Keep Track of Food with a Leftovers List

I never remember what we have in the fridge. We'll make a pot roast for Sunday dinner, and store several servings of leftovers. But once they're in Tupperware and tucked out of sight, they're as good as gone to me. A month later, I'll find a container filled with rancid beef. Wasting leftovers increases food costs, so I've been struggling to find a method to aid my memory.

Tonight I had an inspiration — I will create a leftovers list and to post it on the fridge. Each line of the list will contain:

  • the date,
  • the name of the dish, and
  • the approximate number of servings.

This tip should significantly reduce the amount of food spoilage in our house. Not only will I save money, but I will also eat better — I'll eat more home-cooked food and less pre-packaged stuff.

The leftovers list will be useful for more than just food we make ourselves. Kris sometimes forgets that she's brought food home from a restaurant. I'm terrible at remembering yogurt (tucked in the cheese drawer) and carrots (stored in the vegetable crisper). And when did we buy that loaf of fresh bread from the bakery, anyhow? Now we'll know.

For most of you, this is probably an unnecessary step. But if you too have a problem with food spoilage, this tip could save you time and money.

More about...Food, Frugality

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nic
nic

This is brilliant, I think I’ll use a dry erase board, but love the idea!

dimes
dimes

I had to stop using those crisper drawers in the bottom of the fridge after I bought some sort of vegetable that I forgot about for so long it turned to slime. Now the only out of sight thing in the fridge is the butter. Also all of our storage containers are transparent by design. The only things I let spoil are things in the cabinets or occasionally the freezer (“just when did I freeze that casserole anyway?”). With food, it’s really an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing.

Rachel
Rachel

Magnetic dry-erase boards work well for this- and for keeping track of what’s frozen. A friend of mine keeps one that tracks what she’s made and how many portions there are- as she takes out a portion, she erases one of the tick marks representing how many portions of, say, taco meat she prepared.
That way she can keep track of what’s there, and track what she needs to make more of. It’s a pretty good system.

Binary Dollar
Binary Dollar

Too much hassle. If you open up the fridge as much as me, you’ll already have the contents memorized.

Matt
Matt

Great idea; I’ve been struggling with food spoilage too. It’s not that we waste food on purpose but somehow we end up forgetting what’s there and then we end up buying more and at the bottom in those nice hiding spots often in tupperware are small meals that could save us money. I might have to try this idea.

The dry erase board is a great idea as well.

Snarla
Snarla

I just reserve the top shelf of the fridge for leftovers and stuff that will go bad quickly and I try to incorporate stuff from the top shelf every time I prepare a meal.

Also, every time I notice fruits or veggies about to take a turn for the worse but for which I have no immediate plan I cut them up and store them in the freezer.

I also find if you peel, cut, was and prepare fruit as soon as you get back from the supermarket you’ll be much more likely to actually eat it.

sixline
sixline

We use our dry erase board to plan out a week or usually a month ahead of time. We’re fairly familiar with our eating habits enough to plan a leftover night from the previous two or three days. That helps us.

And I completely agree… If I don’t see it, I won’t remember it, and I won’t eat it.

anna
anna

I make a similar list for leftovers, produce, and dishes I portion for freezing. As much as I would like to think that I’d remember when I cooked the stew, bought the lettuce, or brought home the pasta from lunch, I usually didn’t and they were often wasted. Plus, it serves as a decent reminder to eat what’s there already, rather than pick up something or cook and create even more leftovers to be forgotten.

NotMadeOfMoney
NotMadeOfMoney

What a great idea! I am usually pretty good about using up leftovers in the refrigerator but the freezer, well that’s another story. We’re working on reducing our grocery budget so I need to get better about “losing stuff in the freezer.” I like the dry erase board idea and will try that for my frozen meals.

Idea Senator
Idea Senator

Great idea. Very useful too. I will use it!

Marina
Marina

I bought microwavable containers that are just big enough for one meal. Whenever I have leftovers I immediately prepare complete meals in individual containers and freeze them (ex. enough roast beef with potatoes and vegetables for one meal in each container). So whenever I don’t feel like cooking or need something for lunch at work I just take out one container and I have a complete meal. I find this much simpler than having to look through different containers for the different parts of the meal, and it doesn’t take any more time when putting the leftovers away.

Donna
Donna

This is such a great idea, I have started menu planning the same day I grocery shop so I will utilize everything I bought for the week. As far as leftovers I do use see through containers and I put a label on the lid with date and what is inside. But I really like the idea of the dry erase board on the outside of fridge saves time rummaging through the contents of the freezer.

Lisa
Lisa

I have a weekly menu that I keep on my refrigerator that includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and other. I don’t completely fill it in but leave room to write in where I want leftovers eaten. This has helped me so much! Same concept and same goal – Don’t let those leftovers spoil! All of my family (7 of us)knows what is there and available and I don’t have to answer any questions.

Tim - TheResidualIncomeLifestyle.com
Tim - TheResidualIncomeLifestyle.com

This is a fabulous method! This will definitely impact our left-over loss. I hate spoiling then throwing away food. Especially in these financial times…anytime for that matter. We’ve got one of those dry erase boards and I’m going to set down my laptop and go do that right now! Thank you!

Erin
Erin

I keep a black magic marker, aluminum foil and 2 sizes of zip top bags in the drawer closest to the fridge–that way, I am able to clean up after dinner quickly, mark my leftovers with a day, toss it on the shelf at eye-level, and can quickly decide what to grab for my work lunch the next day. That little system has saved us boatloads of money, because we try to eat the leftovers within 4 days, and since it’s at eye-level, we open the fridge and see what’s what. I also wash all fruits and veggies the minute… Read more »

Paula
Paula

At one time we rented an abandoned church for our business. In a closet of that building was the board used at the front of the building on the wall to list the numbers of the songs for that day. There were seven slots, so my daughter painted it with black chalk paint and hand painted the on each of the seven slots the seven days of the week and at the top she painted menu. The little box at the bottom that used to hold the numbers is a perfect place to hold the chalk and eraser. I just… Read more »

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