Tag Archives: leftovers

Guest Blog Post

My brother’s mother-in-law shared with him that she and her husband were doing a version of “The Great Purge”.  Seeing as how they are ’empty-nesters’, I thought their viewpoint would be a fresh perspective on the exercies.  Thanks Colleen for sharing!


We didn’t start purging for any particular reason…there wasn’t an epiphany or anything like that.  I have frozen leftovers for years but usually ended up throwing them away.

So, one day I looked in my freezer and saw all the extra stuff frozen and decided to take a chapter from the book of “Kristin School of Cooking.”  Tod told me how she goes through her freezer periodically and purges.
As a result, I am in the process of purging my freezer when I don’t want to go to the grocery store or just simply want to make room in the freezer.  My best advise to those who are new to freezing leftovers??…
Label your packages!  One might think that since freezer bags are clear, it is easy to identify the food item.  Not so…plus it’s good to date the package as well.
Thank you for the idea…also makes me feel better that I’m not wasting food!
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Posted by on April 7, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Step 3 – Plan your protein

Your grocery list always need to start with proteins.  

You have to get into your head what counts as a protein; here in the good ol’ Midwest we tend to lean towards beef.  And, yes, of course, it is a protein.

But, expand your thinking: include dairy, eggs, nuts, chicken, pork products, and fish.

All of these are ways to get protein.  If you are planning to cook on four nights, you need four proteins for the week.  So, look in your freezer and see what you have on hand.

If you pick something like a roast or whole chicken, depending on family size, you could get two nights of meals out of that single protein source.

Here’s my typical plan: 

one night beef


one night chicken


one night fish


one night left-overs from one of the above

To review:

write down your schedule for the week, divide your days, and now pick your proteins.

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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Uncategorized


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The Madness Continues……..

Being that we have three kids – two of those kids being middle schoolers – the madness I refer to could be any number of things.

But in this instance, I’m talking about #TheGreatPurge.

I have made 20 original meals out of proteins and starches from the pantry and freezer.  Those dishes have stretched into way more than 20 meals; and although I didn’t officiallly keep track, I would guess that we have gotten 5-8 more meals out of them – totally nearly 30 meals of ‘leftovers’.

So, we are in the home stretch, but we aren’t done yet.

I still have a soup bone, tazzo ham, cube steak, a rump roast and frozen breaded shrimp to use.

I have begged for suggestions on my personal FaceBook page and Indy Call me Chef facebook page.  I’m feeling confident that I will be able to use all of these ingredients.

I have some tabouleh, penne pasta, frozen cheese tortellini and pumpkin ravioli, frozen green beans and it seems one other frozen veggie item also.

I’m guessing that I’m going to get at least 5 more dishes and probably 8 more meals out of the food.

If you are interested in a recap of what I’ve made, check out my Pinterest board.

I’d love to hear your feedback regarding this madness I’ve dubbed #TheGreatPurge.

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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Was your guess right?

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m an 80/20 person.

Most of the time, getting 80% of the way through projects is acceptable and okay.  When you are sharing projects with an online blog, I’ve learned the hard way that 80% isn’t the best way to go.  

In other words, I’ve been having a hard time figuring out the answer to the last blog post question “how many meals did I fix during last year’s The Great Purge?”

Last year I logged this on my personal Facebook page and did an 80% job posting to a Pinterest board.  It looks like I documented a meal made with cube steak and two kinds of beans on February 19th.  Later that day, I referenced ‘the loaves and the fishes’ and stated that I had three more meals from leftovers.

So, my best guess is that I went 25 meals.  My recollection before looking back through details was that I made 32 meals.  But, I can’t document that.  So, we are going to go with 25 – a nice memorable number.

And, I made it to the last week in February before purchasing protein.


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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


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So what’s the story?

Let’s be clear – we are NOT minimalists around here.  I mean – even if we’d want to be – it ain’t happening.  We live in the midwest, in a typical-size, newer, subdivision suburban home, with three children – we are not minimalists.

But, we don’t like alot of stuff.  And on top of that – my husband was in the military.  I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘a place for everything, and everything in its place’.

So, Christmas tends to be hard around here.  We want gifts, we need things and we want things.  But, where does all the new stuff go, what do we give away that we no longer need, and what can we use up.

Last year, after Christmas, I thought that the easiest place to start ‘purging’ old stuff would be the food.  All kinds of leftover cookies and candy.  Leftovers from meals – a few pieces of lasagna, frozen turkey, homemade broth, etc.

I announced that we would be eating leftovers until they were gone. 

About a week later, I made a second announcement (mainly to the kids) that things were going to start getting very interesting around meal-time.  (Read this as kids begin to eat lots of PB&J and grilled cheese sandwiches).

I had decided I was going to use everything before I started purchasing new.  I would buy no proteins and no canned/dried goods until everything was gone.  

I started getting really creative and like the loaves and the fishes – it seemed there was no bottom to the freezer or back to the pantry.  Would it ever end?

And some point, we named this exercise ‘The Great Purge’.  I know – the name bothers some, but it’s stuck at this point. 

So, that’s the story.  And, guess what, we are at it again – The Great Purge, Volume 2 in 2013.

This year, I’m going to capture meals and share on Facebook and Pinterest.  I’m going to blog about it and I’m going to see who wants to join in, who can help me decide what to make, who can guess how long this can possibly go on, and how we all can learn from and share with each other. 

So, here goes!

The first step this year – (cheat on Facebook if you want) – how many meals was I able to prepare last year before buying protein or canned/dried foods?

I’ll share the answer in the next blog post.




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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Uncategorized


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I was fortunate to be able to host my in-laws for Thanksgiving again this year.  Because it was going to be a small gathering – just 8 of us – we tried not to overplan or over-cook.  We didn’t enjoy ‘the big meal’ until evening, around 5:30.  We needed to work around some third shift schedules and such.  

We roasted the turkey and had dressing, cranberry relish, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts for sides.  My sister-in-law brought a veggie tray and salad with all kinds of fixings.  My in-laws brought homemade bread, rum cake, and apple pie.  I had also made a pumpkin pie and cookies.



I was quite disappointed with the meal – the parts that I was in charge of  – the turkey and sides.  Nothing tasted special or good enough.  It was just food.  Nothing special.

But, as is customary, we ate leftovers for the next couple of days.   The exact same food – reheated.  All of it smashed together on a plate.  And other than adding some salt – which most of the dishes did need – there was nothing else done to prep the food for reheating.

And, you know what, the leftovers were great.  I mean really good food!  It didn’t seem like leftovers and I wasn’t disappointed that I was eating them over and over again.

At first, I couldn’t figure it out.  How had this same food tasted so boring and really bad on Thanksgiving day?

My only explanation is that I was already stuffed when we sat down to eat.  We had a light lunch, but had snacked around all day in anticipation for the big meal.  I wasn’t a bit hungry when I sat down to eat.  As a result, the food tasted bad.  I didn’t need it.  I’m not sure I even wanted it.

But, the next two days, when I wasn’t cooking because we were having leftovers.  I was hungry.  The food was great.

Here’s what I learned: food only tastes good when I’m hungry; and more importantly, it tastes bad when I’m already stuffed.

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Fresh Start

It’s the night before trash day.  That means it’s time to go through the fridge.

I love this task.  It’s my own version of food rescue.  Not because I typically find unidentifiable objects – but more because I find leftovers that got pushed to the back and will narrowly miss the garbage can.

There is usually the squishy peach or the nearly moldy strawberries.  Both of these items can be salvaged.  Cut off the bad (if moldy) and keep all the squishy. Throw in a container into the freezer and I’m going to save on next week’s smoothie ingredients.

Saving almost gone fruits

Fruit Smoothie

There is typically a leftover protein – anything from a random pork chop (less than 5 days old – health rule!) or even boiled eggs – that I can turn into tomorrow’s lunch.

And my favorite part is quite possibly throwing out last week’s mistakes.  Those leftover cheese tortellini that no one liked – trash.  The end of the loaves of bread – now moldy – feed the ducks out back.  The two leftover pancakes that no one ever ate – garbage.

It’s a fresh start.  It’s making right the past week’s wrongs.  It’s the impetous to start a grocery list for the following week.  A chance to reward the kid who complained the least this week about meals – ‘hey, what would you like next week for dinner one night’.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Every week brings a fresh start.



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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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16 Dollars

It’s hard to explain the value of money to children.  

There is the obvious ‘if we do this, then we can’t do that’ model.  

There is the age old lesson of saving your slowly earned money for something you desperately want.  (I saved $92 to buy Atari!)


What I’m more interested in is teaching myself the value of money as it relates to feeding my family.

Here are my three most recent versions of $16 worth of food:

1) I went out to lunch with my cousin.  I love local owned and new restaurants.  So, we went to Bru Burger Bar.  I ordered a sandwich and split an order of fries (which did not come with the burger) and water.  The fries were listed under the Sides and Appetizers to share.  They were a huge order with three housemade dipping sauces. The burger was good.  The dipping sauces GREAT!  After tax and tip, my part of the bill was just a bit over $16.

One meal for one person.

2) My husband and I like to go out for lunch one day a week together.  Last week, in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, we picked the local Mexican chain, El Rodeo.  We each had the lunch special, chicken fajitas, chips and salsa and water.  The portions were HUGE.  I ate about half my plate full and brought the rest home.  The bill was just under $16 with tax and tip.  Later in the weekend, we ate those leftovers on a few random tortillas.  

Two meals for two people.

3) Yesterday after kids’ sporting events, I made a quick trip to Kroger.  I wanted to grill out for dinner.  One kid had a friend over, so I was feeding 6 people.  I bought two pounds of ground hamburger, a box of macaroni and cheese, a few tomatoes for a salad and ice cream for dessert.  To that, I added items I already had at home: a bag of chips, a bag of frozen corn, one head of romaine lettuce, and pineapple.  The grocery store purchases totaled $10.  The items on hand – about $6.  Total – $16.  

One meal for six people.

So, the question becomes, what is the value (in food) of $16?  Is it a nice lunch with a friend at a new trendy restaurant and great conversation?  Is it time alone with your spouse and the creativity to stretch it to one more meal for two?  Is it a dinner at home that includes dessert?

Here’s what I learned:  it’s hard to define the value of $16 of food.  Help me by sharing your thoughts!

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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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I’m not one to waste – I try not to waste time (mine or others), I try not to waste experiences (I watch kids games rather than video tape them) and I try not to waste money (consuming for the sake of consumption).

But perhaps the place I try to be least wasteful is with food.  I think this is ingrained in my psyche.  My grandmother owned a grocery store (The West End Grocery in Raymond, IL) and used every morsel she had.  I remember her telling me the story about how people RAVED about her ham salad at the deli.  Her secret was that she used all the bits of the leftover meats to grind for ham salad – not just the ham.  

Maybe you followed The Great Purge earlier this year.  On my personal Facebook page, I shared my exercise at the beginning of the calendar year.  I was going to use all the pantry items and frozen items on hand until they were gone; the only food I could buy was perishables.  I went almost 30 meals (seven weeks) without buying any dry food items.  I was amazed at the accumulation of food items here within my own home.

But, today was trash day.  So, it was also clean out the fridge day.  It almost physical PAINS me to throw food in the trash.  And today was a bad day for food waste.  You may remember my post about coloring Easter Eggs.  We dyed four dozen eggs – today I threw out 1 and 1/2 dozen.  ACK!  And, we cut out and decorated Easter cookies both here and at my parents’ house.  And today a large portion of those went in the trash.  Also, a few fish fillets that were leftovers from dinner a couple of nights ago.  And, a few slices of a few different types of bread that were growing some green stuff.

Last week I went on a field trip with my son’s third grade class.  His class had conducted a service project at his school – collecting rice and pasta for donation to a local not-for-profit.  We were able to visit the business and learn what they do.  And what they do – it’s amazing! 

Second Helpings describes itself as follows:

“we are transforming lives through the power of food. We rescue prepared and perishable food, prepare it into nutritious meals and distribute those meals to over 60 social services organizations that feed hungry people. We also use rescued food to train disadvantaged adults for careers in the culinary field, helping to eliminate hunger at its source.

In 2012, we collected our 16 millionth pound of food and delivered our 6 millionth meal to our partner agencies. Over 480 adults have graduated from our Culinary Job Training Program.”

Here is what I learned:  Let’s Rescue Food, not Waste It


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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized


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After the Great Purge…

did you miss it?  the great purge just ended.  a small idea of using up leftovers after the beginning of the year, somehow turned into a project with a life of it’s own.  i went 20 meals, and nearly 2 months without buying protein or pantry ingredients to cook meals.

here is what it accomplished: cleaning out of both freezers and the pantry, making me be more creative in my cooking, inspiring others to clean out their food also

here is what it didn’t accomplish: saving money on groceries, getting the kids to eat more foods, or an answer to if i’m a food hoarder or not.

so, on ash wednesday (ironically) i bought protein!  how exciting!  is my life reduced to this – or defined by this. i guess we’ll see.

is yours?

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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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