With all of the dire economic news swirling around us, it's worth taking a closer look at the grocery budget. I do pretty well at the grocery store — I buy in season and on sale, and I am working on home-cooking the most expensive regular items — but my stumbling block is the fridge. Every week something lingers in there a little longer than it should, and I find myself throwing away perfectly good food. Vegies shrivel in the bid, or half-cans of tomatoes go unused, or leftover dinners go uneaten.
I HATE throwing away food that has gone bad simply due to my lack of forethought.
I'm concentrating on finding creative ways to either reuse or use up those refrigerator odds and ends. My current favorite harkens back to the 70s, when cream soups were a basic ingredient in a variety of casseroles and baked dishes. The thing is, I'm a bit of a food snob, so I never gave those recipes a second glance. But even food snobs run low on time and money, so I've decided to take the plunge, and the results in this case are delicious.
END OF THE WEEK POT PIE
(Inspired by a similar recipe in one of my favorite weeknight cookbooks, The Six O'Clock Scramble)
1 refrigerated pie crust (I use the Pillsbury brand you unroll, my own crust always disappoints)
1 onion, finely chopped and sauteed
4-6 cups chopped mixed vegetables
1-2 cups chopped cooked chicken or meat (optional)
1 T. oil
salt, pepper, and thyme to taste
1 can cream soup (cream of mushroom or chicken)
Mix the onion, vegies, meat, and cream soup together, and season with salt, pepper and thyme. (Depending on the soup, you may not need salt.) Dump the mixture into the crust, and top with a second crust. Cut slits to vent. Bake at 375 till nice and brown and bubbly.
Obviously, the vegie-and-meat part of the recipe is where you get creative. You can chop up the bottom-of-the-bin vegies and lightly saute them with the onion, or you can use already-cooked vegies (a proportion of frozen mixed vegies will add to the thriftiness and retro appeal). As for the meat, chopped chicken, steak, or even mild seafood would work. We're mostly vegetarian, and I've used fake "chicken" with great success. The total amount you use depends on the size of your pie plate. You could even make little turnovers or mini-pies if you've got the time.
Delicious comfort food, says hot for a long time (so good to share), and freezes beautifully. You can even freeze it unbaked and save it for a future dinner.
- Turn leftover rice into rice pudding or fried rice (another great end-of-the-week meal)
- Turn leftover bread into bread pudding, french toast, croutons, or crumbs (store in the freezer)
- Twitter friend Kreatrix says any leftover can go into a quiche: Pie crust + 2 eggs + 1 c. milk + leftovers = quiche! (I'm so going to do this.)
- Yomama_van says any leftover can stuff a quesadilla: place between tortillas, add a little cheese, heat till toasty, dip in guacamole or hummus.
- Leftover egg whites can go into meatloaf (another retro hit!) or my new fave low-fat granola recipe.
- SOUP! There's always soup. If you've got an onion and a carrot you've got the basis of a delicious soup that can incorporate vegies, greens, pasta, meat, canned tomatoes, grains… Keep some stock concentrate or broth powder on hand to simplify this idea even further.
So many more ideas, of course! I've you've got favorite links or short recipes (like Kreatrix's quiche), add them in the comments. Otherwise, email me your thrifty, quick recipes with the subject line LEFTOVERS and I'll post them in a series!