Leftovers aren’t sexy. Throwing them out is not considered morally or ecologically wrong by most Americans. This has created a garbage crisis in this country. Americans throw away 27 MILLION tons of food each year. The average person wastes 3.5 POUNDS of food each week. This habit clogs landfills, generates greenhouse gases and costs the economy approximately 144 billion dollars a year.
Leftovers are now the largest source of edible food waste in American homes. There are two major reasons why people throw out food. One is that people stash leftovers in Tupperware containers that get pushed to the back of the fridge. Then they’re forgotten about until they’ve gone bad. Not much we can do about the forgetting factor. But the other reason is that people just don’t like eating leftovers.
We need to bring leftovers back into favor in order to save the planet! Apparently, leftovers were held in much higher esteem before the 1960’s. Being frugal and saving food was actually considered patriotic during WWII. But then it got very cheap to buy lunch instead of brown bagging it. It also got cheaper to order out or buy something new for dinner rather than eating that two-day old pot roast again. So use of leftovers has been on the decline for a long time.
I happen to love leftovers. I love eating cold meat, plain or in a sandwich. In high school, I’d eat leftovers like pasta for breakfast.
When I was a young housewife with two kids, I was very organized about shopping and cooking. I did full menus for the week along with a shopping list of all the necessary ingredients. I always incorporated the leftover meats and vegetables into the weekly meal plan. I scoured magazines and cookbooks for recipes that could use already cooked meats. Curries, stews and casseroles all work very well with leftover chicken, pork or lamb. I also often threw leftover meats into a tomato sauce and served them over pasta.
Tom does not love leftovers. I have to go all out to dress them up if I want him to eat them. I’ve gotten pretty good at fooling him. I don’t always tell him in advance that he’s eating Tuesday’s pork chops or Wednesday’s chicken breast. If he compliments the meal, then I’ll spring it on him.
I also try to freeze leftovers that I think will go bad in the frig. But I have to admit that I often forget about them in the freezer. When I rediscover them, freezer burn has set in. So, while I do try to waste as little food as possible, I don’t always succeed.
This is actually an important issue. People need to change their attitudes towards leftovers and become more aware of the problem of food waste. Unfortunately, today there are a few other issues competing for attention from the media and the population. Maybe when we have a new president and a people oriented government again, we can afford to turn out attention to things like food waste on a national scale. The sooner the better.