Are You Afraid of Leftovers?

Over the years I have encountered a strange phenomenon among men and women my age and that is an unnatural fear of leftovers. I happen to be really good at saving money on my food budget and when people ask me the secret to my success they are usually appalled that I make my family eat leftovers. The funny thing is that these same individuals love to fill their shopping carts with expensive frozen dinners because I guess that is their idea of “fresh food”.

Recently, I had a conversation with a woman about leftovers and she told me that she would never feed her family leftovers because they are gross, flavorless and unhealthy. She had no issue with cooking a homemade meal for her family but instead of packaging away the leftovers for another meal later in the week or storing them in the freezer she just throws them out. When I think of the amount of food this family waste as well as the wasted money it makes my brain hurt. I attempted to explain that leftovers are nothing to be afraid of and in fact are a great way to serve healthy food on a budget. In fact, having leftovers on hand saves time and dishes later in the week when schedules get hectic.

I don’t think I was very successful explaining the benefits of leftovers but it has compelled me to sit down and make a case for them in writing. If you are afraid of leftovers and stumble upon this post I hope you will reconsider the idea of cooking with leftovers.

Leftovers do not have to be gross, flavorless or unhealthy. When you make a casserole and you have leftovers refrigerate or freeze within two hours of serving. This will maintain the quality of the food and prevent bacteria from growing. I agree that bacteria riddled food is gross but proper storage prevents this from happening. I will link a great article below from the FDA that provides some guidelines for food storage.

When it comes to flavor most food will taste better the next day because it has had time to meld flavors. For instance, chicken noodle soup is great day one but it is way better day two because it has sat in the fridge with the veggies and spices melding flavors. When you throw out leftovers you are missing out on a wonderful culinary experience.

Eating leftovers is not unhealthy unless the food was unhealthy to start off with. A leftover chocolate pie isn’t going to gain nutritional value overnight just as a lasagna isn’t going to lose nutritional value overnight. Making food from scratch gives you the opportunity to create recipes that are healthy and nutrient rich. A homemade lasagna is going to be lower in sugar and salt when you compare it to a pre-packaged frozen lasagna. We know that excessive salt and sugar consumption can lead to a whole lot of health problems and unfortunately the convenient pre-packaged meals are saturated with sugar and salt.

Leftovers are nothing to be afraid of as long as you educate yourself on proper food handling and storage you can safely reuse leftovers. I love using leftovers because it gives me a break later in the week when I need to make a fast meal. Not only does this save me time it also saves me on kitchen cleanup because I am just reheating not creating the meal from scratch. Using leftovers can be fun as well it’s an opportunity to get creative. Over the years I have learned how to take leftover chicken noodle soup and turn it into chicken pot pie, creamy chicken and noodles, and chicken spaghetti. Leftover pulled pork is not only great on sandwiches but you can stuff baked potatoes and top with cheddar cheese for a whole new meal.

As you can see leftovers are not that scary and can be a great tool if used correctly to save you time, energy and money. If you are still on the fence consider this if you are feeding your family a steady diet of pre-packaged freezer meals then you are already eating leftovers. These meals are pre-cooked and frozen only to sit a month or two in your local grocery store before being purchased. They are full of sugar, salt, MSG, and other preservatives that give me chills. Skip these chemical laden leftovers and start reheating your home cooked meals. It really is the best thing you can do for your family and your budget!

https://www.fda.gov/downloads/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm529509.pdf

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Grocery Budget and the Bulk Store

grocery cart with item

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Today I took my monthly run to Costco to pick up my bulk items like toilet paper, paper towel and other random household items where buying in bulk makes financial sense. Over the past year I have learned what to buy and what not to buy at Costco and this has helped me avoid the trap of overspending. Unfortunately, while I was waiting to check out I witnessed a common situation where someone had attempted to do all of their grocery shopping at Costco and blew their budget. The lady in front of me had filled her basket with meats, cheeses and produce as well as some household items. When the cashier gave her the total of $400 I thought she was going to pass out right there in the line. Instead of assessing her purchases she swiped her card and left the store in what appeared to be shock.

Stores like Costco, Sams Club and other bulk stores are a great way to save money on household items and random groceries but you have to be strategic when shopping these stores. First never attempt to do all of your grocery shopping at a bulk store because this is a great way to overspend. Second make sure you know the unit cost of items that you buy on a regular basis because this will help you make an informed decision. Unless you have a very large family that can consume bulk produce before it goes bad do not purchase produce from a bulk store. My last tip is to avoid impulse buys if it isn’t on your list walk away and take a day or two to think it over. The seasonal department is the best place to encounter items you feel you must have so either avoid this section all together or practice will power. If you see something that appears to be a great deal take the time to investigate other stores and make sure it’s the best deal first. You can always go back and grab the deal later in the week.

I love Costco and often refer to it as “Disney World for adults” because it really is in my opinion the most wonderful place in the world. While I enjoy my Costco membership I have learned that not everything in a bulk store is a great deal and you have to be pretty choosy if you are working with a tight budget. It’s so very easy to overspend in bulk stores because you could purchase your entire shopping list in one convenient place but you will pay for that convenience. When it comes to items like paper goods, trash bags, laundry soap, dish soap and pet supplies you can find amazing deals in bulk stores.I have even snagged some pretty awesome deals on clothes, shoes and books at Costco.  You can find additional deals within the grocery aisles but you really have to hunt for them. Remember just because a deal is advertised as a “deal” doesn’t necessarily make it so. Things like cookies, crackers, cereal, chips and other snack items are often over priced and would be best purchased at your local grocery store.

If you often find yourself overspending at the bulk stores take a look at the things you are buying to see if you are really getting the deals. Take a notebook and jot down prices at your local store as well as the unit price so you can really compare the prices. I know it sounds like a lot of work but make it fun. Leave the kids at home with your spouse or a babysitter, grab something from your local coffee shop and stroll down the aisles at your local grocery store writing down prices. You don’t need to record every price in the store just on the items you buy weekly. Whenever you are out shopping this little record will help you determine if you have found a deal or if you should pass it by.

They say the one place American’s spend the most money is on their grocery budgets and I believe it. Life is hectic and we often find ourselves overworked and tired so a simple run through the grocery store never feels like a simple endeavor. This is why it is so important to plan your shopping in advance with a meal plan and a shopping list. When you do shop stay focused, stick to your list and really pay attention to prices. You will be surprised how a few simple steps can save you money in the short term and how it can really add up in the long term.

 

 

You CAN Cook!

person picking food on tray

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When my husband and I first got married almost 13 years ago I did not know a thing about budgeting or meal planning. This lead to us spending an exorbitant amount of money on groceries every week and put us deeply into debt. It took hitting rock bottom for me to realize that I needed to change the way we were doing things and this is when I began my education into home management. I realized that I needed to reduce our grocery budget and I had two options stop eating all together or make food from scratch. I enjoy food too much to give it up all together so I decided to start making as much as possible from scratch. It didn’t take long to see the benefit of making meals instead of buying processed food.

Over the years I have had people ask me how I am able to save so much money on groceries and when I explain how, I get the same token excuse, “I wish I could do that but I just can’t cook”. I have talked with moms who are spending $250 a week on microwaveable food because it is quick and easy but unwilling to try a different approach because they don’t think they can cook or simply don’t want to try. The truth is anyone can cook it just takes a little confidence, patience and motivation. The motivation part is easy if your trying to save money but I understand that confidence and patience can take a little time to acquire.

My advice is to start small don’t attempt to cook everything in your cookbook instead find a few simple recipes and practice those. Once you have them down you will feel more confident and with confidence comes patience. Soon you will be confident enough to tackle a variety of recipes. You may even find that you enjoy cooking because not only are you saving money but your feeding your family food that is actually good for them. Even if you don’t find enjoyment in cooking for your family you should still do it because like all chores it is necessary. Processed foods aren’t meant to be consumed at every meal despite what advertisers may tell us because they are too high in sodium, sugar, fat and too many chemicals to list.

Processed Food=Disease + Debt

If your grocery budget is out of control and your freezer is packed with frozen meals than this message is for you. In order to get control of your budget you need to scrounge up a few recipes and get into your kitchen. I know that it’s scary but in this wonderful world of technology you can find YouTube videos, blog post and Pinterest boards to help you navigate your kitchen. YOU CAN COOK! Your family will appreciate it, your health will appreciate it and you will appreciate the extra money in your pocket book. Start the New Year off with a plan to live better and feed your family better food.