Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday - Eat the Leftovers

I must admit right up front that this is a serious Do-as-I-Say-Not-as-I-Do moment.  Just tonight I "fed the sink" some food that could have been enjoyed by my family, but instead it stayed in the refrigerator too long and died there. Ugh.  And to think, if I had only managed the leftovers better I could have enjoyed some good food that was.already.cooked.  Have I mentioned how much I enjoy eating food that I did not just cook?

So, why am I, unqualified as I am, even daring to give advice on this subject?  Once upon a time, in a life not too long ago, I read a book called Dinner's In the Freezer by Jill Bond.  And in the midst of having five small children only seven years apart, the concept of preparing food ahead of time was a life-saver - a necessity, even.  Our family lived by the *cook ahead once a month, always have something to eat as long as you can thaw it* plan for a long time.  It was great while it lasted, but in time I became more able to manage planning menus on a weekly basis and cooking almost every day (though I do still double many recipes that I cook and store the extra in the freezer).  But somewhere along the way between then and now I must have forgotten how to manage the refrigerator and the leftovers.

In her book, Mrs. Bond mentions the need to have a Clean Out the Refrigerator Day, known as CORD, on the menu frequently.  I used to do that faithfully, grabbing everything out of the fridge and letting everyone choose what to eat, and reheating it plate by plate in the microwave.  That is not always the best way to do it, especially if you like to have everyone sit down and start eating at the same time (I do), since the serial microwaving can take a while.  But there is more than one way to slay the fridge monster.

Here are some ideas, and I promise to try to take my own advice:
  • If you know that you will not eat the leftovers, cook less food.  Quit wasting it.
  • If you know that you will not eat the leftovers soon, package them up (don't forget to label it!) right after the meal and put them in the freezer.  Do not think that you will put them in the freezer if you decide not to eat them in a few days; you won't (Oh wait, that's me, but you might not either.).
  • If your family (read, husband) does not appreciate leftovers or does not enjoy eating the same meal again very soon, then be sure to follow one of the first two suggestions above.  Your other option is to come up with creative but different ways to use the leftovers the second time.  I'm sure someone out there has some ideas.
  • Eat the leftovers for lunch the next day and be done with them.  This works especially well if you have a biggish family who happens to be home for lunch most days, but I hear that you can pack lunches to eat away from home.
  • Plan a night each week as the designated CORD dinner.  If you have an especially busy day or afternoon each week this might be a good night to choose.  Decide ahead of time to give yourself a break from cooking. 
  • Last but not least, and this is the one I stink at, check the refigerator often.  See what's in there that should be "on special" that day, and find a way to eat it, or really go ahead and put it in the freezer.  But then you have to check the freezer too...


Debbie S said...

You describe what happens at our house all the time. We especially enjoy leftovers for lunch as each person can fix their own at eat when they're ready. Works for us since we are all adults now.

I think I would avoid these issues if I took time to label. Maybe having a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie near the fridge would help. I've tried other types of labels and they leave residue on containers. I don't know if they are still available, but they used to make a Sharpie specifically for freezer labeling.

Gail said...

Sounds great. I have always been a believer in the "use the leftovers" train of thought, and it helped that I have a husband who doesn't mind eating them (most of the time). For 36 years, most of our leftovers went for said husband's lunch the next day since he was never close enough to come home for lunch, nor did he have any good options for eating out(plant cafeteria, Ugh!). Now, I still give him leftovers for lunch and it helps free up my time to go out to lunch with friends(almost never, sadly) or go to work. This "continuing to fix his lunch just as if he were going off to work" was his suggestion and it makes for a happy wife of a retired husband. Oh yes, I don't do nearly as much cooking as I once did ,so there aren't as many leftovers.