Help win the cost-cutting lottery



Leftover vegetables — whole, chopped or pureed — combined with cost-saving evaporated milk, water and spices, make great, stick-to-your-ribs soup that stretches the food budget.


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If your leftover chili is not enough for another meal on its own, use it as a filling for an inexpensive omelet meal.


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Whether filled with leftover chili or other meat, leftover vegetables or just some cheese, omelets are a quick, inexpensive meal anytime of year.

Everyone is busy these days and everyone wants to save money when and where they can.

It is not a new story — during the Great Depression people were busy doing as many jobs as they could to get by and scrimping and saving at every turn; once the U.S. entered World War II, when the men went to fight, the women went to work and had to contend with rationing as well.

One of the old cookbooks in my collection was published in 1942, which means it was most likely written before our entry into World War II and the U.S. population was still dealing with the remnants of the Great Depression.

It had a segment called “Holding Down the Soaring Food Budget” and among the suggestions listed:

• Plan meals ahead. If a special treat makes cost mount one day, plan to use more thrifty dishes the next day.

• Make good use of your oven and save fuel by planning to cook some other dish for the same meal, or a dish for the next day’s meal when you are baking.

• Save fuel by using a Dutch oven or deep, covered skillet.

• Keep a daily check on your refrigerator and use up leftovers as soon as possible.

Another item in the book was “Make Pennies Count in Marketing” and offered these tips:

• Buy evaporated milk for at least part of your cooking. You get the same food value at quite a bit less cost.

• If you buy butcher-cut meat, take the trimmings and bones and simmer them with soup greens for vegetable soup.

• Check labels as to the number of servings, that way you will buy what you need.

• Compare prices of canned, quick-frozen and fresh vegetables and fruits. The canned or frozen ones are often cheaper and take less time, effort and fuel to prepare.

• The cost of fuel (whether gas or electricity) is part of your food cost. When an otherwise inexpensive dish requires a long cooking time, your saving is decreased considerably.

• A pressure cooker greatly reduces the cooking time needed for less tender meats, saving fuel and vitamins, in addition to making it possible to save money on the meat.

• If your main dish is to be baked, you can often save fuel by choosing a dessert that bakes at the same temperature, or by baking a dish to be served cold at the next meal or the next day.

This old book devoted an entire chapter to using leftovers, though it was only about a page and a quarter in length. Here were suggestions made for leftovers in 1942:

Careful checking of the amounts of ingredients called for in recipes will help keep leftovers at a minimum.

However, if you do have leftovers, they can be put to a variety of uses.

Cold, cooked vegetables can be put in salads. Sieved or unsieved vegetables, together with reserved vegetable water (and that evaporated milk) can be made into cream of vegetable soup.

Combine with other vegetables for a complete dish, such as onions and peas; string beans and carrots; lima beans with cooked, shredded cabbage; peas and mashed turnips, etc. Put leftover stewed tomatoes into soups, gravies or casseroles. Leftover vegetables can also be revamped and served creamed or scalloped.

Cooked fish can be put in salads, creamed or scalloped.

Leftover fruit can also go into salad, combined with other fruit to make a fruit cup or served with custard sauce.

Reserve the juice from canned fruit and use it over raw fruit or in a fruit cup. It can also be used for part of the water in recipes for dessert sauces such as Vanilla Sauce and Lemon Sauce.

Leftover cooked cereal can be molded into a cylinder (use a greased tumbler), chilled well, released from the container and then sliced and sauteed into fried mush that can be used instead of potatoes with sausage or bacon for lunch.

Don’t throw out stale cake, if it has frosting, remove the frosting or slice it and make the frosting the filling between slices and top with custard sauce.

Soup is a time-honored answer for what to do with leftovers.

Half a head of cabbage, a lone zucchini, some leftover green beans and a less-than-fresh carrot can be chopped up, paired with canned tomatoes and white beans for minestrone.

Make it heartier with leftover rice or pasta and top it with that last bit of Parmesan cheese.

Have some rock-hard raisins that didn’t make it into the Christmas goodies you baked?

Don’t toss them, soak them in warm water to revitalize and then combine them with horseradish, chopped celery and chopped apple to create a salsa to accompany pork chops.

A third-cup of tomato paste and two-thirds cup of water can be used in place of tomato sauce.

Leftover meat and a mix of vegetables can be mixed into eggs to create a hearty omelet.

Chili Omelet

4 teaspoons canola oil, divided

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 teaspoons ground chili powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 cup reduced-sodium tomato sauce

2 large eggs

4 large egg whites

1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (Parmesan or Jarlsberg can be used instead)

In heavy medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and peppers until soft and start to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add salt and pepper, garlic, chili powder and oregano and cook 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to bowl and set aside.

Add 2 teaspoons of oil to pan. Add ground beef and brown until done, 5 to 6 minutes.

Return vegetables to pan. Add tomato sauce and cook until meat mixture is almost dry, 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl and set aside. Rinse out and dry skillet.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, egg whites, salt and pepper until well combined. Return skillet to heat and add remaining 1 teaspoon of oil. Add eggs and cook on medium-low until bottom and sides are set, but center is liquid, 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon chili over eggs, covering eggs, and cook — covered — until eggs are almost set, 4 to 6 minutes.

Sprinkle cheese over omelet and cover pan until cheese melts. Let sit 5 minutes. Cut omelet into 4 wedges before serving.

Cream of Vegetable Soup

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

3 to 4 tablespoons minced onion

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk (or 1-1/2 cups evaporated milk and 1-1/2 cups water)

1 cup vegetable water or milk or 50-50 mix of both

2 teaspoons salt

Dash of pepper

1-1/2 cups finely chopped, sieved leftover cooked or canned vegetables

1/2 teaspoon thick meat sauce (A-1 or similar)


Melt butter in a double boiler. Add the onion and cook over direct heat until tender. Add flour, stir smooth, then add the milk and vegetable water and cook over boiling water until smooth and thickened. Add seasonings, vegetables and condiment sauce. Heat and then serve.

Fried Mush

Pour cooked corn meal, oatmeal or other finely ground cooked cereal into a loaf pan, which has been rinsed with cold water. Cover and chill until firm. Turn out of pan and cut in quarter-inch slices, dip in flour and then sauté in oil or bacon fat until crisp and browned on all sides. Serve hot with butter and molasses, honey, syrup or jelly. Or serve instead of potatoes with sausages, bacon, ham, etc. for lunch.

Vanilla Sauce

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups boiling water (or portion of reserved fruit syrup or juice)

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Dash nutmeg

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan. Add the boiling water/juice gradually, stirring constantly. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes or until clear and thickened, while stirring constantly. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Serve hot over fruit, cake, pudding, etc.

To make Lemon Sauce, use 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind and 6 tablespoons lemon juice instead of vanilla.


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