One way in which I keep our family food budget as low as I can without compromising on food quality, is by using up leftovers. With our young people at the ages & stages that they are, we don’t always know how many people will be eating any given meal. So I tend to over-cater rather than be caught short; OH usually takes a portion in to reheat at work the next day, but there’ll nearly always be some left over.  Sometimes there’s a lot and sometimes there’s a little… A few of the cheaper things I cook really don’t reheat well & go to the chickens next morning (please don’t tell DEFRA!) but at least we get some return on those in the form of lots of lovely eggs & excellent compost. But most leftovers can be reused if they are chilled as soon as they’ve cooled down & stored properly.

In the last week or so, we have polished off the remains of a spaghetti bolognaise, cunningly disguised in a lasagne along with a light cheese sauce & layers of (cheap) courgettes. And the lamb left from Sunday last week’s roast went into a lamb tagine. Thus there were meat meals on two days that I didn’t have to buy anything for. There was a little of the tagine left, which went into the freezer as soon as it was cooled, which will be added to some leftover lamb shoulder from tonight & made into a slightly spicy moussaka tomorrow. We often seem to have pies towards the end of the week, filled with whatever hasn’t vanished into other dishes. And I’ve been rediscovering 1970s cuisine, happily reinventing the classic recipes like goulash, bourguinon, chasseur & stroganoff by using leftovers rather than buying fresh new meat to make them. But it’s definitely better to find & use an authentic 70s recipe book, rather than using celebrity chef versions; the 70s recipes use fewer exotic (and expensive) ingredients, and the tastes are all the sharper & clearer for that!

As customers sadly seem to be deserting our local market, I’ve also been able to pick up some exceptionally cheap vegetables lately, and on Friday I got 3 big aubergines for just £1 to go into tomorrow’s moussaka. I usually can’t get down to the market before noon on a Sunday, by which time the stallholders are packing up to go home and veg is down to 50p for a pot of anything that won’t last until next Friday. See what £4.50 bought me yesterday…


Those carrots are enormous, by the way, at least 30cm long each, and very tasty; the cucumber is a perfectly normal size! And last week I was given a carrier bag full of tomatoes which wouldn’t last, which made a huge pot of delicious tomato soup that made lovely lunches for all of us who study or work from home, all week.

The interesting thing is that last year, when I was running the shop, I couldn’t summon up the energy or imagination to use up leftovers or gluts and sadly a fair bit went to waste, or at least to the chickens. And I found myself wandering helplessly round the supermarket after work, unable to think straight, fair game to pick up whatever they were pushing and feed it to the ravening hordes. Though technically the shop did make a small profit, I rather think that was cancelled out by the extra I spent on food. I don’t think my dehydrator went on for a whole year – that’s what I’ll do with most of the Scotch Bonnet chillies, by the way; even this household can’t get through that many in a week – and hardly any jam or jelly got made. Which was OK, as we already had a garageful to see us through, but made me rather miserable when I realised that I’d completely missed the chance.

Not a day goes by when I don’t thank Someone Up There that I’m lucky enough to be in a situation where we can afford for me not to work full time, so that I have the time & energy left over to save money…

3 thoughts on “Leftovers…

  1. Angela Sims March 11, 2013 / 9:59 pm

    I much prefer buying clothes from chairty shops then new and they are often better quality, possibly vintage and often quirky then the current hideous lines available in clothes stores and eating up leftovers and making meals from seeemingly very little is my middle name!! Well said Angie.

    • Colleen P. March 11, 2013 / 10:20 pm

      I have my little stash of leftovers from the weekend and it usually feeds me lunch all week, with a few changes here and there. I like to put leftover chicken, beans or chili into corn tortillas, with a little cheese, and melt them-very tasty and filling. It makes me feel good to use up the food that we have, I feel I’m being a good steward with my resources.

  2. Colleen P. March 11, 2013 / 10:10 pm

    I feel very privileged to be in a position to stay home and take care of things here-when I was working I almost always had to run by the market or pick up takeaway on the way home, and like you I felt tired, frazzled and unable to form a coherent plan regarding food other than that people needed to eat. I don’t miss that part one bit!

    You’d always wanted to run a shop and you got to do it, and fulfilling a life’s dream is never a waste of time or money. So even though it didn’t turn out to be what you expected, and you didn’t keep up with what you normally would have done to keep your budget in check, you still were able to do try out being a shop keeper for the kind of shop you love. What a lovely experience!

    Great deal on the veg, by the way!

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