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Something that a lot of us don’t always pay the most attention to is getting the most out of meals and supplies. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth our time and from a financial perspective, there are times when this actually has a ring of truth to it.
With the current state of affairs, a lot of us may need to start thinking of ways to be more frugal and less wasteful with the supplies we have on hand, especially when it comes down to food.
Although we have tried to develop good habits over the years, Matt and I have found ourselves being even more careful about using up leftovers and being creative with cooking.
We have chickens, cats, and dogs so even if something drops to the floor or there is a small amount of waste, we usually can use it to supplement the diet of our animals. In the case of chickens, they can recycle that potentially wasted food and parts that you don’t typically eat such as carrot tops and fruit cores, into delicious eggs, and hopefully in the spring, baby chicks.
Cook something delicious and basic and use the leftovers for other meals.
Some people really don’t like leftovers. Part of the reason for this is that some foods truly are better if they are eaten right after cooking. The key is to plan out meals so that you don’t have to experience this as much.
One example I can think of is soups and stews that have noodles in them. How many of us have cooked a big pot of minestrone soup or similar and went back and reheated it the next day to find that the noodles had disintegrated or at least became very mushy?
- Take your leftover plain rice and add your favorite dairy or nut milk to it. A handful of raisins and some sugar or honey added to the mix will make a wonderful hot cereal when heated.
- A whole chicken roasted in the oven can be turned into a week’s worth of delicious meals. Check out The Organic Prepper article “How To Make a Whole Week Of Dinners From One Chicken”.
- Leftover baked potatoes can be refrigerated and then shredded or cubed to make hashbrowns or home fries.
Twice Baked Potatoes
(Note: At the end of the recipe I have a casserole version of this recipe that uses boxed mashed potato flakes in case that is what you have on hand or you run out of potatoes from your pantry.)
This is a recipe that is inexpensive and delicious at the same time. My husband learned this recipe from his Mom and he cooked it for me and still does so regularly. It is also a great way to make use of leftover baked potatoes. Sometimes we will just cook a whole baking tray full of potatoes to use for many different dishes throughout the week. It saves on cooking fuel and makes it easy to cook a lot of wonderful meals.
To make twice baked potatoes you need the following:
Medium To Large Potatoes
The ingredients below can be added in any combination, depending on what you have on hand. If you have some leftover meat from another meal, then this is an excellent dish to make use of that!
Meat (Optional but adding it makes this dish a meal in itself)
Onions (This can be dried onions like chives or dehydrated onions or you can fry them up with meat)
A little milk, yogurt, or broth to cream some potato filling
To bake the potatoes, first, wash them well and place them on a baking sheet. Spritz or rub with oil. I like to use grapeseed oil for this. Salt the outside. Poke a few holes in the top of each with a knife or fork. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 F for 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the potato. Stick a toothpick, fork or similar into them to make sure they are soft in the middle.
Allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop out the inside as much as possible and put it in a stockpot or other small cooking pot. You want enough room to mix in any of the additional ingredients listed in the recipe above. You can also use a mixer if desired. That may be the way to go if you are doing these for a crowd.
Mash the scooped out potatoes or use a mixer to whip them with enough milk, yogurt, or broth to get them a consistency that you can scoop into potato skins. Add in any meat, cheese, veggies, etc. We usually shred cheese. You can also use powdered cheeses if that is what you have on hand.
Spoon your filling into the potato skins. Top with cheese if desired. Parmesan works well but you can also use any other type you would like.
Bake in a 350 F oven until the cheese starts to brown. Serve with sour cream, green onions, bacon, salsa or any other additional toppings you desire.
This is a very versatile recipe as you can see. There are countless combinations you can use for fillings and toppings. Think about what leftover veggies or meats you have and use them first.
Baked Potato Casserole Alternative If You Don’t Have Baking Potatoes
Make mashed potatoes from the dry boxed variety. Mix in any of the ingredients just as you would for the baked potato method above. Butter or oil a pan and spread mixture into it. Top with shredded cheese or dry Parmesan. You can sprinkle bacon crumbles on top too if you have them. Bake until cheese is as golden as you like it.
Put out smaller portions on plates. People can always go back for more. If you serve dinner in a serve-yourself manner, then have a discussion with everyone about this and encourage good habits.
Putting too much food on each person’s plate can result in waste. After all, no one is going to want to put what is left off of everyone’s plate back into the pot. If someone has a lot of leftovers on their plate then perhaps using a Tupperware and labeling it with their name so they can eat it for lunch the next day is a good idea? Just a few thoughts to prevent the age-old problem of too much on the plate sometimes.
Think about utilizing your spice rack more than usual.
Hopefully, you have a decent supply of spices on hand. If not, then now is the time order some. Check out my post on spices for preppers for some suggestions. Although people are stocking up on a lot of things right now, spices are not something I have seen anyone really mentioning.
All those beans and rice that people have on hand are going to taste a lot better and not result in bland cooking if spices are available. Beans and rice can be served a lot of different ways when you get right down to it.
Be honest about your caloric intake and what you really need.
I always gain weight in the winter. The struggle is real. Who doesn’t love to eat? During stressful times, many of us turn to food for comfort. I have a weakness for cheese and crackers, both of which are high-calorie foods. I have noticed myself consuming more cheese here lately.
The economic impacts of COVID-19 are starting to show a little bit. No one knows for sure just how bad all this is going to be. Now maybe a good time for all of us to consider cutting back a little on calories if we have a few pounds we would like to take off. Of course, caloric needs are going to vary based on activity level. If you are stuck at home due to a quarantine situation and not as physically active as a result, then adjusting your caloric intake can help your supplies last longer.
Evaluate what you have that needs to be used first. This means taking a peek in the fridge and cupboards every few days at least and planing out some meals based on what you have.
Plenty of people went through their preps to see what they had on hand and what they needed the minute it seemed that the COVID-19 virus might be what it turned out to be after all. It was a good opportunity to set aside older foods and supplies for use and buy newer supplies for later. Rotating your food reduces waste no matter if you are talking about the fresher foods or those intended for longer-term storage.
Use this time to create new recipes.
Great recipes have to start somewhere and there is no reason why you cannot come up with some good combinations for yourself and your family. First, consider some of the basic flavors and styles of food that everyone finds enjoyable. Does everyone like spicy foods? Are there some family members that like sweets a lot?
Just taking 10 minutes in your kitchen, staring at what you have on hand can sometimes lead to some ideas.
Learn to bake your own bread, crackers, pastries, etc.
New cooks and bakers may be amazed to see just how basic some of the ingredients are in their favorite foods. For example, your favorite saltine cracker is likely just flour, water, and salt. The magic is in the method. Crackers are one of those convenience foods that most of us really enjoy but don’t realize that we are spending more than meat in some cases. Yep, if you are paying $3.00 for a box of snack crackers, that means you are paying an outstanding $12.00 an lb.
Now consider all that flour you have laying around. Before it gets bugs in it or sets open to long, there is no reason to not bake it up into something delicious.
Here are a few links to help out.
When my Dad and I discovered our inability to digest most wheat, we had to build up our preps again. Also when you get into your preps you may find food that is past its prime.
At one point we had a lot of food put back that suddenly my Dad and I could not eat. Since prepping means building up a supply over time, I bet there are more than a few folks reading this that put back foods only to have their doctor tell them a few years down the road that they shouldn’t eat some things or they discovered they were sensitive on their own like in our case.
Before you go throwing out food that you can no longer eat, consider how to repurpose it.
For example, Matt can eat regular wheat just fine so there may be times when he needs to eat some of those foods. Yes, that means cooking some foods separately but that is better than throwing things out.
Something else you need to consider is if any of your animals can safely eat foods that seem stale or that you nor anyone in your family can eat. Egg noodles are something I wouldn’t have a problem feeding my dog. Peanut butter that is past its prime is fine for our chickens. I do caution you to look at the ingredients carefully before feeding anything to animals. Some artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and some whole foods may be toxic as well. Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs for example.
I also want you to keep in mind that people have survived eating some pretty awful things during a real SHTF scenario. Selco talks about doing this in the Balkan Wars.
Flour that is stale may not be what you want to eat but if you have some spices you can cover that up.
You may also want to consider making some hardtack and adding a few spices. Once hardtack is made, if moisture is kept out of it, the shelf life is decades. Check out my article on how to make hardtack and crackers. This is a good way to use up older flour that is in your preps that you cannot eat soon enough. Better to make it into something now rather than wait. Hardtack will preserve the calories you have stored in flour for a very long time and it is really easy to make.
Don’t forget to store your food to avoid loss due to insects, water damage, etc.
A lot of you already know the importance of proper storage of long term foods but something that I have been thinking about as I add items to my kitchen is the storage of foods that are not in very long term storage as well. For example, is why flour placed so that if there is a water leak or I am clumsy and spill a gallon of something that it will get soaked and ruined?
A bag of flour is a lot of calories to lose during a long emergency. Can my cat get in the cupboard and cause trouble? These are serious questions to ask. My dogs and cats know better and we make sure to close cabinet doors but you get my point.
Those that are new to the world of prepping need to at least throw foods for long term storage into plastic totes or containers that are rodent-proof or at least put up somewhere in your house where the risk is low. If you have a few hundred pounds of rice in bags sitting on your garage floor and leave it that way, don’t be surprised when something gets into it or bags get punctured.
A Note on Bottled Water Hoarding
I am seeing a ton of people panic buying bottled water. Hey, I get that water is important. In fact, I often say that it is the first line of survival.
I can understand having a few cases of bottled water but beyond that, I have to say that I think your money would be better spent on a good gravity-fed water filter set up and some storage containers.
Another benefit is that you might have more money and space for food storage and you will be ready for future events where you will need an emergency water supply.
Even if your fear is that your water is going to be shut off, you are still going to come out ahead even if you just buy a bunch of collapsible containers and fill them up now just in case. I still think you should get a gravity-fed water filter set up though just in case water supplies become contaminated. Plenty of places regularly have boil water advisories when lines break and such.
The link above shows some gravity-fed filter options. Remember that the Sawyer Mini can be used with a hydration bag in line as well. The Sawyer is under $20 at this time.
Please add your own tips for getting the most out of your food supply in the comments below so we can all learn together!