I make a weekly menu and incorporate leftovers into my lunches and snacks. My fiance is awful about eating leftovers but if I package it up so that it’s easy for him to just toss in the microwave and eat, and if I remind him about a zillion times, he will help out. We also have leftover bonanzas–we had one today in fact! I use the menu to go grocery shopping. Anything not eaten by the end of the week is incorporated into next week or will keep for lunches for another week and will be taken into account. I cut recipes in half a lot because it’s just us and we don’t need or want leftovers of something. I never ever ever ever eat out for lunch. It’s expensive, usually unhealthy and if I’ve got food at home, there is no purpose in buying expensive, unhealthy food when I can bring healthy, delicious, already paid for food. I go to college full time and the food available on campus is mostly fast food and is all processed. Blech.
I cook all meals for the week on Sunday. It sounds so cliche but it’s so freaking easy once you get in the habit. I try to prep everything and cook it all at once and it usually only takes about 2 hours of my actual time (+ time in oven when I am doing other things). Last Sunday it took me maybe an hour and a half of prep and/or make a pie, hummus, enchiladas, glut sauce, ground turkey cooked in the glut sauce, pickled jalapenos and breakfast tacos.
I also eliminate a lot of excess stuff from recipes–if I need just a few sprigs of parsley for soup or a spoonful of sour cream or yogurt that I won’t normally eat, I’ll just not put it in there and save myself the money and waste or I won’t cook the dish until I figure out how to use the rest of whatever it is. cookstr and allrecipies are great ways to find a way to use something up. I tend to cook things that are flexible and I can just put whatever I want in it. Like the enchiladas I made–I had extra black beans from breakfast tacos and extra mushrooms from the glut sauce so I just tossed them into the sauce. I also made the enchilada like lasagna–instead of spending a million years rolling them I just layered the tortillas in a casserole dish. Sometimes I cook chicken breasts in tinfoil packets with some olive oil and whatever else I have laying around.
If I miscalculate and overbuy, I have strategies. Veggies are prepped and frozen. When I use canned beans, I put the bean juice in there too. When I have 2 big tupperwares full, I toss them in a pot of chicken stock and cook them into soup. I tend to food process it because I like the texture better. Then we can eat it with lentils, cook chicken in it, just eat it–whatever I want. It’s different every time and it’s awesome.
Fruit depends on how much I have–when it gets to the point where it’s either eat it right now or it will go bad, I have to deal with it. If it’s a lot, then I cut it up and mix it with some honey and put it in a pie crust. I just get the frozen pack of 2 at HEB and use the bottom crust as the top. I can put that in the oven when I cook for the week. If it’s not a lot, I freeze it and will use for other pies or smoothies. It’s a relatively healthy dessert and it uses up food that would otherwise be wasted.
Unless it’s a cooking day, all meat goes into the freezer–it lasts for much longer and the quality of it is not compromised. Meat is too expensive to forget about and waste–also it’s horrifying and disgusting. Always and forever. I have to thaw it out before I eat it but I won’t buy new meat until the old meat is gone. To be honest, we don’t eat much meat anyway–it’s expensive and you don’t really need to eat meat more than 2-3 times a week. Plus I hate taking meat to school because I am afraid of it spoiling.
It sounds like a lot of work and time but really most of it is just forethought and habit. I try not to let things sit in my fridge–I put newer leftovers behind the older leftovers so that I will grab those first. I compost all the scraps and edges and anything that I can’t save in time for souping.