Jackie Gebel, the founder of No Leftovers, never felt shame in leaving a restaurant with a doggie bag. "People are so embarrassed to take leftovers home," she told Grow.
In 2012, Gebel — who says repurposing food makes her feel at her most creative — turned her passion into a project when she launched a monthly email blast to friends and family with restaurant recommendations. Her emails quickly developed a following, and two years later, Gebel created the No Leftovers Instagram account and blog. Today, she shares her dining experiences and recipes with her 425,000 followers.
Gebel's former side hustle is now a full-fledged business, which she runs with her fiancé, Robby Miller. Their success has led to appearances on Food Network and "The Dr. Oz Show," and to mentions in various publications including Bon Appetit. Gebel was also recognized as a 2017 "Foodie of the Year" by Zagat.
The No Leftover's founder spoke to Grow about her best tips for saving time and money on food preparation and fresh ingredients. And if you want to make the most of your own doggie bag, Gebel also shared one of her leftover transformation recipes, below.
While earning her reputation as a foodie via her email blasts, Gebel worked in social media management in Manhattan. Her job helped her see an opportunity to turn her love of food into a side hustle, and, inspired, she launched No Leftovers in 2014.
In 2015, No Leftovers caught the attention of Becca PR, a creative marketing agency. Gebel accepted a job there working in social media management, with a focus on food. That on-the-job learning helped accelerate No Leftovers' growth, Gebel says. "Find paid work in something related to your side hustle. You can learn so much," she recommends.
When Gebel began working for herself in 2017, the transition wasn't easy, she says. Before taking No Leftovers full time, she saved up two months income and came up with creative tactics to pinch pennies.
One way Gebel and Miller save on food is by transforming leftovers into fried rice: "Whatever you've got at home, it can take it," she says. "Shrimp scampi? Turkey burger? Peking duck? Yup! Last night's Brussels sprouts? Works for us! Top it with an egg and whatever veggies and herbs you've got, and that's a meal!"
When the couple cooks at home, they cut costs by buying long-shelf-life pantry ingredients like nuts, dried fruits, and grains in bulk on Amazon. At the grocery shop, they use their store discount cards to buy low-cost staples, like eggs, rice, and sweet potatoes: "They're superhealthy and versatile, and literally the base of the majority of our last-minute meals," Gebel says. Instead of cooking with expensive proteins like meat, she says throwing in an egg "makes anything into a more filling meal."
Gebel and Miller are also avid travelers, and to save money on the road, Gebel says they bring their own food to the airport and stick to the complimentary breakfasts at their hotels.
While traveling, Gebel suggests eating at local food spots, not tourist traps. For example, while the couple was in Tokyo last year, one of their Instagram followers suggested a restaurant called Sukeroku. There, they paid a total of $120 for a high-end Omakase meal for two with sake, an experience that tends to run upwards of $180. Gebel called it "the best dining experience of all time."