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The Magic Power of “Leftovers”

When I was a little girl, growing up in the suburbs of a small town named Englewood, New Jersey, I remember my mother shouting at the top of her lungs, “You better eat everything on THAT plate. Chakayla, don’t you know there are children in Africa who are starving?” I remember thinking, “Well momma, I have a classmate down the street who is hungry too? Should we invite them over?” Because I was far from crazy, I remember biting my tongue and stuffing my mouth with my mother’s all-time favorite side dish, succotash, just so I would not get anymore tongue lashings before bed.

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It was during these times when I distinctly remember NEVER wanting to waste food. Even though my mother was far from racist, this way of discipling children is probably reminiscent of my mother’s childhood. As a child, born to a father who was a sharecropper in South Carolina, my mother was born into a family who’s number one motto was, “waste not, want not.” So, of course, this was a philosophy that was shared with me and my three siblings.

So, instead of shouting at my kids to finish their meals, I kindly package up our leftovers, store them in our fridge and reheat them once we are all settled in from working, schooling and playing around. But these almost six years of motherhood have inspired me to reshift how my family views waste and leftovers. Hence, the title of this article, there is divine magic in a bowl of leftover goodness.

I have learned a few essentials tips and tricks that not only help me maximize our food and budget, but it has helped me save loads of time, which is more essential than we realize:

1)Meal Planning is The Rage … But Can You Stretch That Meal ?

People swear by meal planning, but I do not. Please do not get upset with me, I just enjoy the feeling of cooking in the spur of the moment. It is truly exhilarating.. I use to be in the business of stockpiling my groceries, not so much anymore. Of course I shop for my family, but I try to limit myself to the meals that I want to cook for the week. Not only does this push me to use what I have to make a fabulous meal, but it inspires me to pinch my pennies, all while presenting my family with the most delicious dinner fare.

2)Reheat Your Leftovers & Enjoy the 1-2 Hours of Family (or Personal) Time

After coming home and trying to unwind from a long day away from home and away from my boys, I love making them a hot, homemade meal. The cherry on the top, for me at least, is heating up leftovers from the night before, getting my boys in the bath, feeding them, cleaning up and having an acapella dance off with my five and one-year-old is the best feeling in this world. Leftovers allow me to spend time pouring into my children, just as much as they pour into me. It is these quiet, beautiful moments that I sometimes miss out on when I am cooking. I love cooking, but I know I am not as attentive to my children as I wish I could be, so I make it up during leftover nights. Trust me, you will thank you later.

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3)Maximize Your Time & Make Tomorrow’s Meal

Nothing beats an enjoyable evening, where all you have to do is use a microwave. There are some leftover evenings when I prepare a meal for my family to enjoy the next night. If my family members had to describe me it would probably be “roadrunner.” Simply because, when I am in the kitchen I go 1,000 miles per minute to make my life more organized, more efficient and simply, more comfortable after a super long day. Squeeze in some time to get ready for the week, you will continue to give thanks to yourself for making it happen.

4)Wondering How To Get Started?

Just do it! Leftovers should honestly be celebrated. As I am writing this, I had two whole hours to spend to myself to write this article and soak garbanzo beans for tomorrow’s stuffed bell pepper goodness. Learning how to utilize and maximize leftover meals has been one of the best highlights as a mother. I rarely made use of this logic when I was a single woman, but I kick myself every time when I think about the loads of cash I wasted on purchasing fast food.

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Who would have thought, nearly twenty years later, that my mother’s voice telling me to eat my succotash would have inspired this way of thinking. My experience as a child, with food, has inspired me to show love by nourishing those I love best. So, take these tips and put those leftovers to work!

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Chakayla Taylor

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