I used to think I had to plan for one day of eating at a time
It’s what my mom did. She’d come home from work and this is the conversation that would happen…
Dad: “What’s for dinner Ma?”
Mom: “I don’t know, What do you want for dinner?”
Nobody planned ahead, and we generally ate the same hand full of meals on rotation. Then, when the fridge was bursting at the seams, and we were scared to see what science experiments we would find, we would venture into the fridge for the leftovers.
This was an epidemic in my family!
My Grandma did it, my Nana did it, my Biological Dad did it when we visited him and his wife. I knew, when I became responsible for the menu in my family I needed to have a plan. I poured over every way to menu plan that you can imagine, but leftovers are not really addressed as an integral part of the process, except as a money-saving measure. Still not sure about how to make my leftovers work for me, my husband was discharged from the military, and things changed drastically. I became a working mom after 5 years of being a homemaker, and my job was overnight, and 30 hours a week.
I tried to manage everything, and have the menu set up, but I was exhausted and cooking every day was not something I had the energy for. We fell into the eating out habit, or just using boxed meals. This was the time that our two middle children got diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We had to make everything now!
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I notified my family, all 5 of them at that time, the tall and the small, that all leftovers were to be saved. It did not matter if it was 1/4 C of rice or an entire gallon container of soup, it was saved and put in the refrigerator.
Then, I designated two days, equal-ish days apart, on our busiest days of the week that we would eat on those leftovers. This made our trips in and out of the house for therapy and church, and me needing to sleep during the day for work on one of those days, something manageable for everyone. I felt FREE! The plan was working! Yes, we typically did not have breakfast leftovers but we ate anything for that meal in the fridge, and sometimes the favorites were eaten immediately by the earliest risers, but EVERYTHING had to go!
We are now a family of 8. I have to double, triple, quadruple, and sometimes octuple, recipes to plan for leftovers or for freezing purposes. But, the schedule is set. I tried to change our days, to accommodate our schedule and it threw everyone off and we missed so many leftover days as a result, that I rescheduled our kids’ therapies again to get us back on track.
What about holidays and birthdays?
My husband is easy, and so are my kids. He sees the value in our leftovers schedule. I meal plan for special events either the day before or after the scheduled leftover day (for us it is Sunday, and Wednesday) and we eat a traditional holiday meal, or whatever our kids have picked as their birthday meal. We do certainly make treats to eat on that day, and sometimes to go with the other day, just because we can.