Eating well can often be rather expensive. With our economy down and costs on the rise, more and more of us are finding less butter on the edge of our bread. Cooking a well sourced and balanced meal is always going to take a little investment no matter how you look at it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t eat well through the entire week. By applying a little budgeting, careful planning, and stretching techniques, you can have your cake and eat it too. Then make cake lollipops with the leftovers.
Planning a weekly menu is something that requires a little more foresight than stopping by the store on the way home from work. It’s worth the effort! Carefully planning your weekly grocery shopping to coordinate multiple dishes will save you both time and money. Chefs do this all the time when planning for their restaurants with great success. Try starting your week by sitting down with a stack of cookbooks or using the internet to decide what types of recipes you might feel like cooking. After all, while sticking to a budget is important, it’s more important to like the food that you are eating.
When you approach your menu, consider ingredients and how they might carry over across all of the recipes you plan to make. If you are particularly fond of spicy recipes maybe garlic, onion, and chilis are purchased in greater bulk. When you buy things in larger quantity you can often find deals or coupons such as “buy one get one free.” These deals will help you save a dollar here or fifty cents there until, perhaps, you have enough for a bottle of wine to go with your meal. Purchasing in this manner gives you stability as well as frees up options for later in the week.
Piggy backing recipes is another great way to stretch your weekly cache of goods. Lets say, for example, you have roasted chicken on Monday night accompanied with beans and rice and wilted greens. Now, say you eat about half of the food that you made. Many times this will simply be reheated the next day in it’s original form or picked at until you are tired of looking at it and throw it out. This however is something that wastes tons of money and is frankly uninspired. According to the NRDC report Americans throw away about $2,275 worth of food a year. Something that I’m sure most of you would rather not be doing if you could help it.
Included below are some creative possibilities for re-purposing your left overs. Consider it a sort of springboard of ideas for planning your weekly menu. Keep is fun and interesting by trying new things. Ever made your own pizza dough? It’s a great vehicle for leftovers! Soups and Salads are obvious ways to utilize extra food as well. Whatever you do don’t forget the most important meal of the day. Make an omelet or scramble with leftover veggies or meat for a hearty breakfast. Turn leftover mashed potatoes into delicious potato pancakes or waffles. The possibilities are endless.
Re-Purposed Leftovers One-Meal-At-A-Time
Meal #1 – Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots
Brussels Sprouts and Carrots = Brussels Sprout and Carrot Hash with Eggs
Chop your brussels sprouts, carrot and some onion. Fry all of that up in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil. Poach or fry a couple eggs to go on top.
Mashed Potatoes = Creamy Potato Soup with Chives
Add chicken stock, cream, chives and season. Whisk together until you have a creamy consistency and heat over medium heat until hot.
Meatloaf = Curry Spiced Stuffed Bell Peppers
Crumble meatloaf into a bowl then stir in a little curry powder, fresh herbs, and almond slivers. Fill red and or green bell peppers wrap in foil and bake.
Meal #2 – Whole Oven-Roasted Chicken, Roasted Butternut Squash, and Sautéed Kale
Kale = Kale Pesto Scramble
Purée leftover kale with parmesan cheese and walnuts until smooth. Stir a few tablespoons into your scrambled eggs when they are almost done cooking.
Squash = Black Bean and Squash Quesadilla
Chop your leftover squash a little, mix in a can of rinsed black beans, chilli powder, cumin powder, chopped cilantro, shredded jack cheese and a squirt of lime. Griddle the mixture between a couple of tortillas until gooey and delicious.
Chicken = Chicken Pot Pies
Pick the chicken off your carcass and mix with some chicken stock, frozen or canned peas and carrots, and season well. Either make pie dough or buy some, and line a greased casserole dish with dough. Cover the pie with remaining dough and cut slits in the top. Bake until golden brown and delicious.
Meal #3 – Vegetarian Black Bean Chili with Corn Bread. (Note: This meal can often itself be made from leftovers)
Corn bread = Sausage and Corn Bread Strata
Brown your sausage and crumble it with your broken up corn bread, dices bell peppers, and onions. Spread this mixture out in a casserole dish and cover with beaten eggs. Allow your strata to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours then bake until cooked through.
Chilli = Roasted Garlic Black Bean Dip with Bagel Chips
Purée your leftover chili with roasted garlic until you have a smooth bean dip consistency. Slice some day-old bagels thinly and brush them lightly with olive oil before baking them. Allow the crispy bagel chips to cool and enjoy! Chili is one of those things we could riff on endlessly so you get the idea. It’s also better the next day so definitely make chili.
Hopefully some of these ideas for re-purposing leftovers help you get the creative juices flowing. It can be quite rewarding to transform yesterdays dinner into a couple different meals in both the mind and bank account. Warm wishes!
Here are some great benefits where folks are battling hunger currently listed through Brown Paper Tickets.
Monday, March 24th | Film: A PLACE AT THE TABLE – Portland, Maine 50 million people in the U.S. and one in four children don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite our having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush examine this issue through the lens of three people who are struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to provide a better life for her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who often has to depend on friends and neighbors to feed her and has trouble concentrating in school; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are exacerbated by the largely empty calories her hard working mother can afford.
Tuesday, March 25th | Perfect Pairing: Drink Wine, Stem Hunger – Seattle, Washington Please join the Barrel Thief for a wine tasting benefiting OPERATION: Sack Lunch in its daily mission to create nutritious meals for the hungry in the greater Seattle area.
Tuesday, March 25th | Feast for Kids 2014 – Grand Rapids, Michigan With the help of a caring, can-do community, this fundraiser feast showcases some of the best food Grand Rapids has to offer, with a silent auction to benefit Kids’ Food Basket prior to the meal.
Friday, April 4th | Hunger is No Joke – Arlington, Virginia Please join the Arlington Food Assistance Center Young Professionals (AFAC-YPs) for our 4th Annual Hunger is No Joke event, with all proceeds benefiting Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).
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