Leftover Days Will Save Your Bacon, Literally!

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As a mom with a lot of children, I am constantly trying to make our budget fit our needs.  A few pennies here, or a couple dollars there and you can have one bill throw off your whole budgeting system.

Food is the #2 bill in this house, and here is how we….

  1. Feed 8 people for less than $800 per month.
  2. Build and maintain a pantry that will feed us in lean times, from our savings.
  3. Decrease our food waste, and still eat fresh veggies and fruit, daily.
  4. Eat completely gluten free, without losing our minds!

Saving our bacon….

This habit came about because my husband was in college, full time, during the weekdays, and I was working overnight on the weekends.  Throw some homeschooling, weekly therapy for our exceptional needs children, and religious activities and you have a very full schedule.  Oh, and I went to night school during 18 months of this time, had shoulder surgery and recovery, and had two babies.  It was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Back to the food……

I call it a habit because we have tried to change the days we picked for our Leftover Days once, and it failed miserably because we were so used to the days we had done it on for three years.  We chose Wednesdays, and Sundays because those were our busiest days, and they were almost perfectly even in spacing.

It ticked all the boxes for me.  I could save money and time by using every last drop of what I was preparing, reduce my time in the kitchen, and actually not have to prepare or plan anything for two whole days a week!  I tell everyone about our Leftover Days!

What do you mean by Leftover Days?

I know that people use leftovers in all sorts of ways.  As lunches for their kids and themselves, as dinner when they are in a hurry, or even as a hail Mary pass on a rough day.

The one that we used to do when we first got married, and I grew up with, was eating leftovers when the refrigerator was so full that you had used every storage container, and you couldn’t remember when they had last been opened….then we got into the moldy containers and the mystery jars of unused condiments and it put people off of leftovers forever!

How do we do it?

We save our leftovers.  All of them!  Soups, meat loaf, 1/4 cup of cottage cheese or a slice of baked oatmeal.  No matter how small, we save it ALL!

We realized that we could not just save them for one, or even two days many times, and have enough for our large family for a whole day or even a whole meal and we were counting on at least lunch and dinner to be covered.  Three days worth of leftovers is just about perfect for our family, and they are first come, first served.  We do not all get our favorites, but we all get fed.

We will save a few things from the Wednesday to Sunday time frame to carry us over the shorter span between Sunday and Wednesday of the following week.

What happens if you eat all the food you prepared for multiple meals in between Leftover Days?

We ran into this problem a lot in the beginning, especially as our family has grown about yearly since we started it.  Now, to avoid that I automatically double, or triple every recipe.  I make sure that the approximate serving size of the prepared food at each meal is 12 people instead of 8.  This makes enough wiggle room for growing young boys, and a hungry husband after a day of chopping wood.

What if my family hates leftovers?

You are capable of setting the tone here for your entire household.

My husband loves variety.  We rarely eat the same meal twice in one month, and I prepare almost every single one myself.  That’s a lot of recipes, and a lot of leftovers, if we were not good stewards and use them up, that is a lot of waste.

So, in light of our desire to reduce our food waste and its affect on our bank account, he and we, have learned to either tolerate or love our leftovers anyway.

Sometimes, I combine multiple things and “recreate” them into something new.  Sometimes, I can use them, plus a little can of something from the pantry and jazz it up.Sometimes, I put it in a corn tortilla for the kids, or on salad for my husband and myself.

Really, we have just learned to roll with it.

What about my kids with sensory processing disorder?

Momma, I got you!

We have a child on the spectrum, and my husband is too.  Food was a big issue in our house for three years, when our oldest was at the height of his oral aversion.  I kid you not, it took that long and meals were rough.  But, we also lived without a microwave during that time, and I learned a valuable lesson from that.

My husband and oldest son, the ones with sensory problems, get to pick first, because I do not want to put them off of leftovers forever.  Do they eat things they do not like, absolutely, but they know that it is the last time for a while.

Also, You can restore the mouth feel of almost any leftover by baking it at a higher temp for a short amount of time.  Say, 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes to warm it up in the oven, and then wack it up to 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, or even use the broiler for a minute or two.  It worked for us, and still does!

So, Call this a large family Hack, or the ingenuity of a desperate work outside the home Mom, but it WORKS!

 

Thank you so much for stopping by!

If you want to learn more about my family, Check out what we have been eating, or how to cut down your cooking time you have come to the right place.

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How to Not Cook Two Days a Week, Without Fast Food and Cereal

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!

How to not cook two days a week, without fast food and cereal

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My Plan

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.

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