Why do we women always end up wasting so much thought process and throwing away our health in an effort to save leftovers? It may be just a little bit of ‘subzi’ here, and a little bit of leftover ‘dessert’ there. But all the little bits, everyday, add up to a lot incrementally and, finally messes with our health.
Some people only cook a day or 2 in a week. They are perfectly fine with leftovers. This post is not for them. This post is for women, who typically cook everyday and yet find themselves dealing with tiny amounts of food left here and there.
Growing up, if we waste food, our parents would always say, “Think of all the starving kids…”. And I do understand the origins behind that thought process. My dad, in fact, grew up poor, and genuinely had to deal with hunger and food shortage when he was young. So, I get the idea that food is precious and should not be taken for granted. However, I would like to shift the paradigm of viewing this ‘leftover problem’ and look at it from another angle.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, one of the key strategy for long term weight loss maintenance is – to maintain a consistent eating pattern. I honestly think, that the cumulative effect of eating leftovers messes with our ability to maintain a good eating pattern.
We may be cooking healthy meals for our family, but we are not eating a solid, consistent meal ourselves. Now, this is not a sexist comment or anything, but most women are hard wired to sit their husband and kids down and feed them proper meals. But, ask them what they ate – and they will list the leftovers from what’s in the fridge to the leftovers from their kids plates.
We reheat leftovers. We eat them with a sigh!! We are tempted to eat a little bit of fresh food that we made. Oh, and, by the way, we also don’t want to overeat. So, we end up eating half-haphazardly, with no logic or plan, and end up unsatisfied with our meals.
What a waste of time
Open any family’s fridge, and I bet there are a few small dabbas (container) of yesterday’s and the day before’s leftover. Here’s a typical thought bubble, as I open the fridge, “Okay, so I have a little palak from yesterday. A little sambar from day before. Shivani will not eat the palak. So, I have to make potato curry for her. My husband cannot take leftover sambar for lunch. So, let me make a quick sandwich for him. Etc..etc…”
Gaahhh!! All I want to do in the morning is make healthy meals for everyone, and get on with my life. Not spend half an hour doing mental gymnastics on how I can finish leftovers.
Wait, wait, wait…then throw!!
Another problem that I find myself and other women making is that sometimes there are leftover foods or excess veggies or fruits that we never, ever get around to eating. It will sit and sit in the back of the fridge until it literally goes bad.
When it finally goes bad, it is almost a relief at that point – “Now, now…it is spoilt, I got to throw it anyway.” I don’t know who we are fooling, but it is a game we play with ourselves to prove we are not wasteful.
What can we do about it?
So, there are no easy answers. We all cannot perfectly calculate how much to make and eat it all up in one meal. But, here are a couple of ways I am tackling this problem. Readers can chime in with more ideas in the comments below as well.
Is it appealing?
Left overs are usually not that appealing in the first place. But, sometimes, there are leftovers not because you made a lot, but because the dish was not that tasty in the first place. It is fine, it happens.
We are all not super cooks – Ina Garten or Chef Venkatesh Bhat. We cannot hit home runs on every dish. So, don’t force yourself to eat something for the pure sake of finishing it. If you won’t feed your husband or your child that dish, don’t force yourself to eat it either. Treat yourself/ your body with the same damn love and respect you give your family.
Throw it, it is not such a bad thing to do that. Ok silly example, if you were a monkey living in a jungle, you are not going to eat every single fruit every tree produced, right? Mother nature does not expect your body to be the vehicle for processing everything she produces. Let it go…or if you feel so bad about it, compost it.
Stop buying so much
This was me, in a grocery store, earlier – Saw something on sale (e.g. 6 bunches of mint for $1 ), buy it. Ooooh..Japanese Shishito pepper, I may have no idea what to cook with it, but I buy it. Say, you are missing onions for a dish, you go to a store to buy onions, but buy like 5 other, completely unnecessary, things in the store.
When I buy a lot, I have to cook a lot, so that I can use all that stuff. Then I have leftovers and I have to deal with the leftovers. But of late, I am starting to get so sick of stuff around me. One day, I opened my refrigerator and got a headache. Seriously!!
Now, I am making a list. I am sticking to the list. I call my husband when he is shopping, to remind him to stick to the list. Unless there are guests arriving, I would rather run out of stuff before buying anything more than just endlessly buying stuff.
I have an aunt who got diabetes in her late 30’s. She tells me of this story that happened decades ago, “You know, I once made a big batch of halwa I was supposed to take to a party. But the party never happened. Then, I did not want the halwa to go to waste. I had added so much ghee and nuts to it. I ate it for 3-4 days continuously and somehow finished it. Later, in a month or so, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I think the halwa may have something to do with it.”
While, the halwa may not be the cause for her diabetes (causality is not equal to correlation), I hate the fact that she felt ‘guilt-ed’ into finishing the halwa, not because she enjoyed it, but because she thought it might go to waste.
Donate to the starving kids from the money you make. But, don’t kid yourself into thinking that eating every morsel of food will help that kid somehow magically.
Never feel bad about putting your health first. You will need it, if you want to be around to keep feeding your family for a long time to come.
If you wish to donate to hungry children, here’s a link to a charity I like: Action Against Hunger