So, I have have this meal plan, for subscribers. I also plan meals for my family. I try to have it make sense so that I don’t end up with too many random bits but, inevitably, there are some. Since I hate waste (so much), I refuse to let the bits die, but rather rework them into new (hopefully) exciting meals. Case in point: recently I needed to make dinner for my family of 7 and this is what I identified as being available:
plenty of eggs
about 1/2 of a pint of cream
1 sweet potato
roughly 4 oz of kale
1 small bag of cauliflower
about 5 2 inch pieces of herbed chicken from 2 nights ago
roughly half a cup of shredded cheese
one cup-ish of cooked rice and a bit less of uncooked
somewhere between a cup and two of mashed potatoes
None of these components can be used as is for a meal. There isn’t even one piece of chicken per person, and are we all going to battle over the sweet potato? Of course not. It’s ok, though, these can all be reworked and transformed into an actual meal.
Oil the bottom of a baking pan. Spread those mashed potatoes in a thin layer along the bottom. Whisk 5 of the eggs with the cream. Chop up the chicken and sprinkle it over the potatoes. Salt and pepper the egg mixture, pour it over the chicken and potatoes. Sprinkle on the cheese. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.
Chop up the sweet potato, onion, cauliflower. Toss with oil, salt and favorite spice mix (today it’s Justice from Penzey’s). Roast for 20 minutes, add in the kale and cook another 10/15.
Cook the bit of rice and add it to the already cooked. Toss with oil (we are even out of butter!) and more Justice blend.
Suddenly, I have chicken and cheese quiche with potato crust (bonus for my keto kid), roasted mixed veg, and flavored rice. An actual meal! From nothing! Triumph.
The thing is, though it can seem daunting, it’s really not that hard. There are so many ways to use the bits. There are blank canvases that can be painted on with whatever you have on hand. Quiche, soup, casserole, stir fry, “bowls” – these can all become your very own refrigerator masterpiece.
Alternately, there are those times that you have too much left of just one thing. Bag of carrots, for example, just needed one, no one in the house likes to munch on carrot sticks. My favorite way to use them up is making “carrot pudding” – basically boiled mashed carrots mixed with a few tablespoons of cashew butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, then whipped up to a light consistency. For a little more of a treat I will add a bit of maple syrup.
Another example: I have a bag of frozen peas, recipe only needs half the bag. What do I do with the other? I smash the warmed peas with good olive oil, salt and any left over fresh herbs that I have hanging around. Then I spread it on toast and dig out the last feta cheese crumbles left from that Greek salad. Drizzle of oil before I bite into it.
Think of having a handful or two of a few different things in your refrigerator and pantry as an opportunity for a new meal, not as lost waste that will go in the bin. After 4 or 5 nights of cooking, you likely will have a few things to easily make another meal that is both budget and effort friendly. It is also an opportunity to stretch your kitchen creativity and skills, so take advantage. Fear not the leftover bits – they are your friend!
To get you started, here are a few recipes that can have the ingredients swapped out easily for what you have lying around, or simply added to the basic recipe:
You can also check out this old post about the “clean out the fridge” meal:
Go forth, fear not, transform and Eat those bits, It’s Good For You!