Saturday, March 11, 2017

Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do

My parents were young adults during the Great Depression of 1929-30. For them the words "Use it up, wear it out, make it do" was more than a catchy phrase or casual mantra. It was a way of life that they carried with them each and every day until the end of their lives in the latter part of the 20th century.

In my growing up years, we were frugal long before the concept of living "green".
  • We re-used aluminum foil.
  • We saved the heels of loaves of bread to make our own bread crumbs.
  • We didn't purchase oil for frying--mom had a little pot sitting on the back of the stove into which she poured the grease that remained from frying bacon. (I still hold onto two of these three habits).
  • We drank water from the tap (not a plastic bottle).
  • Laundry was hung on the line to dry.
  • Diapers were washed, not used once and throw way.
  • We used a push lawn mower.
  • We had and knew how to use maps, not GPS.
  • We recycled milk, soda, and beer bottles.

Leftover Spaghetti Sauce

Too much to throw away. Not enough for even one serving of pasta. So, what do you do? I have a freezer container just for this purpose. Pour the that last little bit of sauce into the container and pop it into the freezer. Next time you have leftover spaghetti sauce, repeat, repeat, repeat. Spaghetti sauce stored in an air-tight container will last for a year at most, but at least 6 months.

Cooked Vegetables

One cooked carrot. A couple of parsnips. A handful of green beans. They could be tossed out (and usually are, right?) But why? Are they spoiled? Or are you just weary of them?

I save most (not all) of my vegetable leftovers. Yes, I toss out (into the compost pile) the sulfurous veggies such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, but the carrots, celery, and parsnips are saved in a zip-lock bag that stays in the freezer. They love being tossed into a pot of stew or vegetable soup.

Cheese Rinds

If the only cheese you consume is Velveeta or shredded cheese in a bag you can skip ahead to the next topic. However, if you occasionally purchase hard or semi-hard Italian cheeses (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino-Romano, etc.) then this is for you.

Although cheese rinds are difficult (if not impossible) to chew, they can be shredded on a micro-plane and used in any dish. But the rinds can also be saved in the freezer for use in soups, sauces, and chowders. Just toss chunks of rind into the pot as the mixture slowly simmers and, in a few hours, the rind will be smaller or perhaps disappear and the flavor of your dish will be enhanced. Remove and discard any leftover pieces before serving.

And they can also be used to make stock--yes, instead of chicken, beef, or fish you can use leftover cheese rinds to begin a flavorful stock. Here's how:
  • Simmer about 1/2 pound of hard cheese rinds in 8 cups of water for 3 to 4 hours. The resulting broth can be used in any soup or chowder typically flavored with cheese--for example potato, broccoli, or cauliflower.

Storing Cheese Rinds

  • To keep the rinds from molding or becoming harder, start a cheese rind bag in your freezer. Use a zip closure bag and toss in rinds as they become available. Cheese rinds will keep for up to a year in the freezer if stored in an airtight bag or container.

Rotisserie Chicken Leftovers

Our local grocery store (Safeway) features $5.00 Friday--for just 5 dollars you can purchase a whole chicken already seasoned, roasted, and ready to go home with you for dinner. And Costco has roast chickens for $4.99 every day. My frugal bones don't allow me to take advantage of even this offer very often. (My own version is shown below.)

However, if you find yourself in possession of an already-cooked chicken, and you have feasted from it's succulent thighs, legs and breast portions--what do you do with the leftovers? I'm going to assume that most of you toss them into the trash.

Here's another idea--place the leftover skin and bones into a medium-sized saucepan. Toss in a carrot, some celery (if you have it--if not, that's OK), and an onion. Add water to cover and then simmer for 3 or 4 hours.

What--you don't have that much time? Well, do you have a crock pot (i.e. slow cooker)? Store your rotisserie chicken scraps in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning place them, with the aforementioned veggies and water into your crock pot. Set the cooking level to low. Go to work, and when you come home you will have an amazing broth that you can use for soup.
Now, here's that do-it-yourself rotisserie chicken recipe that I promised (and you don't need a rotisserie!)
1 large whole chicken (about 5 to 6 pounds), washed and patted dry with paper towels
1 medium onion (leave it whole--just remove the dry papery skin)
2 tablespoons seasoning salt, or make your own with
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. celery salt
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Place onion in the cavity of the chicken.
  3. Liberally apply seasoning to all surfaces of the chicken.
  4. Place in oven-safe container.
  5. Don't add water!
  6. Allow chicken to cook for 5 hours (no peaking allowed!)
Yes, I know this sounds ridiculous--no cover and no water? Surely it will go up in flames, but I promise you that it won't. After 5 hours you will have the most succulent, moist, flavorful roast chicken.

Mashed Potatoes

Is there anything less inspiring that a bowl of cold mashed potatoes? My mom used to stir in an egg and some flour and cook mashed potato cakes. Mine never taste as good as Mom's. (Perhaps because I don't keep that little pot of leftover bacon grease on the back of my stove).

Here's a recipe for potato soup:


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dried parsley and shredded cheddar cheese for garnish


  1. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat, then add in onion. Cook until golden brown (almost caramelized)--10 minutes.
  2. Once the onions are golden add the all-purpose flour and mix well until the onions have been coated with the flour mixture. Add the whole milk and stir for one minute.
  3. Then add in the mashed potatoes, mixing until all the potatoes have broken up. Cook on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are smooth. Taste the soup and add salt and black pepper if desired.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with dried parsley, shredded cheddar cheese, and cracked black pepper.

Shrimp Shells

OK, by now you probably think I have completely lost my mind. Just humor me for a moment. Do you ever prepare clam chowder and need a bit of broth? Do you ever cook seafood risotto? You probably reach for a can or box of chicken broth, right? But, I assume you have heard of fish stock. Maybe you have even made it a time or two. Why not stock made from shrimp shells?

I save my shrimp shells in a zip-lock bag which I keep in the freezer. When the bag is full, I place the shells (still frozen) in a stock pot with onions, celery, and a carrot or two and then cover with water. Simmer for about 20 minutes then strain. You have a lovely seafood broth which you can use immediately, or store in the freezer.


  1. For sure, we were raised by the same types of parents. I have lived with leftovers my entire life and now, with an urban farm, I have more and more uses for leftovers. Ain't life grand?

  2. Bill, what some might view as a problem, I take on as a challenge i.e. how can I repurpose this?

  3. You're bringing back memories, Linda and appealing to many of my own habits. I make potato cakes from left over mashed potatoes, too. Mom always added a bit of onion powder to the egg and flour when she made them, so I do the same.

    I've never had mashed potatoes in potato soup. I use cubed potatoes. Interesting.

    When saving veggie discards, if I don't add them to my compost bin, I use them to make veggie stock. I'll remember to bag/freeze any whole veggies I might have left over.

    And I still keep a small container of old bacon grease in the fridge. I can't tell you when I last used it, because I try not to cook that way anymore, but it's still there in case I need it.

    1. Oh Shauna - Your comment about the bacon grease in the freezer made me laugh. Boy, does that reflect on our roots??!! Can't use it, but can't bear to toss it out. (What will our kids do after we die??).