One way to stretch our food budgets is to plan nutritious one dish meals. One dish meals mean that the typical entrée, starch and vegetable are all combined in the same recipe. One dish meals can be complimented by salads and or muffins, such as corn bread muffins.
The perfect match for this concept is hearty stews and soups. In our family, stews and soups are usually second day gifts from the day before. Whether I’m cooking chicken or other meats, I can always cut off a piece to freeze for another use. The same is true with vegetables. One left over piece of broccoli that may not be enough to serve as the main vegetable is perfect to add to a stew or soup. But don’t be fooled into thinking that stews and soups made of left-over pieces of this and that are what we typically think of as ‘left-overs’, quite the contrary; they are completely reborn meals to be proud of and delicious enough to serve to guests.
A great way to remember to save your extra pieces of meats and vegetables is to mark a plastic freezer bag ‘For soup’, date it and keep it in the freezer. Then every time you prepare a meal, you already have a place to put the ‘extra’s as you go.
Another cost savings tip is to make your own stocks. Homemade stocks are gluten-free and you will get a lot of yield from one chicken back, wing tips or neck that you won’t eat anyway.
Here’s how you do it:
Simply toss discarded chicken parts into a stock pot and fill the pot with water about 2 inches from the top. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and scrape the scum that will form on the top of the water off and discard. Add a carrot, celery stalk, 1 whole onion, 2 parsely sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, a bay leaf and 6-8 peppercorns and let simmer for 4-6 hours. Strain the solids out and transfer the stock to reusable plastic containers with lids. I use 2 cup containers, then I always know how much stock I have. The above recipe will usually produce at 8 to 10 cups of broth for almost no money. Freeze the containers and you have superb stock at your fingertips next time you need it. Beef stock can be made in the same way, using a beef bone with a little meat left on. Another extra benefit of doing it this way is that after freezing, the fat will rise to the top of the container and be an easy solid to scrape off. I also never salt my stock when I make it because at that point I don’t know what I will be using it for. It is much better to salt the dish you are making with the stock.
So what do you do with this great stock and frozen vegetables? How about this:
- Chef Yvonne