Use These 7 Leftovers Tips To Avoid Wasting Food

Leftovers.  Just reading the word probably made some of you groan.  That’s a pretty common reaction.  We crave variety including in what we eat.  And, let’s face it, not all meals are all that exciting the first time around!  This can make the second go-around downright unappealing.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way!  You can make leftovers a lot more appealing, and also make sure that food doesn’t go to waste.  Here are a few simple tricks.

Store Leftovers In A Clear Container

One reason that leftovers go bad is they get forgotten about. This is almost sure to happen if you can’t see what you’re keeping.  We try to put as many our leftovers as possible in clear glass dishes.  This avoids food turning into science experiments!  Who needs that?

Create A Designated Leftovers Area

Another common occurance that leads to food going to waste or becoming inedible is when leftovers are spread around the fridge.  Then, slowly but surely, the leftovers get pushed further and further to the back.  Eventually, you’ve run out of containers and the back half of the fridge is piled high with who-knows-what.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

We put leftovers in one area of the fridge.  It may not be our favorite spot of the fridge, but it helps.

Plan A Leftover Night

One thing our designated spot helps is to alert us when we’ve got a lot of leftovers.  When our leftovers spot fills up, we know it’s time to consider a leftovers night.  Nobody enjoys these that I know of, but at least it means no cooking, right?

Bottom line, leftovers nights aren’t fun, but the can avoid waste, save time, and mean one less meal to cook.  That’s just money in your pocket!

Switch Meals With Leftovers

If you don’t want to have the same thing for dinner twice in a week, I don’t blame you.  But, what about lunch?  Many leftovers pack well and can be warmed up at work.  I often look forward to leftovers for lunch, because it breaks up my sandwich routine.

Turn Leftovers Into A New Recipe

One thing we try to do is make leftovers an entirely new meal.  How?  Here are a few things we do:

  • Just about any Mexican food leftover can be converted to a different meal.  Pretty much anything can be made into nachos fairly easily.
  • Grilled chicken can be cut up and made into a nice big salad.
  • Leftover chili can be added to a box of mac & cheese to make chili mac.

Get the idea?


Know How To Reheat Your Leftovers

Many leftovers get a bad rap because they’re warmed up incorrectly.  Pizza, for example, doesn’t get warmed up in the microwave in our house.  Warming it up in the oven makes it practically the same as when you had it fresh.  Honestly, I won’t go into too many tips on particular foods, but Google is your friend.  I assure you.

Store Your Leftovers Properly

Sticking leftovers in the fridge improperly is a surefire way to ruin food.   The biggest thing to remember when storing food?  Keeping air away from it.

If you put leftover casserole or pasta in a container, squeeze the air out.  When you have leftover pizza, don’t just put the box in the fridge.  The next time you open the box, you’ll have dried out, nasty pizza that even the oven can’t save.  If you store your leftovers properly, they will taste much better the second time around.

In the end, leftovers will never be appealing as a great meal the first time.  But, with these tips, leftovers can be tolerable and maybe even enjoyable.

What are some of your favorite (or least favorite) leftovers? Do you have any tips to minimize the eye-rolls when leftover night rolls around?

How Will I Stay Motivated After Losing Weight?

I’ve written a couple of times about how I have been working to get in better health this year.  So far things are going great, and I’ve now lost about 9.5 pounds total.  Things have definitely slowed down over the past couple of months.  I expected that, as this is typically the area where my body hits a wall.  But, I’m still happy with where things stand.  The issue now will be how to stay motivated after losing weight.

Summer Is A Downfall

I wrote earlier about how I stopped snacking at work at the beginning of the year.  That’s still held up.  I haven’t eaten one single thing that I haven’t brought in!  If you know my typical snacking habits, that is a big accomplishment.

But my other normal downfall is upon us:  Summer.  We do lots and lots of camping, and this tends to bring about a lot of poor nutritional choices, at least compared to the rest of the year.

  • Snacking.  There are always munchies and stuff around for camping.  It’s just the nature of things.  I’m always a sucker for a handful of potato chips or something.
  • Alcohol.  It’s vacation, usually at the beach or around a fire. These things make a nice cold drink or two a big temptation.
  • Lack of exercise.  Right now I’ve been trying to get some sort of exercise just about every day.  This involves a combination of running, walking, or lifting weights.  Last year, I tended to do very little of this while camping.

As you can see, these are all things that could definitely put at risk some of the gains I’ve made.

How To Combat The Dreaded Summer Weight Gain

So, I guess the question now is how do I fight this?  Here are some ideas I have:

  1. Hold myself accountable.  Last year, I knew I was gaining weight throughout the summer.  In typical denial, I basically avoided the scale.  This year, I’ll make sure to check in regularly no matter what.
  2. Carry a snack cup.  Instead of a handful of this or that, I’m thinking of getting my own little snack cup that I would have to use when snacking.  This would force me to go get it, force me to fill it, and hopefully put up a mental block if I fill it multiple times.
  3. Take some healthier options.  There’s between 4-8 of us on typical camping trips.  I can’t ask that people like be removed on my account. Nobody wants to be that person.  But, hopefully I can take some of my own stuff to mix in so that it’s not all junk food.
  4. Reduce alcohol and change mixers.  I don’t drink beer, but instead prefer mixed drinks.  Last year, my drink of choice was whiskey and Coke.  This year, I’ll probably switch to vodka and club soda.  Vodka has a few less calories than whiskey, and club soda is 0 calories, compared to a whole lot for Coke.  I’ll also mix them a little lighter.
  5. Exercise regularly.  I’ve gotten in such a routine of waking up and doing some exercise, that I’m hoping I just keep this up.  Right now, if I wake up and don’t exercise, I don’t feel right.  So, if I can tap into that when camping, it’ll keep me pushing along.

Crossing My Fingers For Success

This probably won’t be easy.  The work thing was actually easier because I went cold turkey.  But, I just can’t see myself going cold turkey on the fun things associated with camping.  I think starting off with an approach centered on moderation is my best bet.

The best laid plans, right?

Wish me luck.

Readers, how do you deal with temptations and other obstacles that can derail success you’ve made? Do you have any tips for me?  Please let me know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.

I Give Up! Snacking At Work Edition

Giving up is rarely encouraged, but it can be a good thing with an unhealthy or time wasting behavior.  Such was my snacking at work.  So, I decided that I give up!

How Snacking At Work Consumed Me

See what I did with that heading?  It consumed me.  Get it?

All cleverness aside, I looked at a lot of things as I set out for a healthier lifestyle.  When I put together my list of things I needed to change, snacking at work was right at the top.

Snacking got me in two different ways:

  • My drawer.  I had a snack drawer.  I brought things from home to fill it up and usually kept it filled.  I had various crackers, Nutri Grain bars, candy, etc.  It had all sorts of good stuff.
  • Walking around.  I’m a walker.  I love to take little laps around the building throughout the day.  This is generally seen as pretty healthy, but I made it opposite.  If there was a candy dish, guess what I’d do on my walk?  Grab a piece of candy, of course!  It got really bad when I would often grab one for now and one for later.  For the desk drawer, of course!

I realized that my snacking was happening so often that it wasn’t really a snack anymore.  Every day around 2pm or so, I’d have my hand in the drawer and was pulling out something.  This is in addition to whatever candy I wolfed down at various points of the day.  But, when I looked at my habits, I was effectively creating an additional meal. Yes, it was a small meal, but I was counting on that item to get me through the day.  I would no sooner give that up than I would consider skipping lunch.

Something had to change!

Giving Up Cold Turkey

I’ve made a few different changes in trying to be healthy when it comes to my eating habits.  Many of them simply involve cutting back.  For example, the main indulgence my wife and I share is a bowl of ice cream a couple of evenings per week.  I didn’t want to give this up, so I merely started using a smaller bowl.  This way, I still get ice cream and the satisfaction that comes with it, but I put less of it in my body.

Could that work for snacking?

Well, I needed to be honest with myself, and the answer I came up with was a ‘No’.

I know myself.  I know that my snacking habits at work didn’t just start one day.  My candy habits probably started with picking one up here and there.  My 2pm snack started off as a once in a while thing.

I knew that if I tried to cut back, meaning having a snack here and there, I would backslide.  It is inevitable.  It’s just who I am.  I can’t help it.

So I decided that I needed to quit cold turkey.

And’ that is what I’ve done.  So far, this year, I have had nothing to eat outside of my meals while I’m at work.  No candy.  Not a single cracker.  Nothing.

I’ve never gone cold turkey before.  Not so coincidentally, I’ve never made it three months before.

Tips To Give Up Snacking

Here are some things I felt were helpful in my successful journey so far.

  1. Know Yourself.  As I mentioned before, I had to be brutally honest with myself.  I knew that I’m not the type that can be an occasional snacker.
  2. Plan.  I started thinking about my plans for getting rid of snacking at the end of last year.  I actually started preparing myself.  As I had my candy or snacks, I would count down the days I had left to have my 2pm snack.
  3. Visualize.  While I was having my 2pm snack toward the end of the year, I started thinking about 2pm coming and going snack free.  Mental preparation was key.
  4. Cut Temptation.  I had to clean out my snack drawer and make sure it stayed empty.  Since I started planning and visualizing as noted above, I was able to draw down my stockpile.  Coming in clean to the new year was critical.
  5. Accept That It Will Be Hard. While I was able to get rid of my drawer full of snacks, I couldn’t get rid of the candy dishes.  I knew that wouldn’t be easy.  But I had to tell myself to just keep walking.
  6. Know That You Can Make It.  The first few days, when instinct kicked in and I wanted my snack, I actually felt hungry.  While I may have been hungry at times, I think it was also my brain kicking into gear, looking for that quick satisfaction.  I had to chant in my head “It’s OK to be hungry.”  And it was.  I kept chanting this in my head until one day, I didn’t have to any more.
  7. Track progress.  Count down the number of days you’re successful.  If it helps you lose weight, track that too.  Whatever it takes.

Staying Motivated

Right now, I’ve been steadily losing weight.  I’ve lost around 7.5 pounds so far.  I have another 6 or so to go to hit my target weight.  I fear that as I get closer to my target weight, or if I actually hit it, that will drop my motivation.

That will be a new challenge.  I’m not sure exactly yet how I’ll face it.  But, one day at a time, right?

Readers, have you given anything up lately?  How big of a habit did you give up?  How hard was it?  Let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions or stories to share.  Thanks for reading!

Looking For Some Good Lunch Meat Alternatives

I’ve taken 2017 as a time to really focus on improving my health.  I’ve been trying to get in better shape and make some healthier decisions.  I’m 42.  In the past, I would often brush off decisions I knew weren’t healthy by telling myself I could fix them down the road.  Well, after hitting an age that’s roughly half of my expected life exptency, give or take a few years, I realized that road was getting shorter.  One of the things I’ve thought to do is to come up with some lunch meat alternatives.

My Typical Lunch

I’m a brown bagger, which is something I’m proud of.  Keeping my costs down for lunch has always been a big thing for me.  I see people go out to eat every day, but I’m fine to sit at my desk and eat.  This also gives me time to go for a walk.

Lunch for me is usually four items.

  • A few baby carrots (have recently switched to organic).
  • A sandwich with wheat bread, deli meat, cheese, and condiments (usually mustard, maybe a little mayo).
  • Fresh fruit such as grapes, strawberries, or pineapple.
  • A cup of yogurt (I’ve switched back to the Yoplait brand which has 1/3 less sugar than what I was eating).

Lunch Meat

I’ve always thought that getting lunch meat from the deli was a reasonably healthy alternative.  But, then I did some

Image from morguefile via lauramusikanski

checking and realized that deli meat is not very healthy at all.  It’s very processed, containing lots of fillers and preservatives, and it’s also very salty.


Some of my favorites are salami and bologna, which turn out to be among the worst.  Even low sodium versions still have quite a bit, and they still have the preservatives and fillers.

I also like ham, turkey and chicken, which aren’t as bad, though you still won’t hearing anyone call them healthy.

So what to do?

My Ideas On Lunch Meat Alternatives

I’m looking for ideas on what I could do to substitute in healthier options for lunch meat.  Here are some of the things I’ve thought of.

  • Tuna – I like canned tuna.  While I’ve seen fish on ‘very healthy items to eat’ lists, tuna never really seems to show up.  So, I’m wondering if this is healthy or if there are problems.
  • Egg Salad – It’s Lent, so we don’t eat meat on Fridays.  Egg salad is a fun Friday option, but is this a good option to eat regularly?  I know that many have backed off eggs as being bad for you, which was once thought.  Still, I always thought it was something to eat in moderation.
  • Left overs – I already eat left overs now and then as opportunity arises.  We often hold back left overs from lunches and make an entire dinner out of them after the cache grows.  Whether they would be healthier than a sandwich would depend on the dinner.
  • Salads – I know salads are a good option, but I get sick of salad quickly.  Too many salads and I tend to move on after a while.
  • Slice My Own Meat – One option I’ve seen is to buy fresh meat and slice it yourself.  This sounds great but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  Would I have to buy my own meat slicer?  That sounds expensive, hard to maintain, and one more thing to take care of.

What Are Some Other Alternatives to Lunch Meat?

I know I can’t be the only one out there that brown bags it and wants to keep it simple and healthy.  So, what are some ideas of you have or that you’ve seen?  Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Homemade Raisin Bran: Easy, Healthy, and Frugal

Cereal is one of my favorite breakfast foods, and I’ve always loved Raisin Bran.  Even as a kid, Raisin Bran was definitely in the rotation on the cereals I would look for in the cupboard, and my taste for it has stuck with me all throughout the years.

One thing that has changed, though, is my enjoyment of sugar.  Back when I was a kid, Golden Grahams was my allmb-2016-09-cereal time favorite and so I’d have that occasionally, until recently when I was eating it and realized that it was, well, absolutely disgusting to me now.  I love sugary treats, but for breakfast, it just doesn’t work for me anymore.

Even Raisin Bran, in it’s original form as packaged by cereal makers like Kellogg or Post, is too sweet for the simple reason that they put sugar on their raisins.  I guess they figure that people aren’t going to eat those pesky healthy raisins if they aren’t sweetened somehow.

But not for me.

So, I’ve started making my own raisin bran and I have to tell you, I LOVE IT.

How To Make Homemade Raisin Bran

Here’s the ingredients list:

  • Bran Flakes Cereal (Purchased from Aldi)
  • Raisins (Purchased from Costco)
  • Skim Milk

That’s it.

Now I don’t measure.  I just pour some bran flakes into the bowl, throw in a small handful of raisins, stir it around, then pour in some milk, and voila, homemade Raisin Bran!

It’s delicious.  It’s not too sweet.  And it’s cheap!  A 17.3 ounce box of cereal is around $1.99 (maybe less) and lasts a couple of weeks.  A two pack box of raisins is around $9 and one bag lasts for weeks.  A few ounce of skim milk costs pennies.  So, while I’m not sure the exact price per bowl, I know that it’s a heck of lot cheaper than buying the pre-packaged Raisin Bran that is loaded with sugar that I no longer enjoy.

All in all, it’s a pretty ‘sweet’ way to start off the day, wouldn’t you say?

Readers, what do you enjoy for breakfast?  Have you done anything to make your breakfast healthier, cheaper, or both?  Please let me know in the comments below.


Qdoba vs Chipotle: We Finally Tried Qdoba For The First Time

Both Qdoba and Chipotle have been in business near our house for years.  We don’t go all that often, maybe once every few months, but when we’ve wanted a big old burrito wrap (or bowl), we always ended up in the nearby Chipotle.  However, Qdoba recently moved about a quarter mile down the road on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the area.  The short move definitely seems to have helped business, as it’s always hopping.  It got us in the door, and we can now do a Qdoba vs Chipotle comparison.

Qdoba Vs Chipotle

OK, I’ll admit, part of what got us there was that we got a coupon in the mail.  A good ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ deal will work anytime.  But after we went, it made us realize that we’d been missing out!

It was pretty darn good!  It wasn’t perfect but it definitely made the list as far as places we’d visit now and then.

Here are some of the things we learned:

Qdoba has Queso

Chipotle is very well publicized for offering only fresh ingredients.  So they don’t offer anything the lines of gooey melted cheese.  Well, as much as I like fresh ingredients, I also like gooey melted cheese, so Qdoba gives you that option.  They have a couple of different varieties and they’ll put it on willingly for you.

Qdoba has free guacamole

I don’t like guacamole, not even a little bit, but my wife does, so regardless of my preference, it’s coming home with us.  Chipotle charges you a couple of bucks for a side of guac, where Qdoba feels that it’s part of the experience, so you get it at no extra charge.

Limit the rice

One thing that both my wife and I did was say ‘both’ when they asked what kind of rice we mb-2016-04-shellswanted.  They have two kinds.   I think that they basically doubled the amount of rice as both of ours seemed to have a LOT of rice.  Next time, we’ll either stick to one or ask for both but note that we don’t want as much.

Get some spice

I like a little spice but nothing overly spicy.  As such, I didn’t order anything that was spicy, and I probably should have.  You can get spicy queso, spicy salsa, and I think even one or two of the other things has some spice.  I got them all non-spicy and I realized that while what I had was tasty, it could have used a little bit of zip that would have come from getting something with a little extra spice.  Next time, I’ll order either the salsa or queso with spice.

Don’t forget the basics

There’s a lot to choose from when you get your burrito.  You can choose the type of meat, all the veggies, what kind of queso, salsa, etc.  I totally forgot to get sour cream, and realized it when I came home to eat.  Drat!  I love sour cream with my Mexican food.  Luckily we had some in the fridge, but considering it’s all included, I will make sure to get it next time.

So Which One Wins?

Quite honestly, the differences between Chipotle and Qdoba were so minimal that if you did a blind taste test, I would probably struggle to figure out which is which.  For us the determining factors are where we might have a coupon as well as which one is more accessible.  Believe it or not, the side of the road makes a big difference where both are located.

In the end, both can be considered, though we have been at Qdboa a lot more, as they’ve been more aggressive with coupons.

Readers, have you been to Qdoba?  What do you think?  Any ordering tips or secrets that I should know about for next time?