Leftovers are great! When you start thinking about what to have for dinner tonight, who doesn’t love it when they remember they have leftover food that can just be reheated to have a delicious dinner? No extra work, no extra dishes!

Scientists have shown that eating leftovers is healthy, for your body, your wallet, and the environment.

American households throw away about $640 each worth of food every year, and consumers don’t really care about the environmental impact of trashed leftovers piling up in landfills, according to a survey by the American Chemistry Council.

Healthy Environment, Healthy You

Food waste makes up more than 20% of what’s in landfills and is a significant source of methane gas as it rots, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to Earth’s warming. Plus, there’s the environmental impact created by growing and shipping food across the country. Wasted food accounts for about 2% of greenhouse gas emissions, 35% of freshwater consumption, 31% of cropland and 30% of fertilizer usage, according to data cited in an article on food waste from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, published in the journal PLOS in June 2015.

Marty Heller, a senior research specialist with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, and his colleague Greg Keoleian, released a study looking at the greenhouse gas emissions involved with the production of the food we eat and the food we waste. “If we look at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with that food waste, it is equivalent to adding an additional 33 million average passenger vehicles to our roads every year,” Heller said.

Your Body on Leftovers

As for your body, when you reheat already cooked fruit and vegetables, all you’re losing is a little vitamin C (it’s heat and time sensitive) and a small amount of B vitamins, but you’ll make up for them elsewhere in your diet. The fiber content is just as high, and the flavors can be better the second time around!

Often the taste of your food will be more intense as the water content will be lower, and if you’ve stored cold meat and gravy with cooked vegetables, such as potatoes, they will all have infused their flavors and you’ll have less need for added salt. Beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of cancer, is more easily absorbed from cooked carrots and tomatoes than from being eaten raw, and people with sensitive digestive systems can find cooked vegetables easier to digest.

What To Do With Your Leftovers

If you don’t like reheated foods, try making the food into a different texture. Leftover chicken or brisket? Time for some pulled/shredded meat! Leftover vegetables or bread? Time for a soup! Leftover pizza can be turned into omelets, quiche, croutons, and more. Here’s some more great ideas for repurposing your leftovers.

And here are some great ideas on making a new meal with your pasta from last night!

Whoa, Money Savings Alert!

And taking your leftovers for lunch will save you money. Don’t spend $8-10 per day on lunch, when soups, sandwiches, salads, and more can be reheated at work for a healthier and less costly meal. If you’re spending $8 per day on lunch, you’re spending $2,080 per year on lunches alone. Even taking your lunch to work or school twice per week will save you a good amount of money! Buying lunch 3 days per week means spending $1,248 per year. Moreover, eating leftovers for dinner once per week will save you on average $25 for one meal for two adults, or $40+ for families with kids!

Let’s say you eat leftovers only one night per week for dinner. A family of 2 adults will save $1300 in ONE YEAR. You could go on a great vacation for less than that!

So, basically, you can save the environment, be healthier, and save money by eating the food that you already have. Help an Earth out, and eat in!

Featured photo credit: jeffreyw, via flickr.com

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