Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Fresh Look at Leftovers

Does anyone actually eat leftovers or are they just part of an elaborate plot to sell more plastic storage containers?

My family is – at this very moment – protesting indignantly: “We eat leftovers. What are you talking about?”

To them I say: “Ha.” Or, in the style of leftovers: “Ha. ha.” Eating leftovers once every three months is not the same as eating leftovers at least once every week.

In the interest of transparency, and because my family is – at this very moment – preparing to protest indignantly once again, I will admit that I am lax when it comes to eating leftovers as well. However, since I work from home, there is a much greater chance that I will come in contact with leftovers for lunch. Granted, sometimes that “contact” is limited to sliding the leftovers out of the way so I can reach the mayo and lunch meat. But my point stands.

Leftovers were a staple when I was growing up. In fact, I'm pretty sure we ate leftovers every night, which is pretty impressive given that you would think something would have to be a first-over before it could become a leftover.

Whenever I complained about having leftovers again, Mom would tell me about the bad old days when times were tough and money was tight. Back then, she said, the family would have a big roast or ham with all the fixin's for Sunday dinner (roast one week, ham the next), followed by roast or ham with fixin's leftovers on Monday, roast or ham casserole on Tuesday, leftover roast or ham casserole on Wednesday, roast or ham sandwiches on Thursday, roast or ham soup on Friday, and roast or ham leftover surprise on Saturday (Surprise! We still have leftovers!).

Things had improved by the time I came along, but we frequently experienced the 3-day leftover rotation of roast beef, hot beef sandwich, beef and potato hash; as well as the 4-day leftover rotation of baked ham, fried ham, cold ham sandwiches, and last but certainly the best -- ham and potato soup.

My dad, having spent several years as a bachelor, was a master of the leftovers as well. For lunch on Monday, Dad would combine a can of Chef Boyardee beefaroni, a can of vegetable beef soup, and a can of northern or cannellini beans (sometimes branching out to lima beans). This would serve as the base for his lunch leftovers for the rest of the week. Bits of dinner leftovers or another can of this or that were added as needed. Dad always stored his lunch leftovers in the sauce pan, in the fridge, ready to go the next day. He washed down his leftover stew with a glass of iced coffee – which was leftover from breakfast.

I know that eating leftovers reduces food waste and saves money. While I like to think I inherited some of my parents' sense of frugality – my favorite clothing designer is “sale” – none of that penny pinching practicality is left over when it comes to leftovers.

That doesn't mean I don't try, though. Take today, for example. After having hot pulled pork
Being frugal isn't cheap.
sandwiches Sunday evening, and cold pulled pork sandwiches Monday noon, I decided to make ham salad for lunch today. But before I could do that, I needed to replace my grandma's old, hand-crank grinder. While that grinder is one of my favorite leftovers, I'm not sure rust is the best way to get iron in your diet.

How hard can it be to find a small food grinder? Pretty dang hard, as it turns out. Nevertheless, I persisted. Bright, shiny, stainless steel blade grinder in hand (so to speak) I returned home to capitalize on the “economics” part of “home economics.” As I ate my ham salad sandwich I couldn't help but feel a little smug for having saved money by eating leftovers.

And to think, saving money only cost me forty bucks for a new grinder!

1 comment:

  1. You make me laugh. So glad to see a post from you again. I finally passed on my mother’s old hand crank grinder as well - the original food processor.