My husband, in a rather Seussian mood, once described my method of meal planning as "Thing One and Thing Two." He was right, you know: I rarely make a meal (Thing One) without thinking about how the leftovers can be used to make something else (Thing Two).
Weekly or monthly menu plans are not a part of my routine, but forward planning from day to day is an ingrained habit. Planned leftovers are a big part of my food budgeting strategy. They help me to reduce kitchen waste and they encourage me to think creatively.
Variety is an important factor in ensuring good nutrition. If we eat a range of different foods, we're more likely to get the nutrients we need. Variety is, however, always a challenge to cooks on a limited budget and this is especially true in the winter time.
The range of fruits and vegetables available to people of limited means at this time of year is small. Meals can easily become repetitive, and people who are bored with their meals are less likely to eat as well as they should. It's hard to consume 5 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day when you're seeing the same few fruits and vegetables day in and day out. Hence Thing One and Thing Two.
The practice of having planned leftovers and using them to make a new dish, different from the way they were originally presented, helps to alleviate mealtime boredom. It encourages people to approach the table with anticipation. It enables us to eat the same limited variety of fruits and vegetables without feeling that healthy eating is a chore.
How does Thing One and Thing Two work at our house?
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I made a slow cooked pork roast with white bean ragoût. The following day I made pork and bean bread pockets filled with the leftover beans and some of the leftover pork from the night before. I froze the leftover bread pockets. I stripped the fat and rind off of the pork roast and froze them. I'll render the fat for cooking and I'll make chicharróns from the rind one day soon. I froze the pan juices from the pork roast, together with the leftover filling from the bread pockets, for use in soup. I divided the remaining leftover roast into two packages. One went into the freezer for another meal. The other was used for lunchtime sandwiches.
All tolled, by the time we're finished with it, that single roast will have provided us with the basis for 5 meals and one side dish. Aside from the first two, none of those meals will be consecutive so, even though we'll be seeing it again and again, we won't end up feeling we've been eating that pork roast forever.
Tonight's Thing One and Thing Two involved vegetables. I made boiled potatoes and I steamed diced carrots and frozen corn together. The leftover potatoes will be roasted. The crispy golden skins will change them completely from the dish we ate this evening. The leftover carrots and corn will go into a cream of vegetable soup, along with some other vegetables from the freezer. The leftover cream of vegetable soup will be used to sauce something else; either a casserole or a savoury pie of some sort.
I'm willing to bet that a great many of you plan your meals this way, perhaps without even realizing you're doing so. It may be worth stopping and thinking about, even if it is a long standing habit. This kind of cooking is a great exercise in creative thinking and a wonderful way to stretch your budget just a little bit more.
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