“Catherine, I guess you’ll have to ask the blessing tonight. God knows I’m not grateful for turkey hash, and I can’t fool Him.” The Reverend Peter Marshall on leftovers, A Man Called Peter.
When I cook dinner, there are usually leftovers, and boy, can it be hard to sell those leftovers when the next mealtime rolls around.
It’s wonderful when families eat what’s set before them with gratitude. However, there are three adults at my table nowadays, and we can be picky about leftovers. Even I don’t always love them, but I want to be a good steward of our time and money. The frugal Amish set a good example for us to follow, but what greater example can there be than Jesus Christ? After He fed the five thousand, Jesus said, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost” (Luke 6:12).
When I was a newly married and inexperienced cook, I bought a paperback copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, an excellent resource with delicious recipes and clear instructions. Over the years the cookbook fell apart, so I bought another copy but kept Old Faithful.
Fannie Farmer includes a chapter on making the most of your freezer, and “The freezer is like a savings bank: use it to collect good things for later use” became my watchword. Rarely did I pitch leftovers. For example, corn, green beans, carrots, and other leftover vegetables went into a common freezer container. These vegetables plus leftover roast beef often got a soup makeover. Sometimes the roast reappeared as barbecued beef, shredded and reheated in our favorite barbecue sauce and served on toasted sandwich buns. I’ve made tacos using leftover roast, too.
Once I froze leftover gravy, mashed potatoes, and roast. Days later, I heated the gravy and shredded roast together, served the mashed potatoes over saved rolls, and topped it off with the beef and gravy. When I served my frugal meal, one of the kids promptly dubbed it Creamy Slops (a variation on Wilbur’s favorite meal in Charlotte’s Web). Once I swallowed the imaginative literary reference, Creamy Slops became a legendary family favorite.
Fannie also advises, “The best way to have a very special supply of frozen food at hand is to cook specifically for your freezer.” Thus I prepare more than enough spaghetti sauce for the three of us and cook extra noodles, too. When we’ve eaten our fill, I save the leftovers by dividing the noodles into individual containers and ladling on sauce. I plan enough leftover spaghetti to fill two containers for lunches for the next day and two containers to freeze and serve for weekend lunches. It’s wonderful to pull a container out of the freezer and pop it in a lunch bag before dawn. Leftovers beat workplace cafeteria food any day!
By trial and error, I’ve learned when I microwave the noodles to add a little water but to drain it off before serving. I reheat mashed potatoes with a little milk and whip them with a fork once they’re steamy hot. I freeze loaves of bread and also leftover rolls. I usually thaw the whole loaf at once, or you could thaw a couple of slices at a time. I freeze butter and cheese, too, buying extra when it’s on sale. Once I froze potato chips and a carton of milk that we failed to use up before leaving for vacation and both were fine when thawed.
In the above photo of my freezer you see a spaghetti dinner, hot dogs, 49-cent sale hamburger buns, tortillas, hamburger patties, cooked chicken breast in broth, a bowl of chili, mashed potatoes, and butter, and a frozen turkey breast tucked in the back. A well-stocked freezer makes me feel good about feeding my family while saving money. When food has been cooked once, it’s a snap to reheat in a hurry. That saves me time for writing. Try my recipe for spaghetti sauce and put your freezer to work.
Stephanie Reed’s Crock-Pot Spaghetti Sauce
One pound ground chuck
One 29 oz. can Hunt’s Tomato Sauce (not pre-made spaghetti sauce)
One half can of water, measured in the tomato sauce can
One 6 oz. can Hunt’s Tomato Paste
½ tsp garlic salt
½ tsp Italian Seasoning
½ tsp basil leaves, dried
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp sugar
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Mix together in a Crock-pot sprayed with PAM the tomato sauce, ½ a tomato sauce can of water, the tomato paste, and the next six ingredients. Whisk well and cook on low setting in Crock-pot. Now brown the ground chuck and drain it. Add the meat to the sauce mixture and cover. If you put the sauce in the Crock-pot at noon, it should be ready by five or so. Stir occasionally if necessary; the Crock-pot loses heat when the lid is removed. Enjoy!