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
- 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.