Most days are thrifty at Cottage Berg, so I admit succumbing to alliteration, but I do find regular reminders to be helpful when working toward a goal. Today’s thrifty habit is Meals that Clean Out the Fridge (or Freezer). Having learned to make use of random bits and scraps of leftovers has been a key skill in reducing food waste in our house. They are all either refrigerated or frozen in containers, and about once weekly I make a meal that can use up random vegetables, legumes, potatoes, or meat.
This is probably where casseroles originated. My mom never really made them, so the first time I saw a recipe I was stunned at all the work involved. But when everything is already made and leftover from another meal, they are very cost- and time-efficient. And that is true of most of these meals. Most are adaptable to use either cooked (neutrally seasoned) or raw vegetables; cooked vegetables should be added just in time to heat through.
Sometimes little containers get shoved to the back of the freezer or fridge. I really hate to throw out food or clean moldy containers, so nearly emptying the fridge between shopping excursions is a good habit, and if I don’t have an idea for how to use something within a few days, I move it into the freezer. The things that get lost in the deep freeze may become dessicated over time, but are still perfectly useful in a soup or chili.
Examples of perfect vehicles for random leftovers:
Frittata or omelet
Fried rice or bibbim bap
Soups (minestrone, for instance)
Flatbread with toppings, or filled crepes
And then there’s always the Leftover Buffet.
Tonight I drive the carpool, and I need a quick meal to cook when I get home that will use up about two cups of cooked cabbage. Soup is a good candidate, but I won’t have time to cook it after I get home, and am gone far too long to consider the slow cooker (after about 6 hours, in my opinion, it just tastes overcooked). Plus, it’s Thursday night, the Night of Greatest Fatigue (I completely understand why Thursday night was meltdown night in Mari’s first years of school). So, it will be simple: an unfilled omelet with green onions and Jarlsburg cheese, with leftover roasted potatoes and cabbage. And then I will don my pajamas and read with a purring cat.
How have you reduced food waste? What are your weeknight go-to meals?