Leftover Food Love

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

The stub of a carrot, the final third of a slice of pizza, I just can't bear to throw them away

If you're like me, it really hurts to throw good food away. It just seems sinful. Throwing food away brings nothing to mind so much as those photos of African children with bellies swollen from beriberi. My mother was a Depression child, and I guess her ethic got handed down to me. My fridge, at any time, is filled with odd bits and ends wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil; the stub of a carrot, the final third of a slice of pizza, I just can't bear to throw them away, until they begin to grow penicillin cultures.

I have found that with 12 children, it's hard to please everyone at mealtime, so leftovers can be used to good advantage: one kid didn't care for minestrone with its chunks of tomatoes, but he likes the chicken soup I made for Friday night supper. I find that toward the end of the week, I have leftovers from a variety of meals, and I can offer my kids a choice. Kids are happy to accept their fate as consumers of leftovers once given the chance to choose from a number of dishes. So, rather than push the leftovers the next day, I prefer to accumulate a number of leftover dishes and take a day off from cooking. I just nuke whatever they choose from the meal offerings of the past week.

Choice is your best friend

Another possibility is to offer your child a choice between eating leftovers for dinner or for lunch. Let him choose at which meal he gets the leftovers and which meal will consist of the newer, fresher food. Choice is your best friend as a parent. When there's choice, the child is in control of his destiny, with no need to rebel. With such an offer, your child doesn't complain about being served old food. He just chooses and gets on with it. Try this tactic in other areas of parenting. For example, you might offer the choice of a bath or a shower to a kid who hates washing up.

Offer a bribe For Food

Sometimes I cook a meal that turns out to be a total dud, and there's a lot left. In that case, I try to offer a bribe. In my house, that can be Oreo cookies or ice-cream, for instance. If they eat their food, they get whatever treat is on offer, and it has to be attractive or it's just not fair. This tactic keeps complaints down to a minimum.

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