Leftovers are a lovely treat at the end of a meal, for those that can stand to eat them. I’ve always been a leftover kind of person. Some things are even better the next day, typically things like chili, soups, and meats that soak up the spices they’ve been cooked in and present a stronger flavor later on. But what role do leftovers play in your life when dining out?

Like I said, leftovers can be a nice surprise at the end of a meal when dining out. All to often I see folks leaving a full plate of food for the waitress to throw away after their meal, but we always wrap up anything that will keep because that could be or at least attempt to be a whole second meal piggybacking on that restaurant check.

We take it one step further though especially with places we frequent often enough to know the menu and portion size. We’ll order something we know is too big for us, nibble on it till we’re finished for the evening and pack the rest up for lunch the next day. Some places we go, we know we’ll even get two more lunches out of that one takeout container due to the fact that the restaurant serves free chips and salsa, bean dip, or bread that we can fill up on for free.

For us, budgeting for such a meal is part of the plan. We go in there knowing what we’ll spend but also knowing that the food will spill over into a couple more meals. When this happens, we’re okay spending a bit more than we typically would. Maybe this is a pure rationalization, but because the cost of the meal averages over a few meals following, in our minds, it’s a bargain.

However, one thing I’ll admit is that occasionally when we do take leftovers, those leftovers either get forgotten or passed over and they end up going to waste. We don’t go back and adjust our budget….and it’s not like we can go back to the restaurant and demand a refund for the uneaten portion of the food. So when this happens, even though we always try and spend less when dining out, any savings we assumed from taking home leftovers are lost. This rarely happens as the places we visit are so familiar by now that we don’t depend on something we know won’t get eaten but even so, it does happen sometimes.

So how do leftovers play into your budget?

Melissa Batai

Melissa Batai

Melissa, a mom to three little ones (ages 7, 3 and 1), blogs at both Mom’s Plans where she writes about living a fulfilling life on less and paying down debt, and Fiscal Phoenix where she writes about rising from the ashes of your financial mistakes.