How are you thrifty in the kitchen?

I'd love to hear Food52'ers creative ways for making meals out of kitchen scraps and mistakes. I'll start with this recipe:



creamtea November 14, 2011
Oh, and after making my "Slightly Smokey mixed-bean chili" here on the site, the next day the beans are stuffed into taco's for the kids, w/cheese, tomatoes, salsa, etc.
creamtea November 14, 2011
when I prep a chicken for cooking, I cut off the backs from both breast and thigh--makes a prettier portion. I freeze them in a large ziploc with the necks. Add to the bag each week until there is enough for chicken soup/stock.
When I purchase fresh ginger, I grate the whole piece, scoop tablespoons of the pulp onto a piece of wax paper, cut each mound into fourths with a small sharp paring knife and freeze. That way there are always frozen "buttons" of ginger available for chicken leftovers which are eaten later in the week with a quick stir-fry of vegetables (usually peppers, snow peas, onions and whatever else is available), noodle "cake", and Asian sauce: sizzled ginger & garlic, scallions, a dash of vinegar, a touch of sugar, soy sauce, a bit of water, & sesame oil. Have been saving chicken fat & skins for Grieben, but I may have to ditch that idea due to husbands cholesterol...
luvcookbooks November 12, 2011
Render chicken fat to make cracklings and fry potatoes and onions in the chicken fat. Cracklings are delicious in corn bread, also, I regret to say, hot out of the pan. A few weeks ago, I had to buy a whole 10 lb leg of lamb at the butcher to test Pierino's Homeric Leg of Lamb (delicious, btw). After serving for dinner, I took cold lamb for lunch, made broth from the bones and used the broth and the rest of the leftover lamb to make a Lamb and Rice Casserole. Not a scrap wasted. Thanks, Pierino!
MaryMaryCulinary November 11, 2011
I use lots of the great ideas described above too. Non-food thriftiness means that I don't cook things on foil just so I don't have to wash a pan. I also don't cut the corners off bags for piping. I have piping bags I can wash and reuse. I'm not sure if this is thrift or just that I hate needless waste, but it drives me crazy! Off to soak some beans now...
Summer O. November 11, 2011
Much like sdebrango and boulangere we save scraps of everything, veggies, chicken bones, shrimp shells for stocks. I use stale bread to make croutons or savory bread puddings. Leftover grits or mashed potatoes become grit or potato cakes for dinner. Tiny chucks of cheese become Jaques Pepin's frommage fort. And like Bevi a roast chicken equals tasty chicken sandwiches the next day. Also, I eat egg whites for breakfast, the yolks sometimes become ice cream.
boulangere November 11, 2011
Grit and potato cakes, mmmmm. I always make extra rice for rice cakes later on.
testkitchenette November 11, 2011
I go by a waste nothing rule in my own kitchen fueled by countless stories told to me of thrift by my grandparents offset by their plain values of not wasting a thing and the Great Depression, World War 1 and 2. Both sets of grandparents were fans of the sayings "waste not, want not" and my one grandmother reminded us at every meal to "take all you want but eat all you take" which was apparently said at the mess hall in the army. Chicken skin is often turned into gribnes which is like pork cracklings. Cold coffee is turned into coffee syrup and added to vanilla ice cream base or poured over vanilla ice cream. Extra yogurt/buttermilk goes into baked goods. I also have a vegetable scrap zip top bag in my freezer along with other bags for chicken bones/backs, meat bones, shrimp shells/lobster shells/clam shells/fish bones...all for making stock. I freeze my stale bread to use in soups, bread salads, and to make breadcrumbs and/or bread pudding out of. My mom raised my siblings and me without a lot of extra sugar. Baked goods were rarely purchased but we were allowed to make them from scratch. I subscribe to that too. Scraps of cheese get tossed into soups or dotted over a fresh pizza. Extra vegetables and grains/beans always get turned into soups and stews. Leftover wine gets made into cookies (red wine cookies) or put in the soup pot too. Herbs are always pureed and poured into ice cube trays and frozen if I think I won't use them before they are past their prime. Matzoh from the high holidays gets made into bread crumbs as well or covered in chocolate. Noodles get turned into noodle cakes (think potato pancake) or put into soups as well. I could keep going. Thanks for all the other fantastic suggestions.
Kitchen B. November 11, 2011
Green apple peels get frozen, pips, seeds and all - till I have a huge batch and can make some pectin, which is superb for my jams and can be cooked with a larger margin of error than commercial setting pectin. I turn my leftover meatloaf into bolognese....and crumble some in tortillas; Stale bread gets French toasted, or pulverised to breadcrumbs which are wonderful fried in butter, with garlic and oregano; My greatest attempt at beign thrifty (SPOILER ALERT - it didn't work out) was trying to make cheese curds which failed. I then turned the whey and soft formless curds to the base of a loaf of bread. Which didn't rise..... Gutted, I dumped the whole thing in the bin and woke up the next morning to find a lovely lump of nicely risen dough. I wish I'd had more patience. In the end, I abandoned it all....and made a posset.

More thrift - left over pancake mix, covers bread 'French toast style' - and results in super crisp fried pieces for those who aren't fans of soggy french toast. I could go on.
Bevi November 10, 2011
I often find that making one meal leads into another. With roast chicken we can get 4 meals for 2 people - 2 on the roast chicken and 2 from a chicken curry or fricassee - and then we have chicken soup if there is enough meat left - if not, there is stock as the base for another great soup or recipe. Free produce - blueberries picked from my neighbor's patch, apples from my apple tree - and a large bag of sugar produce wonderful condiments and jams that allow me to share with people and give gifts that have cost me nothing but my time. And I almost never throw out stems - like Panfusine I use cole stems whenever I make a dish.
Panfusine November 10, 2011
I make quick relishes out of cauliflower & broccoli stems, Make my own roti & paratha instead of buying them. Rinse out near empty yogurt cans into dough for making the roti, spend an extra five minutes peeling ONLY the paper layer outta onions (instead of scooping out like they do on TV shows.. leftover roti (it never quite is the same the next morning), I shred & Sautee with spices & onion for a breakfast snack. As a matter of principle NO frozen pre cooked meals (there are some ready to eat Indian dishes always in the pantry, just in case.) Minimum amount of frozen cut veggies. In summer learnt to work meals around the fresh produce at the neighboring farm..
SeaJambon November 10, 2011
May I suggest "How to cook a Wolf" by MFK Fisher? The concept is how to feed your family when the wolf is at the door, and was written during WWII when there was shortage aplenty. It is much more than a cookbook, and you'd never give the giblets to the cat -- they could be makings for "Chicken Livers Supreme" (one of my mother's -- finest cook I've ever known -- inventions), and the centerpiece of another meal. [In full disclosure, my parents love CLS, but I've never acquired the taste; however, I save all my chicken giblets -- have a special bag in the freezer for just such purpose -- and take them to my parents each time I visit].
boulangere November 10, 2011
LOVE that book!
Bevi November 10, 2011
This is one of my favorite books as well!
linzarella November 10, 2011
Also a huge fan of that book. And very worth reading is Tamar Adler's new book, "An Everlasting Meal," a beautiful attempt to make MFK Fisher relevant to a new generation of cooks. Instead of chicken livers supreme, there is a luscious chicken liver paté recipe, and even more luscious prose.
luvcookbooks November 12, 2011
So love this book, don't know anyone else who has read it! Thanks for yr comment.
vvvanessa November 10, 2011
there are lots of good base recipes that use up bits of leftovers: frittatas, quesadillas, savory (or sweet) bread puddings, fried rice, pasta dishes, hash. i put leftover pasta in frittatas sometimes and often find that a fried egg goes great on some fried rice or hash.
susan G. November 10, 2011
My husband has a compulsion to buy condiments, but not to finish them. Fortunately, they have long lives, as I try valiantly to give them new identities, In addition to mix with mayo spreads for sandwiches, finish a stir fry sauce, a tweak of the mixed ends of many jars of mustard in the salad... I have a veggie burger I make which calls for 1/3 cup of out of the fridge salad dressing. We have many of those and I slowly make headway to finish them, and all the other bottles and jars as well. While I still see new ones show up (but he's improving!), all I can do is keep at it.
This is one of the blessings of the freezer -- we can, to some degree, suspend time until we use something up. Another blessing, the compost pile -- I'm ashamed of some of what ends up there, but at least it has a useful afterlife. (Latest addition, sadly, was about 4 pounds of raw peanuts, which I bought to roast and make peanut butter. Used some, but a mold got to them -- unsalvageable for food, but good for compost.)
Robin O. November 10, 2011
Do you remember that old show on Food Network called Doorknock Dinners? A chef knocks on your door and has to prepare a meal with what is currently in your kitchen. I play that game often in an effort not to have to go to the grocery store and spend more money. Thrifty and fun! Tonight it was Mexican soup.
boulangere November 10, 2011
I do my best to avoid the grocery story, too. Some of my best dinners have come not from what do I want, but rather from what do I have.
beyondcelery November 10, 2011
I find keeping a "stock pot" full of veggie or meat scraps helps a lot. I just make stock every couple of days (when there are scraps) and freeze it in ice cube trays. It's also good to learn all about different spices. Spices can be used to stretch flavors and increase the appeal of basic meals, such as rice and beans, and they're quite cost-effective if you know how to use them well. Make your own beans from scratch, instead of buying cans. They taste better, you know what's in them, and they cost tons less. I also work hard to keep leftovers appealing by making them into other things. For example, this week's meals from my kitchen were brought to us by a whole chicken. First we roasted it with root veggies. Then we made most of the meat into a big pot of avgolemono. Then we cooked the rest of the meat into chicken, rice, and black beans (great in a tortilla for a cheap lunch). And I made stock out of the carcass and fresh herbs from my window box. All this for the price of a few veggies and one nice organic ethically-farmed chicken and we've got meals all week for 2 people. Plus extra stock frozen for a later use. Oh, and our cat enjoyed the giblets.
SKK November 11, 2011
In total agreement with Syronai about making your own beans from scratch. They are so rich in flavor. I make double the recipe and freeze a portion for upcoming meals. Also, I grate my own parmesan and other hard cheeses in my food processor and store in fridge. Much cheaper and you don't get the fillers you get in commercially grated.
linzarella November 11, 2011
Speaking of parmesan, SKK, you reminded me of another great thrifty trick - using parmesan rinds in soups and stews. A great one I made the other day was whole garlic cloves and a parmesan rind simmered in some leftover garbanzo cooking water. Poached an egg in the broth then poured it all over a piece of stale bread.
SKK November 11, 2011
Yes, yes linzarella! Great tasting point! It would be great for you to post this recipe.
pierino November 10, 2011
As with Sdebrango, I'm always thinking about stocks and broths. Vegetable trimmings and bones can be put to good use simmering on a back burner.
Stale bread can become croutons or turned into a panzanella or just plain old bread crumbs. In Italy it's a mortal sin to waste bread.

Voted the Best Reply!

AntoniaJames November 10, 2011
I turn just about anything leftover in small quantities into soup -- add stock, a little of this, a little of that, finish with half and half or a swirl of Greek yogurt and, voila! With a piece of fruit and a sliver of cheese, it's lunch! Or, I'll use the same method, to make a frittata for dinner. Generally, I follow the principles of a wonderful French farm family that has been close friends of my husband and me since before we were married (since Mr. T was in high school, actually. I spent time with them at the end of my bike trip to France as a young woman.) Monsieur D. also happens to be a viscount, etc. and they live in a chateau that's been on land their family has owned since before William, Duke of Normandy, conquered parts of present day Great Britain. It's so easy. They waste nothing. They don't stockpile food which then rots and has to be thrown away. In their beautiful chateau, I had a meal I'll never forget. Mme had foraged for wild mushrooms in a nearby forest, then turned them into an amazing dinner with a few fresh eggs, some milk and a bit of cheese. A baguette and a salad of freshly picked greens, with fruit to follow, rounded out the meal. They live magnificently. They live with intention. Living magnificently that way, that's how you manage a thrifty kitchen. ;o)
sdebrango November 10, 2011
I save veggie scraps, bones and pieces of meat to make stock. I give some fruit and vegetable scraps, peels, coffee grounds to my neighbor for her compost bin. If I make a mistake I try not to trash it if its at all salvageable I will do so, before boulangere taught me how to divide a layer cake if I cut it crooked I made trifle, made some quick bread the other day and forgot to add the spices so I made a glaze for the top of the bread using the spices, wrapped it in plastic and let it sit for a day and it was great.
boulangere November 10, 2011
Yes, I keep a stock bag in the fridge for vegetable trimmings - the ones that don't get fed to the rabbits. The rabbits make lovely droppings to go into my compost bins, and from there into my garden.
SKK November 10, 2011
And making my own tomato paste really saves money.
Robin O. November 11, 2011
I don't make my own, but I do portion out tablespoons form a can and freeze. Much cheaper than the tomato paste in a tube.
SKK November 10, 2011
My daughter is working at a well-known restaurant here in Seattle on her way to becoming a pastry chef. Her first day she put too much sugar in the cake batter - you know, enough batter to make 100 cakes. Rather than everyone getting all crazy and playing the blame game they had a quick meeting and decided to make brownies.
boulangere November 10, 2011
Must be a very cool and inventive place to work. Lucky daughter. She's obviously going to learn a lot in different ways.
SKK November 10, 2011
And I am learning a lot from her!
boulangere November 10, 2011
And it doesn't get much more thrifty than making one's own bread. For the price of some flour, yeast, salt, and water, you can have some pretty wonderful stuff.
SKK November 10, 2011
You are so right, B. And that is why I have my own dehydrator to make crackers and kale chips and dry tomatoes, squash, pears, onions, peppers and on and on....... Check out the price on kale chips at Whole Foods, mine come in way less than that.
boulangere November 10, 2011
Lucky you!
boulangere November 10, 2011
Thrift may be in the eye of the cook in some regards. I like to think of my Pasta Porcini as pretty thrifty because, though I'm well aware that porcinis are fairly dear, on the other hand it doesn't require a lot of them, and they're stretched to the full extent of their flavor by using them to make the "stock" in which the pasta is cooked. This is bound to be an interesting thread. Thanks for asking.
boulangere November 10, 2011
The same goes for my Lost Shoes Risotto: Again, it uses the porcinis to make the stock used in the risotto.
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