Why So Many People Hate Eating Leftovers

Love or hate leftovers, science finds there are many reasons for your preference.

Florida International University researchers say a person’s economic situation may play a huge role in their approach to leftovers—for some eating them is a necessity, while others are economically stable enough to afford to eat other foods and throw away leftovers. Researchers from Michigan State University found that anxiety over food safety may be another factor, as it’s closely linked to anxiety about spending or wasting money on food. Many also get nervous about whether food is still safe to eat—anyone who has had food poisoning can relate to that.

Another issue is that people may worry about what to do with leftovers. A confident cook may have no issue with this, but others who lack the confidence or skills in their cooking abilities may be gripped with fear and be less inclined to use up those leftovers. Other things that come into play: many people are not wired to enjoy monotony (including eating the same thing day after day), historic attitudes to leftovers in the U.S. have also influenced us (think food scarcity during the Great Depression, and rationing during World War II, followed by a time of abundance when leftovers were considered garbage), a current trend of sustainability (looking at consuming leftovers as a way to help the planet), and of course, American restaurant portion sizes increasing over time, which in turn leads to more leftovers.