Mom could make a meal out of what seemed like scraps - leaving money for the occasional store bought treat for my brother and I and a cold beer for Dad on the weekends.
I'm much the same way. Our kitchen is quite small as is our 1940's refrigerator but we have a HUGE chest style freezer in the walk out basement and lots of cupboards of storage space down there as well, where the temperatures are never too warm or too cool, perfect for storage of canned goods. So for today, just some tips on adopting some of the same practices in your home if you're not already doing so.
For today's recipe selections there are several recipes involving ethnic dishes. Meat and potatoes are the start of our leftovers but with what we make from them we try and create dishes that normally we would go OUT to eat to enjoy, such as Mexican, Chinese, Thai etc. Making the dishes ourselves, out of leftovers with just a few exotic ingredients all available on Amazon, saves us a TON of money.
Here are my basic guidelines, please share your own in the comments if you have any you'd like to.
(1) Think ingredients not leftovers. If baking a chicken or other large cut of meat, plan on enough for your meal, and maybe lunch or another meal tomorrow (I simply vary the sides so it's not too boring) with enough remaining to freeze a bit.
Chicken is great in wraps, in soups, in stews, or on a salad during garden season. Other cuts of meat are the same and all leftover protein makes a great stir fry.
If making pasta sauce, I double the recipe and freeze it for spaghetti, lasagna, or a stuffing for a baked potato or biscuit dough placed up the sides of a muffin tin, then topped with sharp cheddar and baked.
Thai roasted chili paste or “Nam Prik Pao” and 1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce per 1/2 cup of rice (plus protein). Topped with carrot, basil. and lime it was as good as the restaurant stuff.
(2) Dedicate two nights a week to leftovers night, so your fridge and freezer don't get too full. Make sure you rotate foods from oldest to newest in the freezer. Sometimes we just do a "leftover buffet" and bring it all out of the refrigerator and make up our own plate of our favorites to microwave. Kids too, are less picky if you let them chose from an assortment of items.
(3) Forget the Tupperware - if you store most of your leftovers in freezer bags (which can be washed and reused) you can better see what the leftover is. Otherwise, you may end up with a science experiment in a couple of weeks. The only Tupperware I use in the refrigerator is soup (in case of leaks) and muffins - so they don't get squished.
(5) Leftover vegetables? Keep a bag in the freezer to which you add those little bits that don't seem worth saving on their own. With that make soup, or soup stock, add it to eggs for a frittata or with some red sauce to make pasta sauce.
Small bits of diced veggies, especially onions and peppers, are great mixed into hamburger for the grill, and you can always top whatever goes on a bun with whatever assorted bits of lunch cheese, breakfast meats, or salad that's in the fridge. Here's some pulled pork topped with bacon and coleslaw on a homemade roll. If you don't eat meat, Gardein ntsmf does a really yummy saucy "pork" tidbits that also makes a great "Carolina" style sandwich with coleslaw.
(5) Roasting vegetables. Those make great, tasty soup. In a blender puree the leftover roasted veggies, or a variety and blend in a blender with 2-4 cups of broth, then warm in a pot. Since they're usually seasoned as they roast, simply serve the soup with salt and pepper and some croutons.
(6) Have a juicer? Juicing can be a bit pricey as you're using lots of fruits and veggies to make one big glass, but it's a great way to get a whole bunch of enzymes and phytonutrients and I do a juice or smoothie daily during cold and flu season. So how not to waste all of the pulp that remains in the juicer after you are done? I add a bit of veggie juice pulp to stews or soups, stir the fruit based pulp into a fruit salad or yogurt and my favorite - with the 4 carrots/half a cucumber/2 granny Smith apple juice that is my go-to juice, I make muffins out of them with whole wheat flour and just a few other items. They taste like little healthier versions of carrot cake without all the white sugar and flour and they are a favorite around here.
Juicer Pulp Muffins
Makes10 high fiber/low fat muffins
1 and 1/2 cups plus 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Cardamon (substitute nutmeg if you wish)
1 cup fresh fruit/veggie pulp from your juicer (remove any bigger pieces)
1/4 cup vanilla flavored Yogurt
1 egg or 1/2 Banana
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon maple syrup or honey
Note: If using a pulp that's high in fruit (and thus water content), you may wish to omit the extra 2 Tablespoons of "milk" You want it thick, but not with dry bits in the batter.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cardamom together. Then add in the pulp followed by the yogurt, banana (or egg) almond milk, maple syrup (or honey). If you use plain yogurt add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix until just combined and moist adding more milk if needed.
Add batter to lightly sprayed muffin tin. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes. Muffins will be done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean and the bottoms and sides are just starting to brown.
(7) Stale bread - if it 's it's just starting to get old - make french toast out of it. If it's harder than that, cut the loaf crosswise, drizzle it with some good quality olive oil, rub it with the cut side of a halved ripe tomato, sprinkle with a little garlic salt and parmesan, wrap in foil and bake til warm. Stale bread is also great for French Onion Soup,
If you have a single or small household and can never get through a loaf of bread before it starts getting old, put a third of it in the freezer to use for more sandwiches or some homemade breadcrumbs.
(8) Leftover Spaghetti - Spaghetti and meat sauce is one of my favorite dinners and we eat it every couple of weeks. But sometimes I end up cooking more noodles than I have sauce for. Try making a spaghetti frittata with eggs and cheese with the pasta. I also will use leftover spaghetti cut into smaller pieces in a stir-fry with veggies and protein and some sort of leftover oriental sauce, adding it in the last couple of minutes of cooking.
Got a "buy one get one free" bread or rolls or tortillas? Place a sheet of waxed paper between the portions, wrap and freeze. With the family packs of meat, save what you will use this week and freeze the rest.
Eggs that are close to or just past the "best by" date make great scrambled eggs or mini frittatas to freeze.
I hope this gives you some ideas. You'll find, not only that you aren't throwing out food, you are eating less convenience food which usually isn't as nutritious AND you are saving a lot of money.
Which can be used for important things.