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The most expensive food is the food we throw out.

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A fridge full of food in Tupperware containers.

It took my wife and me a while to settle on this, but after a few years of marriage, we determined that I would be the primary cook in our family.

This was not a hard decision. I enjoy cooking. I like trying new things. I love to eat. I simply had more interest in food than my wife, who can be satisfied to sit down to a peanut butter & banana sandwich way more often than I can.

When you cook for a family of two, you learn to plan on having leftovers. Making a pot of soup? You’ll be eating it for almost a week. Making a pasta dish? That’s good for 3 or 4 meals, easily.

Being smart about leftovers is the single smartest meal planning strategy -- and also one of the smartest financial moves -- you can make. Food represents a large portion of the flexible spending decisions we make every week.

Think about it. Your rent or mortgage payment are fixed. They’re the same every month. That’s probably true for your power bill, cable bill, phone bill, water bill, insurance payments, trash collection, etc. Food, on the other hand, can shrink or stretch depending on how thoughtful you are about your food spending.

So if the food you purchase can stretch into 4, 6, 8, 10 or even 12 meals, you can see your cost per meal plummet.

I like to plan on having leftovers and know upfront how I’m going to use them. Let’s say on Sunday you bake a chicken and have it for dinner along with a side of rice. On Monday, you can put the leftover meat and rice into homemade chicken and rice soup. You only need to add an onion, some carrots, celery and chicken broth and some seasonings to make it work. You can then have that soup in the lunch you pack for work from Tuesday – Friday.

The most expensive food we buy is the food we throw out. Give some more thought to how you use leftovers and you’ll see your food budget drop dramatically.

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