Frugal Toolbox: Refrigerator Review

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Eating frugally means you’re going to be eating something you cooked before (I just hate the word leftovers…but yeah, that’s where I’m going here.)

Enter, Refrigerator Review.

To cook frugally, you generally need to buy bigger packages of meat or to cook a fairly hefty batch of some kind of Food That’s Filling (chili, pasta sauce, homemade soup for example). What do you do with the part you couldn’t eat up in one meal? In a small household, like mine, that’s always an issue.

Your first line of defense: lunch.

I used to buy those frozen entrees by Stouffer’s or Lean Cuisine or Marie Callender’s or whoever was on sale any given week. I figured, I’m spending $2.50 a day for lunch, that’s pretty frugal, right? But when I did the math and realized that using leftovers saved me money (I made a big pot of spaghetti with meat sauce the other day and each serving costs me about 74 cents…well, that’s a no-brainer…) I made some changes. There’s also the fact that I was ingesting an awful lot of sodium with my convenience food.

Your second line of defense: Refrigerator Review.

Every few days I practice Refrigerator Review. What’s in the fridge? Do I want to eat it as it is? (After dinner, followed by a few lunches, I get a little tired of my culinary masterpieces.) How can I change it up a little? I’ve got that spaghetti, and, well OK, it’s not a HUGE difference but I could bake up what’s left with some mozzarella on top for a little variety—and serve it with some basil carrots using the canned carrots I bought for 60 cents a can.

I have some white meat chicken left over from baking a chicken on Sunday (79 cents a pound, y’all, yes yes yes!) I could make chicken salad out of it or I could make chicken croquettes and serve a nice little salad on the side. I could get creative with some chicken alfredo using the chicken. I could make fried rice with it. A nice idea: keep spices and noodles on hand and make a stir-fry with whatever you’ve got on hand.  Love Cajun? You know what to do—lay in a stock of file gumbo and some rice and you’re in business.

And soups are always your friend. I have the bones left from my baked chicken—with plenty of meat still attached—and some chicken breast bones from buying cheap chicken breasts and boning them myself. This weekend I’ll make a batch of chicken soup or maybe chicken tortilla soup—I’ve got beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and an awesome homemade Tex-Mex seasoning mix I could use.

What’s your favorite strategy for Refrigerator Review?

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Author: 25percentsolution

Follow me on Twitter @25pctsolution.

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