Budget Buster: Not Using Your Leftovers


I confess this is one of the most difficult things for me to do.  I hate leftovers.  I associate them with a) failed cooking b) poor planning and c) being poor.  All of these associations are wrong, stupid and cost money.

Groceries are (to my mind) the biggest variable expense in one’s budget.  It’s the first place we tend to look when we want to cut down on costs because we can control whether we’re going to buy ramen or steak.  We can’t always control whether the energy company is going to raise their rates through the roof.  So not wasting the food you do buy is critical.

The key to reusing leftovers, at least for me, is to be creative with them.  I have a terrible time taking leftovers to work, and I’m not usually in a position to use the microwave.  If I just lop off a slab of the leftover meat and reheat the vegetables for dinner, I have an immediate rejection instinct (and so does the boy). However, if I reuse those things in a different way, I don’t do so badly.

Consider the pork roast I made in the crockpot a few days ago.  It was a delicious bargain that I got at the Shop & Slave as part of the 5/$20 meat purchase.  It was crocked with fresh garlic and ginger and then served with broccoli and rolls.  There was quite a bit of it left over, and I dreaded having to eat it the same way a second time.  The thought actually went through my mind:  It only cost $4, maybe it would be better to just throw it away.  No, no, no!!  Bad baby!  Such a path does not lead to financial security!  I’m a firm believer that while there are big financial roads to ruin, like buying more house than you can afford or being hit with a medical emergency you cannot cover, the majority of us who are in debt and complaining about our finances have nickel and dimed ourselves into such a position. And throwing out the leftovers is a great example.

So instead, I hauled out a couple of small packs of stir fry fixings — rice, sauce, veggies — that I’d also found on sale, diced up the leftover pork, and threw it all in a skillet and served it with a side salad.  It was delicious!  Didn’t taste like leftovers, didn’t waste the food.  The whole meal cost maybe $6.  Whoo hoo!  So the key, then, is to be creative until it’s used up.  If I’d had more leftover pork, I think I would’ve tried to make a pasta dish with it or thrown in some cheese, beans and fixings and wrapped them all up in flatbread.  Keep changing up the taste, and you’ll never notice.

Since leftovers are a big challenge for me, I’ll be regularly mentioning how I deal with them.    And I would *LOVE* your suggestions as well.


One response »

  1. Stir-fry: great idea! Ingenious, as a matter of fact.

    Adding tomatoes (or wine) (or both) to just about any leftover goes a long way to refreshing it.

    Also, I freeze single portions in small Ziplock baggies and leave them in the freezer till I’ve forgotten about them. When rediscovered, they seem like new stuff!

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