and zucchini on doorsteps and I am grateful to have the abundance!

  5. When you cook, always cook for leftovers. If it’s meat that you want to use for a second dish, simply do not serve that portion – instead set it aside before serving the rest, and get it in the refrig. for the next day’s meal. If you serve it, it’s probably going to get eaten :)

    I usually cook twice a week – planning on leftovers (with variations) for the rest – and take my lunches from the leftovers. When dinner is done, package up the lunches immediately in your to-go bowls, and you are ready for the week – no figuring it out early in the morning.

    I also saved up some microwavable TV trays – those are great for meat, veggies, dessert, etc for lunches or dinners later. Wrap in saran wrap and freeze. Keeps the rest of your lunchsack cool on hot days also.

    And keep a leftover dibs and dabs jar or tupperware in the freezer for those tiny portions that will go in soups and stews later on.

  6. I think it was on a Rachel Ray website where I found a week’s worth of recipes using a roasted chicken as the base. She’s done other weekly planners around a base food like that as well. Check it out. It not only saves money, but saves time too.

  7. With one chicken… actually an annoying rooster who woke me up once too often… I prepared the following:

    - With the meat, chicken stew using squash and other vegetables from my garden. 8 servings

    - Casserole using gravy from the liver, heart, and giblets, with some of last year’s frozen garden herbs and vegetables, and some pasta. 8 servings, and

    - Chicken broth using the carcass. I boiled the bones and tendons a while with the appropriate seasonings, skimmed off the fat, and got lovely chicken soup stock for 6 hungry or 8 polite people. With a few of last year’s dill pickles, or else some of this year’s peas and carrots, it will make great soup.

    Really everything got used but the skin, feet, head, offal, and feathers.

  8. Great post! My husband is still arguing with me that potato salad keeps in the fridge for 2 weeks. Eww. I usually try to make it “disappear” after about 5 days.

  9. thanks for the info!

    it’s really handy for my boyfriend, who likes to keep food forever in his fridge. now i can show him that it’s really time to throw all that month-old foods out!

  10. There are several ways to reduce the weekly food bill. Leftovers are definitely a part of it, but here are some additional tips to use whether you have leftovers or not.

    1. Make and use a list. Buy only what is on the list. And of course, use coupons, but only when they make the cost lower than the generic brand.
    2. Set a sensible weekly allowance for the grocery. Dont go over!
    3. Plan meals around the weekly specials that the grocery ads put on special.
    4. Shop at Wal-Mart if possible. WM takes competitor ads, so you get the advantage of everybody’s specials, and WM’s regular prices are about 10% cheaper anyway. One store, everyones’ specials.
    5. Limit the purchasing of sweets, soft drinks, chips, snacks, and more expensive red meat. You will save a bundle not buying food with no to little nutrition. Notice I said limit, not eliminate.
    6. Pre-plan and shop once a week (saves time, saves gas, saves money because you are prepared).
    7. Know your prices on the things you purchase most often. Then when you are looking at ads or are in the store, you will know when you see a good deal or not.

    Budget your grocery like you budget the rest of your expenses. Put the grocery spending on an allowance, and you will spend the same amount each week and therefore keep the budget in line as well. For more information on using an allowance system go to http://www.theallowancesystem.com

  11. Great article! Very recently I was horrified to discover just how much money I had been dumping in the garbage by way of rotten veggies and uneaten leftovers. I’ve re-vamped my approach to meal planning, and am trying to make friends with the crisper drawer . . . even the back and bottom of it!

  12. There are several ways to reduce the weekly food bill. Leftovers are definitely a part of it, but here are some additional tips to use whether you have leftovers or not.

    1. Make and use a list. Buy only what is on the list. And of course, use coupons, but only when they make the cost lower than the generic brand.
    2. Set a sensible weekly allowance for the grocery. Dont go over!
    3. Plan meals around the weekly specials that the grocery ads put on special.
    4. Shop at Wal-Mart if possible. WM takes competitor ads, so you get the advantage of everybody’s specials, and WM’s regular prices are about 10% cheaper anyway. One store, everyones’ specials.
    5. Limit the purchasing of sweets, soft drinks, chips, snacks, and more expensive red meat. You will save a bundle not buying food with no to little nutrition. Notice I said limit, not eliminate.
    6. Pre-plan and shop once a week (saves time, saves gas, saves money because you are prepared).
    7. Know your prices on the things you purchase most often. Then when you are looking at ads or are in the store, you will know when you see a good deal or not.

    Budget your grocery like you budget the rest of your expenses. Put the grocery spending on an allowance, and you will spend the same amount each week and therefore keep the budget in line as well. For more information on using an allowance system go to http://www.theallowancesystem.com
    OH! You’re my new favorite blogger fyi

  13. Just wanted to let you know that I have listed this post on the best of the week ‘Buddy’s Extra’. I hope it brings you lots of new friends to your wonderful blog.

    Margaret

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