If spoilt teens really want to save the planet … why do they flatly refuse to eat leftovers and just order Deliveroo?

One of my favourite money-saving habits is to batch cook. Why make one meal of meatballs in tomato sauce when you can make a vat of it? That’s two extra days of ‘free’ meals.

‘How very clever of me,’ I think. My children, on the other hand, simply roll their eyes and sigh. ‘Can we order in?’ they wail.

The truth is no one under 25 eats ­leftovers. If I suggest to one of my ­offspring — I have three: aged 23, 21 and 16 — that they ‘finish up’ yesterday’s curry or stir-fry, they are as appalled as a vegan given a Scotch egg would be.

‘Are you trying to kill me?’ their ­horrified expressions say, to which I want to reply: ‘It’s been reheated in a microwave oven not a nuclear reactor.’

It’s all so different from my youth. I was brought up to believe reheated food was more delicious than usual food, as if the act of putting something in a Pyrex dish over a gently simmering pan of water (the pre-microwave form of reheating) was an extra culinary trick, like using a blow torch on the top of a creme brulee. Reheating may have sometimes toughened food to the ­consistency of old shoe leather, but the price was extra flavour — or so I was told.

The rise of Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo makes being able to satisfy a craving too easy

The rise of Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo makes being able to satisfy a craving too easy

As a child in the 1980s, yesterday’s cold roast potatoes were a delicacy. My mother routinely served up the same lasagne multiple times.

Only once the curling crust threatened to crack a crown did she give it to the cat.

Now my own fridge is filled with little plastic ­takeaway boxes containing tasty morselettes from former meals.

Yet my kids open the door, survey my treasure trove of vintage food, grumble about sell-by dates and possible food poisoning, and start scrolling through Deliveroo.

What the under-25s want is fresh food at every meal. Which I admit would be delightful if a) it didn’t cost the price of a family car to do the weekly shop and b) they ­finished every scrap at every meal so I wasn’t faced with having to chuck half of it in the bin — a sin I can’t shake from my ­childhood programming.

They also want variety. For teens and twentysomethings, I think eating is now like watching TV. They expect to be able to scroll through options and choose a­ ­different one every time.

My father ate about five meals in rotation for the whole of his life: roast lamb, pork chops, ­Lancashire hot pot, steak pie and fish and chips (he eschewed the dreaded lasagne). But my bunch want to be surprised and delighted at every meal.

The problem is they have been raised in a food culture that ­values novelty and variety. Social media bombards them with ­endless ­oozing reels of food on TikTok and Instagram. Plus the cacophony of world cuisine now available on every high street in the UK has given them culinary ADHD.

They want Korean barbecue one day and Thai curry the next. They don’t want meatballs three days in a row just because ‘they need to be eaten up’.

Then there is the convenience factor. The rise of Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo makes being able to satisfy a food craving too easy. No need to make a meal from fridge leftovers if you can just order in whatever you fancy.

My older kids can cook rather well. But even when it’s a dish of their own making, they refuse to eat the scraps the day after, as they are on to the next dish.

If I had a pound for every time one of my kids was presented with leftovers and said ‘but I don’t feel like eating that today’ I wouldn’t need to serve up leftovers in the first place. Since when did ­feelings have anything to do with what you have for dinner?

Now, apparently, they do.

I realise not all young people are as spoilt as mine. There are many who go to bed hungry, a fact I point out to my non-leftover ­eating bunch. They really roll their eyes at that.

At least I am not the one paying for Uber Eats. I refuse to. They pay themselves — or get their dads to fund their delivery food habit.

The irony, of course, is that Gen Z claim to be a generation of eco-warriors, saving the planet from extinction-level havoc wrought by generations of their unthinking forebears. They sneer at our diesel cars and plane trips, carry trendy reusable water bottles and coffee cups and treat the failure to ­recycle with the same levels of ­disgust afforded to puppy killers.But even though there are now multiple eco-friendly ways to store your food — from reusable silicon bowl covers to organic cotton lids infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin (cling film, apparently, being far too old-fashioned) — it’s going to take a cultural handbrake turn of Fast and ­Furious proportions to change the ‘feelings’ of under-25s towards leftovers.

Never mind the mountains of food waste, or fumes produced by the armies of delivery drivers astride their mopeds.

For proof of that, you need only look at the financial fortunes of two companies: Pyrex and ­Tupperware. Pyrex, the glass company so beloved of my mother, almost went under last year, while Tupperware, the sine qua non of leftover storage, also narrowly avoided going bust.

However, there is a ray of hope. My middle son, 21, now at ­university and on a tight budget, used to have Deliveroo on speed dial when he was at home. He WhatsApped me a ­picture the other day of a batch-cook he and his flatmates had done: 75 ­Mexican burritos. He has already frozen most of them for future use.

I was tempted to send him my meatballs in tomato sauce recipe, but one step at a time.

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