I get enormous satisfaction from making my food and cooking stretch further than might initially be thought possible.  There’s nothing I like more, with our tight budget, than when I can pull together an extra meal for the four of us from bits and pieces I have left over.  Mr Good would probably look at what’s left in the pot and see nothing more than scraps for the dog or the meat left over from a roast as just a mid morning snack.  Instead I look at it and think I could add a bit of this or that and have a whole extra night’s dinner.  In a way it’s a fun challenge to see just how much I can get out of what’s in the fridge and pantry (this perhaps suggests I need a better hobby, but hey it’s working for me at the moment).  This kind of thing sure makes a difference to my grocery bill and also to how frequently I have to go to the shops (that in itself helps save money).  This is also why I love Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie cookbook which is built around this very premise.  For those on a tight budget it’s worth having a look at.

So I thought I would share some recent meals that have appeared out of not too much at all, but have been satisfying and healthy.

I made this slow cooker lamb chop casserole a little while ago, but I only had about 600g of lamb chops.  I upped the veggie content a bit instead of cutting back on everything to match what I had in meat.  This was fine when I served it first time around.  Everyone got a decent amount of meat and the sauce was so tasty.  But when I went to put the rest in the freezer I realised there was only ONE chop left in the dish.  So how do you stretch one lamb chop between four people?  Pull all the meat off the bone, shred it up, return it to the sauce and veggies and heat it up again.  Serve this over pasta and voila, a delicious, satisfying and healthy dinner.  Actually the kids preferred this to the first time they had it, but that’s because their pasta mad.  I was possibly a little too proud of myself after this effort, Mr Good started to think I had lost my mind a little…. perhaps he’s right.

As much as I have tried to reign in the food bills, I still prefer to buy meat that is high quality and ethical.  So I do this, recently ordering a bulk lot of free range chicken from Milawa Free Range Poulty, and then make sure I get the most out of it.  In this order I got two size 17 whole chickens.  I roasted one up on Saturday which we had with roasted potatoes, sweet potato and carrots as well as some peas and of course gravy.


I had 300g of meat left over which I stripped from the carcass.  If you have a look at the Save with Jamie book you’ll soon realise this is enough for two more dinners.  200g of that meat went into a pie.  I sauted a diced onion, carrots and celery in a little olive oil until soft.  Then I added a handful of button mushrooms halved and sliced and cooked these a little.  Lastly I added the left over peas and potatoes (which I diced up) and a couple of spoonfuls of the gravy that was also left over from the roast.  The gravy gives the sauce such a delicious flavour from the roast.  It did need a bit more sauce so I added a little home made chicken stock and some flour to thicken it a little.  Once the filling is cooked and the sauce thickened, pour it into a pie dish, top with a sheet of pastry (or make your own) and bake at 180 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until golden.

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Instead of making this filling into a pie you could turn it into a chicken and vegetable lasagna or a simple casserole served with mash or dumplings, all suggested in Jamie’s book.  I’ll try one of those next time…. as long as I can resist the yummy pastry goodness of a pie.

While I was preparing the pie filling, I roasted the chicken bones and carcass and then added them to the slow cooker with some scraps of vegetables (onion and carrot peelings and ends, the ends of a zucchini, some celery tops etc), parsley, pepper corns and a little salt with lots of water.  Cook on low for at least 8 hours and you have a very tasty stock.  This is going to be turned into chicken alphabet soup after Easter as well.

So from one whole chicken we will have had three dinners for four.  Oh it makes me so happy.  Am I alone on this front?  Tell me how you stretch your food or work your magic to turn water into wine, so to speak.

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5 Responses to

  1. narf77 says:

    I love it! As Steve is the only meat eater in our house (of 2) aside from the steak quaffing dogs, stretching the meat budget isn’t all that hard and he loves my vegan experimental meals as much as his meat most of the time so we are good to go on the savings. Growing our own veggies (finally 😉 ) and making things from scratch (where possible and where it isn’t, trying to find good substitutes that we can) and working with simple basic paddock to plate ingredients keeps the cost down. Trying to work out if keeping chooks can be justified at the moment. We are paying $123 a month for chook food for our guzzling lot and only 1 of them is laying so we are getting a princely sum of 2 dozen eggs a month…even in layman’s terms you have to admit they are VERY EXPENSIVE EGGS! 😉 Maybe time to process some of those young (seed guzzling) roosters methinks!

  2. I love stretching chicken meat a long way too. As we process our own chickens for meat I feel the extra obligation to not waste a scrap of meat from them. Like you, there’s a roast or whole chook meal meat is peeled from the bones and does between 2-3 risottos then the carcass with some ACV also goes in the pot on top of the wood stove for 24 hours to extract maximum goodness. Their feet are also frozen when we process them for when I next have the time to peel them and chop off claws and spurs and then they too go in the stock pot with water and a little apple cider vinegar and onto the wood stove for 24 hours. The feet make a super gelatinous stock full of all the extra goodness. Tastes bland but it’s great to add to the rest of the chook stock. I freeze my stock until I get a decent uantity and then I pressure can it. I add the stock to casseroles, risotto, soups and love that each chook provides for up to 8 meals (with the stock).
    Thanks for the 1 eftover chop recipe. I have 1 in the fridge languishing with veggies and I have a pack of GF pasta. Dinner is sorted. Thank you! 😀

  3. Jenny Pearson says:

    Hi Barbara, almost right up my alley!!! You have covered almost everything I would do, what a clever and frugal person you are, and cooking from scratch is nearly always the cheapest way, not to mention controlling the ingredients. Leftover chicken here is used in sandwiches, chicken and almonds (I believe a favourite of yours) and a delicious pasta recipe, chicken cheesy pasta. Leftover chicken chopped, broccoli, spring onions, one slice of bacon, a nice cheese sauce, and of course spiral pasta. Cook pasta in the usual way, adding the broccoli for the last five minutes. Fry the chopped bacon and 2-3 chopped spring onions, add this to the drained pasta/broccoli and toss the chopped cooked chicken through, together with a delicious cheese sauce. Put all of this in an oven proof dish, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake 20 minutes or until nicely bubbling, then enjoy!!! The carcass, like you, I turn into stock. Leftover beef/lamb casserole I turn into one big pie or individual pies, depending on the quantity left, I have also done the same with leftover pasta sauce, if not enough for another meal, just thicken it a little first. You do so well Barbara, and, like you, I get a great deal of satisfaction out of making my dollars and food stretch soooooo far.

  4. fergie51 says:

    I always remember a quote our home eco teacher made one day which we were shocked and quite horrified at, “Don’t waste all that meat girls, I scrape my fingernails over every bone on the carcass and you’d be amazed at how much more you find”. I still to this day think of her when making sure I’ve cleaned all the meat from the bones and this post reminded me of her (in a good way 🙂 ). So true, when you are conscious of stretching every bit, your great creative skills come into play. Love the look of that pie!

  5. great post – who can resist that pastry deliciousness indeed?
    i don’t necessarily ‘upcycle’ my leftovers into different kinds of meals; i have no qualms about eating the same thing over and over:-) but if it’s too much ‘over and over’, i freeze it for one of those nights i get home late and can’t be bothered cooking. if i’m REALLY over something, i pass it onto my mum and dad for their chickens. as i get eggs in return, all is very fair!

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