Frugal Foodie: Intentional Leftovers


We’ve all come across the individual who can look into the barren desert of a grocery-less refrigerator and create a masterpiece of a meal. As a conscious buyer and cook my hope is that instead of eliminating quality of sustenance, there is a way to transform our mentality that expensive equals good and move toward the possibility that frugal can be equally as satisfying. In times of economic struggles, often people cut their food budget, sacrificing the pleasure and fulfillment of true nourishment. But by being thoughtful and creative, you can have both––truly life-giving food while pinching your pennies. The key ingredient is creativity.

Most importantly, in this creative food re-assessment is a movement toward renewable food. Some may call it leftovers, but the truth is—one simple project such as roasting a chicken, can become the basis for a week’s worth of meals. After enjoying the hot-out-of-the-oven chicken, the leftovers can be used for chicken salad, enchiladas, kid lunches and snacks, while the bones and carcass can bring forth a life-giving stock to be used for soup, making rice, enchilada sauce, chicken pot pie and more.

Photo by Kelly K via Flickr

What we don’t tonight will be perfect for chicken salad later this week!

By using whole foods that are processed in your home, the expense of packaging, shipping, and additional manufacturing costs are eliminated. Buy a local ham, cook it and slice it up instead of buying pre-packaged luncheon meat. Buy a family-size block of cheese, instead of individual packets of string cheese. Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense and economical foods. Scrambled, hard-boiled, egg salad, frittata, custard, homemade ice cream–they are also incredibly versatile.

The idea of creating all of these varieties may at first seem daunting but the delightful irony is that the more time and energy spent on developing a sense for reusing and renewing food, the more time and energy is saved. The renewal of food begins with small steps and negates the need for excess spending on new ingredients each time you cook. It is an attempt to take part in the process of understanding the resources that are available and creating something beautiful and nourishing with them.

Here are a few ideas for making a large batch of something and extending the leftovers:

  • I love storing leftovers in my vintage refrigerator leftover container.

    Rice–fried rice, rice pudding, casseroles, cold rice salad

  • Homemade yogurt–smoothies, thickened Greek-style, yogurt-cheese, tzatziki
  • Meat mixture for sausage, meatballs, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, nachos, tortilla pizzas, sloppy joes
  • Salad dressing-make and use it throughout the week for green salads, rice salads, steamed vegetables
  • Leftover oatmeal–oatmeal pancakes, baked oatmeal
  • Sautéed veggies–blended soup, pasta sauce, fried rice, add to an omelet or breakfast casserole
  • Beans–refried beans, add to soup, chili, add to salad, dip (like hummus)


Easy Homemade Dressing

1 whole clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup of vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, or other)
1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon local honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon fresh herbs (visit the farmers’ market or grow your own!)

1. Smash garlic clove with the back of a knife for subtle flavor; chop or use a press for a stronger garlic flavor.
2. Put garlic and other ingredients in a jar or other airtight container.
3. Cover, shake well and serve.
4. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Let come to room temperature before reusing and shake.


Hungry for more from the Heirloom Foodie? Check out her posts preserving green beans for winter, making zucchini relish, and growing good eats in the Garden City.

   Visit the Heirloom Foodie archives.


Kristen Lee-Charlson is recognized for her food consulting knowledge, exceptional menus and passion for the local food system. She has hosted a variety of modern homemaking classes from cheesemaking to butchery. Recently she founded the Heirloom Principles a consulting agency for chefs, institutions and individuals for the sourcing of locally-produced and sustainably-raised products. She is an accomplished chef, caterer and home-cook. As a mother of four, she is dedicated to educating and empowering others about traditional food preparation and the joy and economy of eating local. Kristen is a strong advocate for a more localized and resilient food system. Daily she creates and consumes real food for her family including sauerkraut stomped by her children’s bare feet and eggs from her backyard hens. As an urban renaissance woman her ambition is to eat more local pastured pork.

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