Life Eat & Drink ‘I’ll save that for later’: The truth about eating our leftovers
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‘I’ll save that for later’: The truth about eating our leftovers

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We’re more likely to eat leftovers for lunch on a Monday than any other weekly meal, research into food waste reduction has uncovered.

Out of the US, the pilot study tracked the dining habits of 18 people over the course of a week to see how much food they saved as leftovers versus how much they actually ate.

Although it is a small study sample, the Ohio State University team is starting from the base level in exploring human behaviour as a way to reduce food wastage.

Food waste has been increasing steadily year on year and in Australia, we threw away a collective $10.1 billion of food last year.

The US is the worst in the world for food waste – it accounts for somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent of the food supply.

Ultimately, the study found reducing the amount of food placed on a plate at the start of the cycle was the best way to reduce it going in the bin.

Microwaving sense of the data

The Ohio State University team asked its participants to use a smartphone app to log their eating habits throughout the week – what they didn’t finish in one meal and put aside as ‘leftovers’, and then how much of those leftovers was actually eaten.

They found that while 24 per cent of food was pegged for leftovers, only half of that amount was actually repurposed and eaten.

In what could be considered a serious oversight, the study did not specifically ask people how often they bought a large pizza to ensure leftover slices for breakfast. Photo: Getty

Veggies, cheese and meats were the most commonly saved foods, and the most popular time to eat them was for lunch on Mondays, food diaries revealed.

Older male participants were more likely to partake in leftovers behaviour – although the study authors did note there wasn’t an even spread of genders and age groups across the 18 participants.

Led by Brian Roe, the study found people were more likely to clean their plates when they were eating ‘fresh’ meals.

“Leftovers were less likely to be fully consumed than non-leftover items, and larger meals led to more uneaten food,” Dr Roe said.

Therefore, strategies to reduce meal size may be most effective in reducing food waste by limiting the creation of leftovers in the first place.”