When it comes to using up your food before it goes bad, the best advice I can give you is this: SHOP YOUR KITCHEN.
Treat your kitchen like a grocery store whenever you plan meals. Often you'll already have everything you need, except maybe one or two ingredients.
I’ve always planned my meals around what I already have, but now that I’m trying so hard not to waste, I really push myself to use up everything. Even the random stuff that gets pushed into cupboard corners.
The last time I made a grocery list, I planned seventeen meals and three desserts… and only needed eight ingredients to make them.
This was my grocery list to make seventeen meals:
How did I do it? My local grocery store has buy one, get one deals every week, and I always stock up on those deals. I also freeze meals we aren’t going to finish, and I shop at Sam’s club.
So I had enough food to survive the zombie apocalypse.
NEED MORE HELP PLANNING MEALS? TRY $5 MEAL PLAN
The crazy thing is, I thought I needed to go grocery shopping. Then I raided my pantry and discovered we already had everything we needed to eat for weeks. How did I not know we had food coming out our ears? All it took was a little planning and creativity to eat most of it.
Another tip: It’s a million times easier to plan meals with what you have when you keep a family cookbook. If you save all the recipes you like in one place, it’s easy to flip through the pages to find a meal that uses ingredients you’ve already bought.
SIGN UP FOR A FREE ULTIMATE MEAL PLANNING WORKBOOK!
And, since I rotate through the meals in my family cookbook, I quite often already have ingredients that I might need to make it again (balsamic vinegar for the lazy day casserole, for example).
Here’s what I made:
(I will post recipes with pictures as I make them.)
Pot Roast: I already had a cooked pot roast in the freezer, so all I needed were mashed potatoes and Shubert rolls.
Lazy Day Casserole: I already had sausage in the freezer from when it was on sale and I already planned on buying potatoes, so all I needed was carrots and bell peppers.
Chorizo Potato Tacos: I had chorizo links in the freezer from back when I only needed a few links, I was already planning on buying potatoes, and I had salsa and flour tortillas from when they were on sale.
Ham Soup: I have a Tupperware container of soup in the freezer from a few months ago when I made too much of it. We’ll probably eat it with the rolls if there’s any leftover from the pot roast.
Rib Eye Steaks with Sweet Potato French Fries: I bought the steaks when they were on sale, and we had sweet potatoes that needed to be eaten.
Bulgogi: I already had calrose rice, chicken, and bulgogi sauce, so all I needed was onions. I also had frozen pot stickers that we had as a side.
Gnnochi: I was already planning on making mashed potatoes for the pot roast, I have flour, I bought too much mozzarella last week, and I have a jar of spaghetti sauce from when it was on sale.
Fajitas: I already have tortillas, chicken, lime juice, and sour cream, and I was already planning on buying bell peppers and onions.
Chicken and Dumplings: This recipe only calls for two ingredients – chicken thighs and canned biscuit dough – and I already have chicken.
Tikka Masala: Street Kitchen sells sauce packets to make it easy to cook ethnic cuisine. I had bought a tikka masala packet months ago and rediscovered it in my cupboard. I already had basmati rice (we eat Indian often because it’s wonderful) and there was naan in the freezer from when it was on sale.
Zuppa Toscana: A month ago I made a couple different Olive Garden copycat soups for a baby shower. Everyone was so in love with my gnocchi soup that no one ate my Zuppa Toscana, so I put it in the freezer for later.
Zesty Chicken Casserole: This casserole is rice, chicken, and mixed vegetables with Italian salad dressing poured over it and French fried onions on top. I had rice, chicken, salad dressing, and I had French fried onions for some reason I can’t fathom, so I just needed an Asian vegetable mix.
Stir Fry: We bought the Asian vegetable mix from Sam’s club, so it was huge. I already had rice and chicken (you’ve probably figured out by now that I had a LOT of chicken in my freezer!), but I didn’t have any stir fry sauce, so I made some from scratch.
Ham, Purple Hulled Peas, and Corn Bread: My husband gets a free ham from his work every Christmas and it takes us all year to eat it, so we always have slices of ham in our freezer. My husband bought purple hulled peas a year ago and they’ve just been sitting in our freezer, and I always have the ingredients for cornbread on hand.
Tuna Melts: We were out of bread by this point, but we always have tuna fish, cheese, mayonnaise, and relish. We ate canned fruit with it that we already had.
Tomato Pesto: I found an unopened jar of tomato pesto sauce in my cupboard. No idea when I bought that. Like I said before, I had exorbitant amounts of chicken and pasta, so I didn’t need to buy anything for this meal.
Vegetable Pasta: Once I’ve made all these meals, I’m going to simmer all the leftover vegetables in chicken broth, puree them in a blender, and serve them as a sauce over pasta. I have pasta coming out my ears from when it was on sale.
I also made chocolate pie, blueberry crisp, and peanut butter cookies without needing to buy anything for them.
How much can you make from your kitchen by buying as few ingredients as possible?