I think I’ve waxed poetic about the beauty of leftovers before. But I feel like it bears repeating.
There are so many great things about leftovers.
1) Delicious lunches that take little time to put together. As you put food away after dinner, portion it into containers so it is ready to grab for lunch the next day.
2) A no brainer dinner. We have leftover night every Tuesday. My kids LOVE it because they feel in control of what they eat. They (with guidance and some rules) can choose whatever leftovers they want for dinner. I don’t have to plan it. I don’t have to cook again. I don’t have to clean up much. Wins all around. (This does mean we don’t eat any leftovers for lunch until AFTER Tuesday night though, so there is that trade off.)
My husband calls it the “best of” night. Here’s my plate at leftover night recently. It’s pretty random: lasagna, lo mein, pork chops, and mashed potatoes/turnips. But it was yummy!
3) Some food tastes better with time. The minestrone soup I love tastes WAY better as leftovers. Something about sitting makes the flavors better. Many people swear by assembling an entire lasagna then letting it refrigerate for a day or so before baking to improve the taste. (Real caveat: some foods DON’T improve with time or reheating. Seafood is a particular culprit I can think of in that category.)
4) Saves money. You are throwing out less food. You are buying less food (less stuff for lunches or dinners, depending on how you use them).
5) Simplifies other meals. Just this last week, I was grilling chicken for dinner one night. I saved one piece aside to make pizza later in the week. I always double up on soup or spaghetti sauce recipes and freeze the extra. Super simple meal in the future.
Like I said, I LOVE leftovers. However, there are some rules for being safe with leftovers.
1) All leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees F. This is easiest with soups or sauces – if it’s bubbling throughout, it’s good.
2) Food needs to be cooled quickly. Don’t stick a giant pot of soup in the fridge to cool down. Put it in smaller containers. If possible, don’t put the hot pan in the fridge. Transfer things to a new container that isn’t hot.
3) Wrap leftovers well. This will prevent bacteria in the air from getting in there.
4) Leftovers should only be kept for up to 4 days in the fridge, about 3-4 months in the freezer. The USDA does say frozen foods will last longer but will lose moisture and flavor after that amount of time.
5) Leftovers of leftovers? The USDA says it is safe to refreeze previously frozen leftovers IF you heated it to the appropriate temperature of 165 degrees F. I probably wouldn’t recommend this due to loss in quality of product.
Do you like leftovers or loathe them? Share in the comments!