DINNER PLANNING TIP: Get in the “multiple use” mindset.
Make the most of the ingredients purchased, limit food waste, and ease meal prep by using raw and cooked ingredients in multiple ways each week.
We’ve all had it happen. We purchase that lovely bunch of fresh herbs from the market only to use a handful in our planned recipe. When that flavorful ingredient finally comes back into our line of sight later in the week, we find it wilted, brown, and perhaps looking quite sad.
Or, as we are digging around the refrigerator, we find all sorts of tidbits – small bites of cheese, a few leftover veggies, those last two slices of chicken or that skewer of grilled shrimp. The produce drawer is especially known to harbor stowaways, and by the time we discover them, they oftentimes don’t resemble their fresh and lively origin. If we don’t mindfully plan to use these bits and pieces, they tend to become a science experiment.
How can we make the most of the ingredients we purchase? The short answer: think ahead while planning.
If one of the recipes calls for a handful of dill, what else can be made during the week to use more of that beautiful bunch?
Identify those ingredients that will not fully be used in one recipe, or consumed at one meal. Then, plan to incorporate them later in the week. By taking this approach, we not only lessen food waste and help our budgets, but we also make meal prep easier on ourselves on other days.
8 Ideas to Get You Started
Roast a whole chicken or slow cook a pork shoulder on the weekend. Enjoy half for dinner and use the other half in tacos, enchiladas, wraps, spring rolls, or soup later in the week.
Sprinkle fresh basil on a pasta dish or pizza on Monday, then use the rest in pesto to serve with fish on Thursday.
Cut up and roast a variety of vegetables to serve with your protein of choice on Tuesday. Then use the leftover veggies in a grain bowl, omelet, salad, risotto, or fried rice on Friday.
Sauté (wilt) fresh greens (such as kale, spinach, collard greens, or Swiss chard) with olive oil and garlic as a side dish one night. Then, add any remaining fresh greens to a grain dish, soup, or stew another day.
Use those fresh farmers’ market tomatoes, peppers, and onions in an entree salad one night, then make fresh salsa or Texas Caviar with the remainder to enjoy over the weekend.
Slice and roast half a cabbage for a side dish on Thursday, then make coleslaw with the remainder for Sunday.
Plan one soup, stew, chili, casserole, stir-fry or salad night each week as a way to “clean out the fridge” and use extra vegetables and proteins.
Have a “happy hour snacks night” – make fun foods such as nachos, raw or roasted veggies and dip, quick pickled veggies, rolls or roll-ups, toasts, mini-pizzas, creative skewers, and more with all the leftover odds and ends.
What if I Cannot Use Items Within the Week?
For those times when ingredients cannot be used within the week, think about preserving them for later use.
- Make a batch of pesto, divide it into smaller portions and freeze it for later use.
- Chop up the herbs and freeze in ice cube trays covered with broth or stock for later use in recipes.
- Blanch and dice or puree any extra raw tomatoes, or cook a batch of marinara or another tomato-based sauce or salsa to freeze.
- Use the bits and pieces of raw veggies, along with any fresh herbs to make a broth or stock. Divide into smaller portions and freeze.
— USE veggies like celery, carrot, onion, cauliflower, mushrooms, leeks, tomatoes, and parsnips in stock or broth.
— AVOID using potatoes, turnips, squash, radish, cabbage, broccoli, green beans, and beets in stock or broth as they add too much starch or a bitter flavor.
- Blanch and freeze veggies
What do you do to use up extra ingredients? Share them in the comments section.
Main Photo: iStock
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