I love making meals out of the odds and ends leftover in my pantry and crevices of my kitchen. It not only makes me feel very creative, but it also lets me know that I’m making the most use of every dollar I spend. Sometimes we don’t think about how much it adds up when throw food out. A quarter of a can of beans here, half a box of pasta there, a few tomatoes here, a little chicken broth there. Suddenly you just threw $10 in the trash can. Would you ever literally throw $10 in the trash can? No way. It would make your stomach drop. And yet, we throw our dollars away when we throw out small bits of food, all because we aren’t quite sure what to do with them. Naturally, you don’t want to eat foods that have gone bad, but if they’re still in good shape, just get creative and try some of these odds and ends recipes.
This cowboy salsa
If you have a can of black beans, a can of corn kernels, and either fresh tomatoes or canned tomato chunks, you can make this salsa. Mix them up, equal parts, add some chopped green onion, olive oil, a little lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper, and you have a hearty salsa that boasts protein and fiber. Put it on an omelet or eat it with chips (really any chips you have.)
Put your eggs on it
Have one or two random eggs left you don’t know what to do with? Put a fried egg on your burger. Or on top of that frozen pizza. Or over your bowl of ramen. Or over your tostada, for a breakfast variety. One fried egg tastes good on a lot of foods, and gives you a protein boost.
If you have a can or jar of black olives, a can of tuna, cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, or cheddar all work here), and some pasta, you can make a great dish. Just put these items together, and add some crushed chili flakes, salt, and pepper.
Gourmet frozen veggie burger
Have some frozen veggie burgers lying around that don’t look that enticing? You probably have some pantry and fridge items to dress them up. Add some pickled jalapenos from that abandoned jar in the fridge. Put a (you guessed it) fried egg on top. What about that parmesan cheese packets in your drawer? Sprinkle those over it. If you don’t have buns, you can lettuce-wrap it, but if you’re all done with cutting carbs, you can use an English muffin or some of that frozen sliced bread in the freezer.
If you have eggs and either heavy cream or whole milk, you can make a frittata with just about anything. You can do a seafood one with either canned tuna, anchovies, or smoked salmon. Or you can go on the pork side by using dried salami (cut up in cubes), pancetta, or ham. Just about any veggie you have will taste good in there. Feta, goat cheese, or parmesan are good additions, too.
A deconstructed salad
Rethink the way you look at salads. Rather than thinking you need lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, think more of mezza platters. Grilled zucchini, eggplant, and sundried tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper can be your salad. Or, if you just have a few leaves of romaine left, make a bed at the bottom of your plate with those and top them with tuna salad.
Don’t have pesto or marina around for a hot pasta dish? You can always make pasta salad. Cold pasta with fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and cubed up salami is always tasty. Add a bit of lemon juice and olive oil to brighten it up.
This minimalist stir fry
You probably have these things somewhere in the kitchen: soy sauce packets from delivery orders, dry pasta, and frozen veggies. So you have a stir fry. If you have eggs, you can add scrambled, chopped eggs for protein. Or, if you have any frozen seafood you’ve been meaning to get to, like frozen shrimp or scallops, throw those in there.
Hearty rice pilaf
If you have cans of chicken stock or broth and some rice, you can make a pilaf. Chop up whatever miscellaneous veggies you have in the fridge and throw them in there. Top it off with pancetta or a fried egg for some protein.
The mismatched veggie soup
Don’t throw out the handfuls of several veggies you have left. In a big pot, sauté onions, garlic, and all your chopped veggies until semi soft. Then add your canned chicken broth, half a jar of tomato sauce or a handful of chopped fresh tomatoes. Season to your liking. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add any pasta you have for the last four minutes. You have a veggie noodle soup.
Put it in a taco
Have some protein you don’t know what to do with and some tortillas? You have tacos. Grill up that frozen shrimp, warm up those beans, chop up that bit of leftover steak and dark chicken meat. You likely have some hot sauce in the fridge, if not salsa packets in a drawer. If you have any lettuce, tomatoes, or beans, add those.
Glorified potato skins
Have a bag of potatoes just lying around? Slice them in half, bake them, scoop out the insides, and fill them with feta cheese, black beans, and green onions. Or tuna and cheddar cheese. Or shredded chicken or pork, sour cream, and chives.
If you have one egg and some pancake mix, you’re ready to make savory pancakes. Throw some chopped bacon and cheddar in the batter. Or, how about sliced mushrooms and feta. Diced zucchini and pancetta is tasty, too.
If you have an odd amount of ravioli left and some chicken broth, you can make “dumpling” soup. Cook up your ravioli, heat up your broth, and combine the two. You can add miscellaneous veggies, too.
Chickpeas and greens
You can do a lot with that can of chickpeas that’s just been sitting in your pantry. Saute kale, add your warmed chickpeas, and toss it all with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Or dump the chickpeas into your veggie soup for some protein. Blend it up with lemon juice and salt and pepper to make hummus, and spread that in your big flour tortillas to make wraps.