Happy Monday friends! As you saw in my last post I have been on a serious reading kick. One of the new books that I am reading is called The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn. In one of the chapters of the book, it challenges its readers to avoid waste and to use up everything that is in the fridge. Flinn examined her fridge and was shocked to see that waste that she had accumulated in a week, and so I decided to do the same. I thought I had been doing a pretty good job, but I still found the remnants of some lettuce, half a container of sour cream, a little cream cheese, a bean burrito, a dish of rice and a few green beans. All of these were past their expiration, and while I can take heart that my fridge is now clean, I had to ask myself, why did I just throw away money! Beyond that, it was just simply wasteful.
I recently read a statistic that American families throw away 14% of the groceries that they buy each week. For example, if you spend $100 on groceries each week, $14 is thrown into the trash. That is almost $60 a month! It may not look like a lot either... it could show up as some bananas that are past their prime or 4 slices of bread that got stale before you ate them, but when you total it up, it is a lot.
So I created a plan to start using up everything and to have nothing left in my fridge by the time Sunday rolls around. I am certainly not an expert, but here is what I came up with for one week:
Monday: Pecan Crusted Chicken with honey mustard sauce, Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli
- I bought a package of chicken that had three 1/2 breasts and three tenderloins. Today I used 2 of the breasts and reserved the rest.
- I had the pecans already. Chop them up really well. Coat the chicken in flour, dip in egg, then dip in pecans. I usually cook it in olive oil until brown on both sides then stick it in a 350 oven until I'm finished with the vegetables.
- Make mashed potatoes as normal, but leftover cream cheese instead of butter.
- I just steam the broccoli- add salt and pepper... maybe some lemon juice if you have that hanging around.
- I bet you have have honey and mustard hanging around your house.... voila honey mustard.
- For this meal, I bought chicken ($9) and broccoli ($2) for a total of $11.
Tuesday: Summer Vegetable Tart
- Here is an example recipe: Ratatouille Tart
- I had pre-made pie dough, a squash, one ear of corn, a red onion and a basil plant.
- I bought a zucchini and fresh, local mozzarella cheese for a total of $6.
- Meal's total = $6, plus lunch for two.
- I bought spaghetti, but only used half.
- I bought ground beef, sausage, an onion and bread.
- I made the sauce... I had all of the ingredients thanks to my mother in laws tomato plants! See the recipe here.
- I had ten meatballs left over... so I am definitely having lunch tomorrow.
- This meal's total was $12.
Thursday: Lentil Soup with Cornbread
- I had the soup in the freezer = free!
- I bought a box of cornbread... which I will never do again. $3... whaa waa.
- Dinner for 2, plus 2 lunches = $3.
Friday: Poached Chicken with Green Beans and Cornbread Dressing
- Remember that initial chicken? Now it's free! I simply took some garlic and some fresh herbs and rubbed it all over the chicken. (I have herb plants and had the garlic.) I poured in the chicken broth and some lemon juice. Let it cook for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
- And that cornbread with yesterday's soup?... It's going to be cornbread dressing.
- I added cranberries (had those) and celery ($3) and chicken broth from the fridge. Here's the recipe.
- I bought green beans ($1).
- Dinner for 2 = $3. Celery becomes a snack... just separate what you need for the recipe and eat the rest in the afternoon with late half empty jar of peanut butter lurking in your cabinet or the close to expiration cream cheese.
Saturday: Meatball Subs
- Remember those leftover meatballs? I am using 4, so I still have 8. Those are getting frozen, and I will see them in the future!
- I am using up that tasty mozzarella that I bought.
- I bought a loaf of Italian bread for $3. (I'm only using half, so the other half is getting frozen as well.)
- Dinner for two = $3.
Sunday: The Fridge is Empty ... treat yourself to dinner and head to the grocery. Time to start planning again.
Total Spent on Dinner Groceries this week: $38*
Total Wasted on Groceries: $0! Whoo hoo!
Please note that almost all meat, vegetables, cheese and pasta were either local or organic. If that's not important to you, you could probably cut my total in half.
Okay, so there you have it. I know that I have things that you may not have and that as you use up items that you'll have to replace them. I also know that this list doesn't include things like breakfast foods and milk, but this is definitely a start, and I was pretty excited.
Feel free to use these ideas, and please share how you make the most of your leftovers!!