He Says/She Says: Leftovers

Our Freaking Budget on Leftovers

In the He Says/She Says series, we discuss financial topics where we agree to disagree.

Hey!!! I return (albeit, briefly) from the novice stages of motherhood with a post I had mostly written before Baby Girl came into our life. And now that Johnny is in charge of all our meals (HELP!!!) and with sweet friends dropping dinners by, it seemed especially pertinent.

If I had my choice, I would never eat leftovers. Ever. Johnny probably began to sense this fact early on in our dating days when I would never take a doggie bag home from meals at restaurants. I remember one particular date night after we’d been dating for several months. Johnny was, as always, taking home his leftovers. And, as always, I wasn’t. I had never given it a second thought, but obviously Johnny had.

“Did you not like your meal?” he asked casually.
“No, I liked it. It was really good!”
“But you didn’t take home the leftovers,” he said, sounding confused.
“Yeah, I don’t eat leftovers.”

At the time, unbeknownst to me this statement was a bit of a red flag to Johnny. Who was this wasteful girl he was dating? Luckily, he was able to overlook this “flaw” of mine and still marry me. But we were far from done talking about leftovers.

But first let me explain why I’m not too keen on leftovers. First, food just isn’t as good the second time around. Very few foods can be reheated and taste just as good as they did the first time.

Also, growing up we had leftovers for dinner all the time. Not a single extra green bean was wasted in our house. I got to where I dreaded those reheated meals and vowed not to have to eat them when I was out of the house.

Once we got married, I would try to make meals that we could finish in one dinner, but sometimes it just wasn’t possible. We’d end up with half a casserole in the fridge, and I would hope against hope that Johnny would forget about it. And then I could put that cold, messy meal out of its misery. But inevitably, we’d be discussing what to have for dinner, and Johnny would start the dreaded, “Hey don’t we have some (fill in the blank) left over from last night?” Grrr.

Of course, eating leftovers really is a big money saver. If Johnny had his way, we would eat every ounce of every leftover in our fridge. So the longer we’ve been married, the more I’ve tried to be more okay with them. If I know a recipe will have leftovers, I don’t make it unless it’s something we really love. There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of leftovers from a mediocre meal. I also try to space it out so the leftovers of a meal are eaten at least two dinners after the original dinner. So although I don’t like them, I have gotten to where I tolerate them. And if it’s food, Johnny will eat it.

If money were no object, my fridge would never meet a leftover. But for now, I’ve made peace with them.

Am I a terrible person for wanting new, different food every night? Do you do leftovers? Does it not seem sorta strange that we are literally eating the food that was “left over”? Are we hogs?!

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  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies January 11, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Oh god, I love the fact that Mr. PoP will eat the same meal 10 times in a row. It makes my life so much easier! I make a casserole, and he’ll eat it for lunch and dinner all week.

    I need a little more variance in my own meals than Mr. PoP, but I’ve been trying lately to freeze leftover and heat them up in a crockpot or toaster oven afterward. Somehow those reheating methods seem to taste better than a microwaved meal. (Though that could be my imagination.)

    For me, it’s less about the cost than the fact that I was told recently that the US wastes 30million tons of food each year. That’s insane.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Using the crockpot and toaster oven as reheat options is a great idea! Reheating food in the microwave is probably half of why it doesn’t taste as good. With all the meals we have had dropped by the last few days, I will definitely be giving those solutions a try!

  • Reply Joshua January 11, 2013 at 7:30 am

    I’m with Johnny! I’ll eat anything! Even a taco bell taco that has been in the fridge for a week! If you guys don’t want your leftovers, send em on over! I’ll eat them! Haha. 🙂

    We’ve done crockpot meals or soups where we’ll have it for 4-5 days in a row. And since we’re on the subject of eating the same thing over and over again… I’ve had 2 pb&j sandwiches, yogurt mixed with craisins/almonds/honey and an apple for lunch, pretty much everyday since last November (that’s a lot of pb&j’s!). But it has helped cut our monthly food budget in half! However, I’m looking to change it up this year – too much carbs (bread), sugar (jelly), and legumes (pb) – need more protein and fruits/veggies!

    Rachel WILL eat leftovers, however, if the leftovers contain any meat or seafood, it’s as good as mine! That’s why when we go out to eat, and she orders something good, I hope really hard she can’t finish it. 😀

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      Haha, Johnny always hopes I won’t finish my meal when we go out, too, so he can have it! While I was pregnant, I always ate every bit. Now that I’m not eating for two, maybe he’ll get lucky the next time we go out ; )

  • Reply melissa w. January 11, 2013 at 8:12 am

    There are a few things I’ll eat leftovers of- Chinese, Chili, and Pasta. I find that when you have leftovers, you have lunch packed pretty quickly the next morning! So when I cook, I try to cook enough to feed myself that night, and for lunch the next day, and that’s it.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Agreed with the Chinese leftovers! For some reason I always look forward to eating those!

  • Reply Michelle January 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I am fine with eating leftovers. However, W WILL NOT at all. It’s kind of annoying because he always orders too much food. He hates eating the same food twice.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      It’s so funny how we end up dating/marrying people who are our opposites! It ensures there’s never a dull moment. 🙂

  • Reply Brian January 11, 2013 at 9:13 am

    I always intend to eat my left overs, but it doesn’t usually happen. My wife is the same way. The only solution at home is to cook smaller meals and force ourselves to eat it for lunch the next day. If it has been sitting in the fridge for more than 24 hours it is a doneski!

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      Agreed! We’re working on cooking smaller meals right now. You’d think after 5 years of marriage I’d be able to tell how much to cook for just the two of us!

  • Reply Rob January 11, 2013 at 10:02 am

    We also eat leftovers but the trick is to mix them into creative dish recipes with other ingredients in order to provide new servings. For instance, you might have some turkey left over. Using that you can prepare soup with it to serve with a nice garden salad.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Good call! If I can make a new dish out of it, that food is *technically* left over, but I would happily eat it! 🙂

  • Reply DC @ Young Adult Money January 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

    As with most things in life, there is usually an underlying reason behind why someone thinks or acts the way they do. I was just waiting for you to mention something and here it was:

    “Also, growing up we had leftovers for dinner all the time. Not a single extra green bean was wasted in our house. I got to where I dreaded those reheated meals and vowed not to have to eat them when I was out of the house.”

    It totally makes sense why you won’t eat leftovers, and I can’t blame you. I personally love meals that have leftovers because it means I don’t have to think much about what I will bring to work for lunch (I try to always pack a lunch, tho I am not a fan of the actually preparing of food for lunch). We will intentionally make more than we need so we will have food ready for lunch.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      Maybe I should start giving Johnny our leftovers for his lunches he takes for work. I have always just assumed that he would not like it because it sounds awful to me! But he would probably would, and it would save us some money. Thanks for the the tip!

  • Reply John S @ Frugal Rules January 11, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I think there’s a balance to be had. I generally am a proponent to eating leftovers as I do not want to be wasteful and my wife is the same as well. But, there’s a time that you can take it too far like you experienced while growing up. I think we eat about 50-75% of our leftovers and pitch the rest.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Yes, balance is key. If there are leftovers, we never just throw it out. But I can’t eat it more than a few times before the rest goes down the disposal! 🙂

  • Reply Grayson @ Debt Roundup January 11, 2013 at 11:47 am

    My wife and I always eat leftovers. That is how we plan our meals for the week. We only cook twice a week. He then use the leftovers throughout the week for other dinners. It saves so much money and leftovers don’t bother me. We usually get creative and add new ingredients to the leftovers and it works out well. My wife has a knack for putting together great meals with whatever is left over in the fridge.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      That’s awesome that both of you like leftovers! I wish I were less picky because only cooking twice a week sounds pretty darn awesome!

  • Reply Budget and the Beach January 11, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I’ll eat leftovers for one or two days when I make it myself, but when I go out to eat I tend to eat too much (maybe because I hardly go out to eat), so the thought of eating that meal again makes me sick. I also get bored eating my own leftovers more than the one or two days. I just can’t stomach the thought of eating it again.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      You just summed up how I feel exactly! You and I are one and the same, girlfriend!

  • Reply Chris January 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I’ve never thought about it being “gross”. I usually cook 2-3 big dishes on Sunday and then eat them all week. Like this past Sunday I made turkey meatloaf w/ green chile 🙂 and smoked beef short ribs. The best thing for leftovers has to be homemade soup. It ALWAYS tastes the same. And Chili. I have some frozen turkey soup and turkey chili waiting for a cold day and the microwave. Though, I am more like Johnny…if it’s food, I’ll eat it.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Agreed on soup and chili being good leftovers. I’ll re-eat those any day of the week without complaint!

      And you need to pass some of your cooking skills on to Johnny! I’d love for him to learn to make meatloaf and ribs 🙂

  • Reply Pauline January 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I get the childhood trauma, but seriously it is money wasted and energy preparing each night a meal. I am a pro at reusing everything so it doesn’t look like leftovers. We had a whole chicken for dinner, we can have chicken tacos for lunch and then fried chicken rice for dinner. It makes it easier than the same dish three meals in a row.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      Pass some of those skills my way, Pauline! It sounds like you are very resourceful!

  • Reply Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin January 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    In our house we’re lucky to even have leftovers but if there are I take them for the lunch the next day. We’re actually looking at starting batch cooking in order to help save time around the house.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      I haven’t considered packing our leftovers as Johnny’s lunch. I’m gonna have to start doing that!

  • Reply Canadian Budget Binder January 11, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Yes we eat leftovers and try not to waste anything in our house. We make all our lunches for work and rarely if ever eat out. In October I did a welfare food challenge which really opened my eyes to what some people go through just to put food on the table or have a nutritious meal. We still keep all our vegetable peelings in a bag in the freezer and boil them up to make a perfect vegetable broth at least once per week. We still utilize the lemon and lime rind to flavour our meals and salads. To be honest opening the bin to toss out any food is hard, just thinking about the people who are wishing that I would hand that food to them or children who are starving. It’s personal opinion and listening to stories from my wise grandparents and parents about life. Mr.CBB

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Wow! Good for you!

  • Reply SunShine January 12, 2013 at 12:56 am

    I take our leftovers from our Dinners and basically make TV Dinners out of them in a microwave dish then freeze them. This way my husand can take it to work and heat it up in a microwave saving on lunch money at work for his meals any time. It works well and the food doesn’t go bad sitting in the refrigator.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      I’ve got to start having Johnny take our leftovers for lunch. I don’t know why I never thought of that before!

  • Reply eemusings January 12, 2013 at 2:31 am

    We eat a lot. So we pretty much never have leftovers.

    Neither of us is a huge fan of them, him probably even less so than me. When he was out of town I remember eating basically the same thing for lunch and dinner three days in a row.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      I’d really like to get to where we never have leftovers! We both eat a good bit… it’s just a matter of me figuring out how to make less! 🙂

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls January 12, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I will eat some types of leftovers. Pizza, Chinese food, pasta dishes. I don’t like potatoes or fries the next day and I don’t like fried or breaded chicken the next day unless I chop it up and heat it in a skillet. I think the reheat method is important. I try to never microwave leftovers. I will put in the oven or in a skillet.

    In our house growing up my father would not eat leftovers and I never did until I was on my own. Now I love going out to dinner and having leftovers for the next days lunch especially.

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      I agree with you completely. The reheat method is key! Pizza reheated in the microwave is rubbery. But reheated in the oven, it’s almost even better than the first day!

  • Reply Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle January 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    If you don’t want to eat leftovers than don’t but don’t waste food. I don’t approve of food waste. Cook less than you think you will need and if anyone is still hungry they can have cheese and fruit at the end of the meal . Perhaps you need to ask your friends who are good cooks to teach you some tricks to repurpose leftovers – to create a new meal with the day old food instead of just reheating.

    I am a fan of Levar Burton. Can I still post?

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Thankfully we don’t waste very much food because Johnny will eat everything! He’s our household garbage disposal.

  • Reply Laurie January 13, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I had to laugh at this one. When we married 16 years ago, my hubby would NEVER touch leftovers, to the point where his family members would tease him about his paranoia in this area. His aversion was more a safety issue, but same aversion, nonetheless. 16 years and 4 kids later, and now on a super-strict, no-wasting-anything budget, his mom still marvels at how I got the guy to eat pretty much anything. 🙂

    • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Way to go, Laurie! We need our spouses to whip us into shape sometimes 😉 Now that we’ve been married five years and are more money-conscious, I’m trying to be more open to the wide world of leftovers 🙂

  • Reply Joanna January 13, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Maybe I should have clarified… I do love me some Thanksgiving leftovers. BUT that is one of the ONLY exceptions to my no-leftovers rule!

  • Reply TeacHer January 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I kind of agree with both of you 🙂 I rely on leftovers a lot because I’m so not into cooking every night, but I definitely think some foods DO NOT reheat well. So in general, I don’t cook them. I only use recipes that yield a lot of food and taste good reheated the next day.

    • Reply Joanna January 15, 2013 at 12:25 am

      Very smart! Lately that’s become a big consideration for me, too — will it taste good reheated the next day? Just recently I’ve found an incredible broccoli cheese soup recipe that fits the bill! Mmmm. 🙂

  • Reply Mary @ XOX, Mary January 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I used to never eat leftover rice but a friend of mine let me in on the secret. Put a tablespoon or two of water in a skillet, let it boil up and as soon as it does, dump in your rice and heat it through. It tastes JUST like it did the day before. No weird hard grains. I guess for some foods you just have to try to find the trick to reheating them (as one of the above commenters mentioned: crockpots, toaster ovens, etc). Microwaves don’t always do it for me.

    I would really love to get into freezing meals for the convenience but I’d have to look into what freezes well and what doesn’t. Hopefully the man will be on board with this. He’s also pretty picky about his leftovers!

    • Reply Joanna January 15, 2013 at 12:32 am

      Thanks for the awesome tip on reheating rice! It’s so funny because we were just facing that dilemma yesterday. We had leftover rice, and I wanted to throw it out because it doesn’t reheat well (as far as I knew!). In the end, we made rice pudding with it for dessert, but it’s so nice to know we’ll never have to face that dilemma again! 🙂

      • Reply ShutTheBackDoorBiatch December 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm

        If you add a teaspoon or more of water and cover it up in the microwave it steams…taste no different than the day it was made..unless it’s been in the fridge for a month and has stank bacteria growing inside… Stop wasting food. If you volunteer in a soup kitchen and see people that don’t know where their next meal is coming from you will change your mind about those ‘pesky’ leftovers..WOW. I still can’t believe it (‘s not butter)

  • Reply Shanna Johnson January 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

    I am in TOTAL agreement with you about leftoevers!! I HATE them! And you said exactly what I say when asked why: They just aren’t good reheated, and they’re never as good the second time around as the original meal. Preach on, sista! 🙂


    • Reply Johnny January 15, 2013 at 11:45 am

      No no no, Shanna! Do not encourage her! Now I’m going to hear, “Well Shanna agrees with me, so tough luck,” for the next few weeks every time she refuses to eat leftovers.

      • Reply Shanna Johnson January 16, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        Haha! Sorry, Johnny, but as you said, “tough luck.” 🙂 In all seriousness, I do encourage eating leftovers b/c of the time- & money-saving aspect. And if absolutely desperate for nourishment, I will break down & reheat something; I can usually tough it out for pastas & pizza. But as a whole, I’m totally against leftovers. My boyfriend loves them–he usually gets mine. Also, little tip for pet owners: a friend of mine has 2 large outside dogs, and whatever isn’t eaten & she won’t eat later, she gives to them. Those dogs generally eat better than I do. My dog has food allergies, so she doesn’t get people food, but for those that do, I’m sure they’d have no qualms about eating our leftovers!

  • Reply The Head Hunter January 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    This may sound extreme but hear me out… Divorce him. Be brave and leave. Look, you did your best but mediocre food is intolerable. If it can’t be 5-star every meal, cut bait, you deserve it. I’m sure there are plenty of Saudi Princes who will see that you have fresh couscous and dates at any hour of the day or night.

    What? You haven’t drawn up the divorce papers? Then eat the leftovers 😉

    btw, great site!

    • Reply Joanna January 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      Haha… however enticing it sounds to eat couscous with a Saudi Prince, I think I’ll grin and bear eating leftovers a few times a month for my guy 🙂

  • Reply JMK January 22, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    We eat “leftovers” regularly, but almost never in the same form as the original night. If we have some actual leftover dinner, my husband packs it up for his lunch. He hates taking a sandwich – says that’s not a real meal. It there’s enough for a couple of lunches he’ll load up several containers and toss the extras in the freezer for a few days later. They go straight from the freezer to his lunch bag and are defrosted by noon. They also act as an ice block to cool his drink.

    Most nights we intentionally cook too much of at least one component of the meal so we have a starting point for the next night. It saves a lot of time, effort and money. Bake a whole chicken and make lots of rice one night. Next night, most of the leftover plain chicken becomes chicken enchiladas and the night after any remaining bits go with the leftover rice to become chicken fried rice (which you can only make properly with day old rice). When we cook a ham one night, the next night we have quiche lorraine, and maybe ham and cheese omlettes the following night. On pasta night we make sure to cook too much pasta and a couple of extra sausages which we don’t cut up into the sauce. The following night we have a pasta salad, casserole, or just rewarm (like rice with a tiny drip of water) and toss with butter and parmesean for a side dish, The the next night slice those cooked sausages onto a pizza. If you are paying for the electricity to cook rice, pasta, or run the oven, why not cook extra and save time and not have to redo the same step another night?

    When hamburger goes on sale I buy ~10lbs. and fry it all up, deal with the grease once and put it in bags in the freezer. How many recipies start off with “brown a pound of ground beef”. Busy nights are so much easier when you already have that step done and can just defrost the meat in the fridge all day or in 2 minutes in the microwave (and no grease to deal with).

    Today I’ve had a giant crock pot of spaghetti sauce simmering. Whatever doesn’t get used tonight will become a lasagna in a couple of days and the rest will be frozen in meal sized containers for future. Reheated spaghetti sauce is no different from freshly made, and in fact it’s probably better.

    Some people like to double recipes and freeze one for later, but I find defrosting and reheating a meal is never as good as fresh. Our method of just creating intentional leftovers of meal components works much better. You feel like you are getting a fresh meal every night, but half the work was done before you start.

    • Reply Johnny January 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm

      Such amazinggggg advice, JMK!

      I love the idea of creating intentional leftover components. I’ve been doing sandwiches for YEARS for my work lunches and I would LOVEEE to have some of our leftover dinners as lunch. We usually don’t have enough or I can’t pair it with anything else (like plain rice). We could probably create a February meal calendar built completely around your second paragraph. So, so, awesome.

      Thanks so much for the awesome advice! You’ve definitely set the bar for best comment of 2013!

  • Reply Dodie November 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I always say leftovers are my favorite food group! It’s less work in the long run, leaving more time for other things I need and want to do.

    • Reply Johnny November 6, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Amen. All the hard work has already been done. Just reheat (or don’t) and eat!

  • Reply ShutTheBackDoorBiatch December 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Wow.. I never understood this mentality. People who are too good to eat the same thing twice when there are hungry children in this country who’s only meal is free school lunch. Not to mention starving people around the world. How pompous and entitled. Barf.

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