No, it’s not 1943 but those lessons learned during the Great Depression and WWII are thankfully available for us to utilize today. Making our food stretch not only saves money but keeps our uneaten food out of the landfill. 30% – 40% of food is wasted every year here in the United States. Using real ingredients creates healthy meals on our tables without all the additives and preservatives. Now that our grocery stores are hit and miss when it comes to what is available, here are a few ideas to make some great dinners out of what you have. As my grandmother always said, “Waste not want not.”

Roast Beef-

If you purchase just a little larger roast than usual you can easily make two meals out one piece of beef. You can cook your roast in the oven, however if you have a slow cooker the meat will come out more tender and you can store the leftover meat in the refrigerator overnight, then put the crock back in the cooker the next day for your second meal. Add enough water to the roast to be sure you will be able to make gravy. If making a venison roast add a box or can of beef broth if you have it. Save leftover mashed potatoes, meat, gravy and cooked vegetables (preferably mixed veggies, corn, peas, or carrots).

Second Meal Option 1- Beef vegetable soup and potato cakes

Chop beef into small pieces. Add a bit of water to gravy (you may need to add more seasoning), put beef and leftover vegetables in gravy. You can add barley if you have it for an old-fashioned style soup.

Mix leftover mashed potatoes with milk, egg, flower, salt and pepper. You can also add chopped onion, pepper and shredded cheese. Cook on a griddle the same way you would to make a pancake.

Second Meal Option 2- Shepherd’s pie

If you have the ingredients to make a pie crust, it is very easy to make. You can substitute shorting with butter (which I prefer). Line your pie pan with the pie crust if you have made one. If you don’t have a pie pan you can use a glass baking dish or a cake pan, a rounded shape is best but not necessary. Heat the gravy on the stove top, you might need to add some water and seasoning. Add chopped leftover beef and leftover vegetables. Pour all of this into the baking pan. Stir a small amount of milk into the leftover mashed potatoes. Put potatoes on top of the beef-gravy mix and add salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 350* until potatoes are golden brown. This same meal can be made with leftover chicken or turkey.


Again, purchase a large enough chicken to ensure you will have leftover meat. Bake chicken with onion and enough water for gravy. You will only have to make mashed potatoes if planning to make Shepherd’s Pie for your second meal. Carrots are an ideal vegetable side for second meals. To have extra broth for your second meal you can save the carcass and boil it down the next day.

chicken soupSecond Meal Option 1- Chicken and Dumplings

In large stew pot heat up leftover gravy and carcass stock or water. Add chopped leftover chicken, carrots, a little more onion and celery if you have it. Once vegetables are tender add dumplings and simmer.

Dumplings- Mix 1 1/3 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons oil (I use olive oil if I have it), parsley and basil. Drop spoonful’s into the  pot. It takes about 20 minutes on low heat for dumplings to cook.

Second Meal Option 2- Chicken soup with rice or noodles

Cook exactly the same way as chicken and dumpling instructions except in place of dumplings either add rice at the same time as leftover chicken and carrots or add noodles once vegetables are tender. Don’t overcook noodles.

Bone in Ham-

It seems there is always leftover ham! For a great breakfast be sure to make a few extra baked potatoes along with the first ham meal. You can slice the potatoes in the morning and cook them in a skillet with butter, salt and pepper. Heat up a few slices of ham in another skillet and you’ll have a tasty breakfast with or without eggs and toast.

Second Meal Option 1- Ham and Bean/Split Pea Soup

Cut most leftover meat off the bone. This meat can be used for sandwiches or fried for breakfast. Put entire ham bone and diced onion in large pot with chicken broth. If you don’t have enough broth even a 50/50 broth to water ratio will work. Rinse and sort beans/peas and cook with ham bone. You will need to add plenty of seasoning if you don’t have a prepacked season packet with your legumes. Once legumes are done or nearly done add carrots and celery. If you don’t have fresh carrots, you can use canned carrots.

Second Meal Option 2- Barbecued pork

Dice leftover ham and slow cook in a barbecue sauce. I add water to the sauce, salt and pepper. If you don’t have barbecue sauce, there are many easy recipes online to make your own. You can serve the meat alongside sliced bread or hamburger buns (which we always seem to have two or three sitting in the bottom of the bag). Again, you can cook sliced leftover baked potatoes as a side.

A Few Side Ideas –

Fresh Salad-

It’s okay if you don’t have the typical salad ingredients. Get creative. You can DSC_0262use greens, spinach, peppers, carrots, zucchini, cheese, hard boiled eggs and more. Just imagine a salad bar with a few empty bowls. If you are lucky enough to have tomato and cucumber, that’s just a bonus.


Much easier to make than you would think. Use a flour covered drinking glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter. You can even use a large heavy drinking glass as a roller- just don’t press too hard and break the glass.

Mashed sweet potatoes-

Yep, just like regular potatoes but sweeter and quite nutritious. To make peeling easier you can first bake them in the oven or cook them in boiling water for half an hour.

Bring out the extras-

Half a container of cottage cheese, half a jar of pickles or olives or even a variety plate filled with sliced vegetables, fruits and sliced cheese. There are no rules in avoiding waste.

Some Final Thoughts-

Freezing broth-

If you have extra broth from cooking beef or poultry you can freeze it. Make sure it is cool before putting in the freezer and if freezing in glass don’t fill the jar more than ¾ full. Just remember to get it back out of the freezer a few days before using. Don’t microwave your frozen broth.

Saving fresh vegetables-

Don’t let one carrot, two celery stalks and a quarter onion go to waste. Can those bits into soup veggies or you can blanch and freeze most vegetables.

Use less meat –

Quite often we make meat the largest component of our dinner plates. We really don’t need that much. Four large chicken breasts or pork chops can be cut in half and cooked for eight servings. For burger meals such as spaghetti or chili, cook the entire pound of burger and freeze half for the next meal. You will want to make that second burger meal within a week; however, it will take half the time because the meat is already cooked.

Bowl of Kitchen Compost

When tragedy strikes the refrigerator or the bread bag, as it seems it always does remember even that inedible gross food still has nutrients. Compost it. Your garden will thank you.



Audrey L Elder ~ Meaningful Living