Frugal Tip #1: Cook Extra and Learn to Love Leftovers

About a year or so ago my friend M asked me for a list of frugal tips for busy people. I’ve thought and thought about this topic and I must say that I’ve found in nearly impossible to jot down my ideas on the matter. The fact is that frugality can take quite a lot of time.

Most of my yearly savings comes from reading the sales circulars, clipping coupons and making more than 90% of our meals at home. It also comes from planning in advance and being prepared. After all, nothing is worse than heading out on vacation only to realize you forgot your toothpaste, toothbrush or bathing suit. Failing to plan well in advance will always cost you more money. You’re bound to pay inflated prices as you run out to the nearest convenience store, drug store or mall.

I can’t provide tips for busy folks who don’t eat at home, but for those who do I have a few suggestions. First, learn to love leftover night and whenever you cook at home, cook extra. If you make a pot of chili, make it an extra large pot. If you sauté chicken add a few more breasts to the pan or put another pan on the burner and make two meals at the same time.

If you’re using the oven, try to bake multiple dishes at once. This saves on time and electricity. Last night I made lasagna on the oven’s top shelf and baked, diced, red potatoes for tomorrow night’s side.

My husband and I eat leftovers at least one night a week and sometimes two or three times. I tend to cook extra on Sunday nights so we’ll have a quick and easy heat-up on Monday. We typically add the leftover chicken to pasta, serve it over rice with a few extra seasonings or turn it into tacos. If you make chili or soup, (chicken tortilla is my favorite), plan to eat it every other night. After all most of us aren’t fans of eating leftovers two to three days in a row.

The key is to have something on hand that you can heat up in a matter of minutes. It’ll take you a lot longer to order and pick up food than it will to preheat a pan and throw in last night’s dinner. If you can’t imagine eating the same thing night after night cut up the extra chicken and fold it into a chicken wrap or toss it on top of your lunchtime salad. It’s a great way to diversify your daily brown bag and will cost much less than going out to eat.

Rather than thinking of leftover night as a dreadful event begin to look forward to it. I used to hate the idea of eating the same thing twice, but once we started cooking more delicious meals I really began to enjoy it. I actually think some meals taste better the second night, particularly those with thick sauces like spaghetti.

If you’re already in the kitchen you might as well spend a few minutes preparing extra food. By having tomorrow night’s dinner at your fingertips you won’t find yourself asking what’s for dinner, you won’t need to run out at the last minute for additional ingredients, and you won’t be tempted to drive to a restaurant or pick up fast food. By planning ahead and cooking extra you’ll save yourself time and money. I save at least 45 to 60 minutes a week by doubling meal preparation and planning for leftovers.

4 thoughts on “Frugal Tip #1: Cook Extra and Learn to Love Leftovers”

  1. I am a big fan of leftovers. One of my favorite ways to use extra chili is to add it to scrambled eggs. Cook the eggs until they are almost done, then stir in the chili and cook the rest of the way. It makes a great breakfast, but is also substantial enough for supper. You can also add bacon or ham, or top it with cheese and then broil it.

    Chili is also very good over baked potatoes with sour cream, and lately I've been using it as a chip dip with doritos, way healthier than tubs of dip or sour cream which I usually use.

  2. I don't mind leftovers at all but DS1, who is 15, loathesss them. I have learned to either cook smaller portions so there aren't as many left overs, or I make big batches of things that freeze well. Then I can dig them out the in a few weeks and he won't remember LOL . Even still, we have leftovers about once a week. Twice if I can swing it.

  3. I LOVE leftovers! It's so nice to have a brainless meal in the evenings – not having to think about what to eat, and not having to take time to prepare or go to the gorcery store. It makes for such a relaxing night and gives me more time to myself to unwind, workout, etc. I have some yummy leftovers that a wonderful friend sent me home with, and it's so appreciated 🙂

  4. @Jenny – I've never put chili on baked potatoes, but I'm definitely going to add that recipe to our repertoire.

    @Jolie – Oh I'm sure kids aren't big on the leftover bandwagon. My husband and I don't have any children yet so that's not an issue for us, but I absolutely love the idea of freezing leftovers and waiting for your kids to forget about them.

    @Mary – I couldn't have thought of a better description than "Brainless meal," great word choice. I love cooking at home for family and friends. I send them home with leftovers and they drop off fresh bread and dessert. You can't beat that 🙂


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