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Do Americans Eat Leftovers hero image

Leftovers. The thought either sends you walking away shaking your head in disgust or jumping up and down for the delicious meal you can enjoy not just once, but twice.

Whether you live a frugal lifestyle, dislike throwing food away, or you simply think food tastes better when it's had a day to settle in your fridge, each of us have our own reason for why we may or may not eat leftovers.

From soups to pastas or pizza, there are even tips and tricks on how to heat up certain food so it tastes just as fresh. Some people, on the other hand, purposely cut a recipe in half to avoid having to deal with leftovers. So, where do you stand?

To get to the bottom of it, we surveyed over 1,000 people across the U.S. to see how people really feel about leftovers. Read through our study to find out the top reason people choose to eat that day old food.

How Many Of Us Despise Leftovers?

two out of five americans hate leftovers illustration

More than you may think.

While the numbers were close, we found that 40 percent of people (2 out of 5) despise eating leftovers. Reasons vary — whether it's because leftovers collapse into a mystery mush or there's a social stigma around taking a foam food container home from a restaurant, people feel strongly about not eating leftovers. Yet, the crowd is still divided.

What about those who do enjoy eating leftovers? Let's take a look at their top reason for why.

top reasons for eating leftovers illustration

What Do We Have to Waste?

Americans waste about 240 pounds of food per person, which means 20 percent of the food that ends up on people's plates gets thrown away every year. This is enough to feed 2 billion people annually. We waste not only the food itself, but water and methane emission resources, by having over 40 percent of food dumped in a landfill each year.

With all this in mind, we uncovered different results when we asked people their primary reason for eating leftovers.

people eat leftovers to avoid food waste illustration

Interestingly, reducing food waste is the reason 41 percent of people do eat leftovers. Are we taking proactive steps to help reduce food waste?

Simple steps like planning, prep, and thriftiness can help avoid food waste. Leftovers are easy to get creative with. If you're not feeling the same dish twice, try reinventing the dish into a fresh new recipe. Plan to not overbuy and try sending people home with leftovers over the holidays when there's an excess.

Don't Leave Money on the Dinner Table

Let's face it: the takeout leftovers in your fridge were once money in your wallet. Anytime your food goes uneaten and has to be thrown out, your money is also sent down the drain. In fact, the average American household spends an average of $3,008 each year on dining out, even if this means you're a household of one. How much of that ends up getting thrown out, left on the dinner table, or wasted?

18 Percent of People Eat Leftovers to Save Money

save money by eating leftovers illustration

Our results showed that 18 percent of people eat or take home leftovers for the very reason of saving some cash. Most people eat out an average of four times a week. This will quickly add up. By eating leftovers and staying home just two out of those four times a week, you can save up to $1,000 a year or more depending on your household size.

If you're rising in the ranks at your career, starting a family, or buying a home, this is the best time to save for your future. We found leftovers to be a popular choice among millennials.

most popular age to eat leftovers illustration

Despite which side you stand on, there's no debate that eating leftovers can help make a dent in the food waste issue, on the environment, and save you a buck or two. Consider the benefits next time you go out to dinner or over the busy holidays. Leftovers don't have to be as nasty and horrible as people make them out to be!

Sources: USDA | NRDC | BLS | Simple Dollar | Money Under 30

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