It appears that raising a family of six with one income and an agoraphobic wife/mother, has made me somewhat of a Meal Designer Extraordinaire by default. I never really thought of it as special, but in these days of frugality and using what you have, perhaps my day has come.
For instance, this is what I prepared for the past week for my visitors:
- Enchiladas - leftover meat turned into chili days later
- Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuffed Turkey Breast - turned into eggrolls; Root Vegetable Gratinata- turned into a chicken casserole; steamed broccoli - turned into broccoli/cheddar soup; Sweet potatoes/squash -turned into creamy sweet potato soup; homemade crescent rolls- added to almost every meal throughout the weekend
- Devon's Birthday Spaghetti -( nuthin leftover (sorry Dev)
- Chicago Style Pizza a la America's Test Kitchen
- Roast Beef Wraps to serve with the Broccoli/Cheddar Soup, thanks to deli RB
Baby Girl and I agreed that if your larder has been adequately supplied with the basics, you can put together a meal quickly utilizing what you have on hand. So you ask, 'What is an adequately supplied larder? ' Well, I'm glad you asked. I would get a bit twitchy if I did not have the following in my pantry.
- boullions of all kind; vegetable, beef, chicken
- assorted condiments: ketchup, mustards, soy sauce, worcestshire
- oils (olive, canola, Crisco)
- flours and sugars
- frozen rolls (okay, technically not in my pantry)
- assorted spices of all kinds
- pasta of all varieties (including egg noodles)
- assorted canned vegetables and fruits
- Nutella. seriously. Drop in guests can be treated with Nutella on apples or grahams.
- assorted rices (brown, long grain and instant kinds)
- beans of all kinds: kidney, canellini, chick peas, butter etc. etc.
- dried milk (I know. Would not drink the stuff straight but comes in handy for sauces when the last drop of milk has just been used)
- cheeses (in the fridge, BTW)
- all canned tomato products
- canned mushrooms
- potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips
- canned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts
And this is just the dry portion of the larder.
Keep in mind, that most leftovers can be divided into several categories:
- savory (cream sauces and soups)
- mexican (adobo sauce, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, paprika, chili powder)
- italian (basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic, parmesan)
- asian (soy sauce, paprika, garlic, red pepper flakes)
- other ethnic
If you possess one of these in one form, with a little help, it can become something else almost without anyone notice. Few noticed that my chili meat had previously been known as the yummy enchiladas we all enjoyed a few days before. Many a leftover spaghetti dinner has been magically turned into a baked pasta before you can say freezer burn. And the most magical of all, when leftover any meat becomes....TA DA! Authentic Eggrolls!!
Add your larder with a fresh supply of veggies and fruits each week and you are set.
Back in my young mama days, Hubby did ALLLLLLL the shopping (see above mentioned agoraphobia). Back then, he was known as Frugal Fred and he would give all the coupon clippers a run for their money. That man could squeeze a grocery budget dollar dry. He knew how to shop and pack at Aldi's like a pro. He was aware of end cap scams. He knew that it was senseless to use coupons for things you don't need/use just to 'save money'. He knew that the things you really could use, rarely had coupons and you just shopped sales. Hubby did all the grocery shopping on one trip. Once a week. We DID NOT go to the store other than the appointed day/night. If we did not have it , we made do or did with out. We did have an extra freezer so it is safe to say that we were not deprived. And I have to say that it made me the creative cook I am today. I cooked what was brought to me and that was it. Every now and then, after perusing a magazine and finding an exceptional recipe, I would jot the needed items on my list, and wait for grocery day. If it wasn't on the list, it was not purchased. No spontaneous purchases only the really good deals that might not have been advertised. Before you think that Hubby was trained by the Gestapo, let me just say that with all my grumbling and complaining, in hindsight, I think that it was a brilliant way to do things. Like I said, Single Income Family. It could not have happened if I was in charge of groceries. Oh, the things that I would have drug home. Thank you Lord for agoraphobia. It reigned me in properly.
Speaking of lists: Do you have a Grocery List Location? Secret to successful shopping. You need to keep an ongoing, running tab of all the things that you just used the last of. Three more teabags? On the list. Somedays, I might be off on one of my benevolent visits and Hubby gets a hankerin to do groceries. No need to wonder what the little lady needs; it's there on The List where it always is. I return home and voila! Needed groceries are in their proper place! Install the habit of ongoing grocery list making.
Since the chickies have all flown, the Hubby and I are a bit looser on the grocery visits. I have been known to now run into the local for Just One Thing. Hubby still gets a bit nuts about that, but since our abode is in a small town now with the grocery just a bit away, he can't pull the 'Save Gas' line of the past. However, we still buy up the deals as they happen, meat wise. He has been known to buy round steak or rump roasts by the half dozens or more. Boneless skinless chicken breast on sale, reminds us on to buy more freezer bags for dividing the deals, usually in 10 pound packages, into Empty Nester proportions.
Now that I have pridefully boasted about the amazing skills in the kitchen that I possess, I suppose I should invite you to drop in on me sometime and have me show you my culinary stuff.
And that's just what I'll do.....
Drop on in anytime for a meal.....
Or Nutella on graham crackers.....