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Use It Up at Food Stamps Cooking Club

January 24th, 2013

Dear Club Members:
I am so excited I can scarcely breathe! One of my favorite bloggers-I have many of those-graciously agreed to give us a Guest Post and today’s the day! Pamela, of Feral Homemaking: offers us these thoughts.


I use things up, all the way up, because I’m a hedonist. It sounds counterintuitive, but it isn’t.

If I enjoy something, I want to enjoy every single thing it can offer me. I want to get as much use and pleasure out of it as I can. I don’t want to go through a hundred of them and leave a trail of peelings, ends and sad leftovers that are left to rot. I want to savor every single bit of it. That’s a big reason why I use things up completely—the other reasons are ecological (I don’t want to use more resources than I need) and financial (I like frugality). One area where I really focus on this is food. You can use this principal with anything—crafts, scraps and leavings from projects, old containers, etc., but I am all thumbs when it comes to crafts and I am terrified of ending up on the TV show Hoarders. So food and cooking it is.

Don’t get me wrong–I have made all kinds of flubs in my quest for low-cost, delicious cooking and general frugality. Everyone’s mileage varies, of course, but being a single woman, some of the stuff that works for large families may not work for me, and some things that I would have discounted actually ended up being quite useful. One things that really helps is making and using less. I have found that making smaller servings than I used to make really helps since I tend to make too much and then have a lot leftover. If I’m still hungry, I can reach for something else—maybe, if I had a little meat and some vegetable and rice, I can have some salad or a piece of fruit or yogurt. Often, however, I find that I’m actually full on the smaller serving I prepared for myself.

Buying in bulk is nice, if you are going to a) eat what you’ve bought before it goes off or b) remember that you even have it. (I have had many mold gardens in my fridge because I bought in bulk and never used it.) It’s way too easy to buy things because they are a good deal and then let them get freezer burn or gather dust in the back of your pantry. I’ve seen people suggest that you make up a list of what you have and then base your shopping decisions on that. I’m not nearly that organized. What I do is basically this:

Buy only what I need

Use it up completel

By “use it up completely” I mean just that. I don’t just mean, “Hey, I have some leftover vegetables, I’ll put them in a container with other leftover vegetables for a soup or stew,” though that is a good idea. Here’s an example:


1) Soak the beans you want to cook

2) Save the water to water your plants (yes, you’re not using the water directly, but plants get thirsty, you’re not wasting water, and they may have some of the nutrients from the dried beans now.

VEGETABLES (fresh or frozen)

1) I cook them on the stove in water. When I drain it, I save the water it cooked in and save the water in a container of vegetable stock.

2) I eat the vegetables

3) If there is any leftover, I either put it in the fridge for my omelet/scrambled eggs the next morning (depending on the vegetable), or I put it in a container in the freezer for soup/stews or things like stir fries or fried rice.

4) I plan to make the soup/stew and make some homemade bread to eat with it. It’s especially nice on a cold winter day.


1) Cook the meat and eat it.

2) If it was bone in, take the leftover pieces, cut the meat from the bones for another use, and make stock with the bones (this is especially good for roasts, but it works for any bone-in meat.)

3) Use the leftover pieces in soups, casseroles, or sandwiches, or as an added bit of protein to salads.

4) If there are several meat pieces with the bone in and leftover vegetables, you’ve basically got soup right there.

FRESH VEGETABLES—I don’t compost ends and scraps right away (and I wasn’t always in a situation where composting was doable). This is what I do:

1) Peel and slice the vegetables.

2) Save the ends and skin (if the skin is edible) in a freezer container for stock. Do the same thing with tough stems.

3) Use those ends, tough stems, and peelings to make stock.

4) If I have fresh herbs from my garden or that I got at a good price, I save the stems and add those to the container for stock. Flavor—stock is for flavor. So I am not shy with herbs.

5) Preserve the stock—either pressure can it, or freeze it in one to two cup servings, or freeze in ice cube trays for when you need a small amount of water to thin out a soup or add to something—this will add flavor. Once they are frozen, pop them out of the trays and put them in a clearly labeled freezer bag.


Once bread starts to go stale*, I’m so tempted to trash it. But I don’t. I do one of the following:

1) Cut into squares, toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and mixed dried herbs, and toast in the oven at 350 degrees (turning over once or twice) until they are crisp for croutons

2) Grating them for breadcrumbs and storing them in the freezer

3) Chop roughly and use for a strata or bread pudding

*It’s very rare for bread to go off in my house as I love bread, and I bake my own. It’s a big downfall of mine.

I do my best to do root to stem cooking. Many parts of the vegetable are edible, not just the parts that we’re used to eating. Green leafy carrot tops are edible and quite delicious. They are a tasty addition to fried rice. You can pickle watermelon rind, or peel off the hard, green outer skin and chop up the rind for salads. You can use the leaves of a tomato plant to steep in a sauce, soup or stock for a few minutes to add flavor (don’t eat it, though, they aren’t good for you to eat). You can eat broccoli stalks—if you slice off the tough outer peel, you’ll find the stalks themselves are quite sweet and tender. Don’t want to steam them to eat? Slice them into matchsticks for a snack with hummus or dip, or as part of a crunchy salad or slaw. Got fresh radishes, beets, or turnips? Those greens on top are edible. Now, I don’t relish a big plate of radish greens, but chopped up finely and thrown into a soup they do just fine. (I do like steamed or sautéed beet greens and turnip greens, but they are also pretty good in a soup.) If you get a stalk of Brussels sprouts, you can actually cook the leaves. Celery leaves are a great garnish or substitute for fresh parsley. Potato peels? If they are thick peels from Russet potatoes, they are good roasted until crisp, with a little olive oil and rosemary. Or save them for stock. Otherwise, if they are thinner skinned potatoes, I tend to leave the skin on and scrub them very well as there are a lot of nutrients in the skin.

One thing I will buy a lot of if I’m out: lemons and limes. I take what I need for the day, slice the rest (or in the case of limes, cut into quarters) and freeze. They are very nice in cold drinks. If I squeeze the juice out of one, I save the rind in the freezer (in a bag with other fruit peelings). Then, if I want to liven up my place, I put a handful of the peelings, half a cinnamon stick, a clove, and maybe another aromatic herb or two in a mini-dipper crockpot, potpourri pot, or on a small pan on the stove and let it simmer all day. It makes your place smell nice and it won’t irritate your sinuses or leave a film of candle soot on your walls.


Oh, Pamela! What great ideas you have offered us! Those who use EBT cards from SNAP or WIC will get so many fresh notions for s t r e t c h i n g their food dollars! Those who have food commodities or get things from a food bank or food pantry will have a fresh take on frugality, as well. Those who are living on a dime may already do these things but it’s always good to hear from people who are like minded!

To those Members of the Food Stamps Cooking Club, please cruise over to Pamela’s adorable blog and leave her some love, won’t you? Her blog is found here:…I am so sorry WordPress will not allow me to insert a link for this…boohoo…

We are thrilled to welcome new Members again today! Send your thoughts to us at – You are welcome to leave a comment in the comment panel here, as well.

Thank you again, Pamela!

Connie Baum
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