It’s a great problem to have: a fridge brimming with leftovers, meats and produce leading up to vacation. But how do you empty it out without letting those perfectly good ingredients go to waste? To get ready for my trip, I went on a grocery-buying diet. I cut back my spending and I made a commitment use what I had on hand. (Psst! Here’s how long those leftovers will keep.) Follow along to learn tricks that will put more money in your pocket for that well-earned holiday.
1. Start with what’s in the freezer
If you’re like me, you probably have a bag (or two!) of frozen veggies on hand. Start with these as the base of your recipe and look for ways you can pair them with what else is in your fridge or pantry. Stir-fries and soups are go-to dishes for these shortcut ingredients because you can mix and match without worry. I was excited when I came across our recipe for Cantonese Sweet-and-Sour Pork in the slow cooker. All I had to buy for the dish was pork and pineapple! Instead of the peppers and mushrooms called for, I stirred in frozen peas and veggie stir-fry blend. This easy supper was a great way to use up my onions, rice and canned staples, too.
2. Don’t buy a loaf of bread, do this instead.
Taste of Home
Make your own! Though I felt time-squeezed leading up to vacation, I continued making my favorite bread-machine bread. Instead of spending $4 on a comparable loaf, I baked something that tastes better and has ingredients I own and understand. Also think about biscuit or cornbread mix you might have on hand, refrigerated crescent rolls, or even buying a couple dinner rolls from the bakery, rather than a full loaf of bread. Here’s 100 magnificent bread recipes to inspire the baker in you.
3. Take a crack at the spice rack.
Shutterstock / lilechik-h
Fresh herbs can really make a dish, but unfortunately they only last for a week or two. (Here’s how to store them the right way.) You don’t want to put money there when you’re going on a trip. Hence, say hello to dried parsley or basil instead of fresh (using 1/3 the amount called for). Or, brighten up a salad with the leftover cilantro you have on hand, rather than the mint called for.
4. Say buh-bye to your eating-on-the-go favorites.
Shutterstock / Olga Dubravina
My phone-it-in breakfast of choice is a breakfast bar and a fruit-flavored yogurt, eaten at my desk when I get to work. Once I ran out, though, I didn’t replace ’em. Before my trip, I ate up the big tub of plain yogurt I had on hand, turning it into parfaits with granola, berries, cereal and other miscellany from the pantry. I could’ve made my own granola bars, too…they’re easy and healthy, and they use ingredients you already have if you’re a baker. See how creative you can get! If hitting the drive-thru is your hurried meal of choice, you can save even more money than I did.
5. Go ahead and feed your freezer.
Pop those last-minute foods you didn’t finish in the freezer on your last day at home. That’s what I did with some yummy, simple, super affordable sloppy Joe fixings. The weary-traveler me was grateful to have a heat-and-eat meal on my first day back at home. If you can, tuck something easy in the freezer for your family, too. Your future self will thank you!
Waste not, want not. Here’s 19 surprising foods you can freeze.