Years ago, as a stay-at-home, I needed to stretch every dollar in order to justify eliminating our 2nd income. Other than avoiding the cost of 2 young children in daycare, I also needed to come up with other ways to save money. The first thing that bothered me was how much wasted food I threw away. The kids weren’t big eaters so I’d end up with leftovers in the pan. Never enough for lunch the next day, but more than a mere tablespoon. It made me cringe to scrape that food into the garbage. I went to bed one night, running this through my head over and over until I finally fell asleep. By morning, my brain had worked overtime and come up with a possible solution.
I dug out a large, square food storage container and that night when the inevitable 1/2 cup of veggies, rice, beans, chicken, or pasta remained uneaten, it went into the container and then into the freezer. Every night I added more leftovers to the same food container.
After a couple of weeks I thawed the container and dropped it all into a stock pot, added chicken stock or beef bouillon cubes, herb/spices, a pat of butter, and water. In the winter time I used to let this simmer on the woodstove all day. But otherwise, I’d simmer it for about an hour or in a crockpot all afternoon. This would produce the most flavorful soup! I’d serve it with a good, hefty bread and dinner was done. If I wanted something more hardy I’d make a roux (look below for explanation) and slowly add the soup to the roux, making it into a rich, creamy stew. Leftovers of the soup/stew would be eaten for lunch the next day.
This is something I still do today. Twice a month we eat a meal made of what would otherwise be, wasted food. This is what I call my “Stock Pot Night” and we’ve come to enjoy the variations it creates. Just season it to compliment the ingredients in your stock pot and it produces a great dinner. Remember, this is almost like a free meal. FREE food always seems to taste better!
*Roux is a thickener for sauces and soups that combines equal parts flour and butter.
To make a basic roux, use equal weights of fat and flour. Four ounces of fat and four ounces of flour equal about 8 ounces of roux (moisture will evaporate). If you don’t own a kitchen scale, one tablespoon of flour equals about ¼ ounce. One tablespoon butter = ½ ounce. Butter is the most commonly used form of fat; other fats can be used, but will have a different flavor. Melt the butter over medium heat; slowly add the flour to the butter, whisking constantly. Within 2 to 3 minutes the roux will have a consistency of a cake frosting. A white roux is done when the flour loses its “raw” smell and begins to develop a toasty aroma. Darker roux are cooked, stirring constantly, until the desired color. If you’re not adding liquid, immediately remove the pan from the heat and transfer the roux to another container to cool. Be very careful: the hot fat-flour mixture can cause painful burns. Refrigerated or frozen roux will keep well for up to two months and can be added directly to soups or sauces for quick thickening.