Lapping Up Kids’ Leftovers and Loving It

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SaucerEyesMessyMouthI will not lick food off my child’s face…Not that I haven’t been tempted.

I come from waste-not, want-not kind of family. As a child, there was perhaps no greater offense in my household than attempting to throw out unfinished food. My six-year-old self would have been better off getting caught rolling my Big Wheel onto the highway than being seen dumping a half-eaten chicken patty in the trash.

My upbringing clearly had an effect. Today, I can’t bear to see food go to waste. I’ll finish what’s on my husband’s plate, on my toddler’s plate and yes, even the mushy mess on my baby’s plate. The other day, as I was eating my toddler’s leftover blueberries, my husband warned, “You know he put some of those in his mouth and put them back in the bowl, right?”

“Yep,” I replied, my eyes still fixated on the blueberry goodness. “Don’t care.”

When you live with kids, leftovers are a fact of life. Even kids who typically Hoover up their food will sometimes decide they don’t feel like consuming certain snacks or side dishes, no matter how long you slaved in the kitchen over it or how deftly you dialed the phone to order take-out.

Wondering how other parents approached leftover food scenarios, I harassed every mom and dad I could find. Not surprisingly, their responses were all over the map, from “I eat it all!” to “No way, what my kids to do their food is gross!” to “Do I know you?”

The gender of the parents didn’t seem to matter — there were squeamish moms and squeamish dads as well as dads and moms like me who basically will shovel anything into their mouths as long as it hadn’t become host to a mosquito colony. (And even then, it might just be a question of are they friendly mosquitoes? Are they the kind that are packed with protein?)

Most folks seemed to fall somewhere in the middle, such as saying “yes” to toddler finger foods but “absolutely not” to baby mush. (Wusses!) Some were more partial to certain kinds of foods than others — e.g. yes to apple sauce, no to spinach. (Clearly, Popeye was not among the parents I surveyed.) Foods that are slobbered on or smushed by grubby fingers also generally get a big thumbs-down, though even then, they might be saved from the trash bin if the family dog is hungry.

In other news, I should probably get a dog.

Based on the responses I got and my own food-preservation bias, I’ve created this handy flowchart on how to handle leftovers. Feel free to print it and hang it in your kitchen if you ever find yourself stumped. (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any and all foodborne illnesses that occur after following the advice below.)

So what are you waiting for? Those leftovers aren’t going to eat themselves…Get noshing!

Kids Leftover Food: Do You Eat It Flowchart


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