While you’re hunting through your fridge and pantry looking for a creative way to use last night’s leftovers, don’t forget to incorporate some of the longer-lasting — but still perishable — staples there.
Frugal Foodie’s fridge has four different kinds of mustard, a dozen jams and a dozen more sauces, plus countless other condiments. Admittedly, such goods are probably a very small slice of the 25 percent of purchased food that the average household wastes, but if you don’t make an effort to incorporate them more into your cooking, you’ll lose shelf space in the short term and money in the long term as they all go bad.
Using them creatively doesn’t require doing anything too weird with your dishes, either. Linsey Knerl of 1099 Mom makes meatloaf. Meatloaf topped with brown sugar and fridge-lingering ketchup. Meatloaf with fridge-lingering BBQ sauce or a concoction of mustard and honey mixed into the meat. Meatloaf with fridge-lingering fruit jam as a glaze. “It kicks up the standard meatloaf up a notch,” she says.
Here’s how to creatively use items that might otherwise stick around for years and reclaim some precious real estate in your fridge:
- -New York dietician Lisa C. Cohn make a glaze for chicken or other meat by mixing ketchup, BBQ sauce, horseradish, and jam or jelly to taste. Then bake, grill or stir-fry, she says.
- -“Use BBQ sauce instead of red sauce,” says Clori Rose-Geiger, co-owner of Mia’s Pizza and Eats http://www.miaspizzaandeats.com/ in Cumming, Ga. Top fresh dough from the supermarket or a local pizzeria with the sauce, and add fresh mozzarella, red onions and leftover diced cooked chicken breast. Bake on a pizza stone at 450 degrees.
- Chop and add to an omelet with sautéed mushrooms and onions, Cohn suggests.
- -Turn into chutney. Janet DeGras of Mosaic Kitchen Project recommends mixing a tablespoon of your choice of jam with an eighth of a teaspoon garam masala, and eighth of a teaspoon mustard seed and a teaspoon ketchup.
- -Make leftover muffins. The forthcoming Cooking With Trader Joe’s: Pack a Lunch! has this recipe for Jammin’ Ricotta Bites, which co-author Deana Gunn shared: Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter or lightly oil a 12-cup mini muffin pan. In a medium bowl, mix a half-cup low-fat milk and two small beaten eggs together. Set aside. Cut stale sandwich bread into bite-sized pieces, about a cup, and place into the muffin cups to fill three-quarters full. Lightly compact it with your fingers. Add a half-teaspoon ricotta or cream cheese to each muffin cup, and then pour the egg mixture on top. Top each muffin with a half-teaspoon jam. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes.
- -“Douse chicken with orange jam and bake it and it makes for a tasty treat,” says MintLife reader and avid home chef Saretta Holler Brown.
- -Whisk into vinaigrette, smoothies, marinades and cocktails to add flavor.
- -Add horseradish — another fridge-lingering food – to make a cocktail sauce for fish, shrimp or chicken, says nutritional coach Joanna Chodorowska.
- -Use as a substitute for tomato sauce or paste, in small quantities. Chodorowska pulled this trick recently in a recipe for braised cabbage with caraway seeds, without a noticeable difference.
- -Anne Maxfield of The Accidental Locavore suggests a quick vinaigrette. “Because it’s so simple, this is a good excuse to use all the fancy olive oil, sea salt, etc., that you’ve been holding on to,” she says. You can even make it right in the mustard jar, if there isn’t much left. Mix a tablespoon of mustard with one-quarter cup olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
- -Turn into a glaze by mixing with honey, says Cohn.
- -Mix into tuna salad as a substitute for mayonnaise, says Holler Brown.
- -Make a marinade. Maxfield uses three tablespoons of mustard, a quarter-cup olive oil, the zest of one lemon and its juice, a quarter-cup balsamic vinegar, two chopped cloves of garlic, two tablespoons chopped herbs (she likes tarragon and rosemary) and salt and pepper to taste.
- -Chop them into salad, Cohn says.
- -Cohn also mixes chopped pickles with leftover jarred red peppers for a homemade relish.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her via Twitter @MintFoodie.