Save Money With Main Course Leftovers

Along with back-to-school comes back-to-routine and that means back-to-cooking!

My husband and I started learning how to cook at home, on a very tight allowance, years ago during our first major bout of debt. There was no choice. For the price of two combo meals at the drive through, we could buy the ingredients for a crock pot full of hearty beef stew, rolls, and a cake mix for dessert.The leftover stew and rolls would make at least four more meals that we could microwave up for lunch or dinners throughout the next week. Given the quality of the stew, the amount of food, and the convenience of all the extra meals, we developed a love for home-cooking and rarely, to this day, eat out.

Now, as a family of seven, we own three large crock pots, an extensive array of bakeware, two complete sets of cookware, and a very big collection of one-size, disposable/reusable plastic entree containers. Three to five times a week, I make a full dinner, depending on everyone’s schedules. When I do, I prepare enough food for 10-15 people. We fill up, and then all of the leftovers are dished into individual containers, so that each container is a meal.

I used to put the leftovers in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, in their serving dishes. Then I couldn’t figure out why I was throwing out so much food every week. No one could be bothered opening up two, three, or more bowls of food to dish themselves out a meal to be reheated. And often, by the time the schedule allowed for everyone to gather for the next sit-down dinner, it was either too soon to want to eat the same thing, or too late for it to be safe…

But dividing the leftovers into individual meals, in containers that are dishwasher safe but disposable, with lids, all the same size – making them easily stackable – clear so we can clearly see what’s in them, and TA DA!!

A freezer full of homemade frozen dinners that are microwavable into a complete meal in about 7 minutes. Perfect for the teenagers and husband to take for lunch. Ideal for the younger two to split between them. Handy on nights when we’re rushed, out of groceries, or I can’t be bothered cooking. And after a few weeks of collecting different meals, the variety available to the kids turns my kitchen into a full scale restaurant as one picks roast beef, another takes meatloaf, he likes spaghetti, she goes for chicken, I love the lasagna.

And on nights when this practice or that meeting has us all coming and going at different times, I can watch my dining table serve a constant dinner seating for more than two hours, with each of the seven of enjoying a full course, home cooked meal of our choosing.

So now, after a lazy summer of bar-b-quing and ‘it’s too hot to cook,’ it’s time to start filling the freezer again. For an average of $2 each, I will soon have up to one hundred meals in the freezer, ready to see my family through the next couple months of football, basketball, swimming and dance.

Maybe I’ll start a section here of recipes – tried and true, healthy, delicious, and, most of all, dirt cheap!!