We have 5 kids and as you might imagine our food bill could be quite high so we work hard to make it all go further. We also like to make a lot of food from scratch, rather than buy processed or prepared foods. That means we’ve picked up a number of tips and tricks to help us as we cook.
Save the Bones and Vegetable Ends
We make chicken stock from scratch on a regular basis and so we need both chicken bones and vegetables. So we regularly save chicken bones from whatever we cook, whether it’s a whole chicken or thighs or even takeout chicken wings. After dinner, they go into a zip-top bag and into the freezer. Likewise, when we’re preparing vegetables for dinner, we set the ends aside for later bagging and the freezer.
Not every vegetable is good for stock, though. We mainly keep onion skins and ends, garlic skins and ends, carrot tops, celery ends and leaves, parsley stems, some other root vegetables. Meanwhile, any vegetable or fruit bits that wouldn’t go into the stock goes into the compost bin.
Then when it’s time to make stock, everything goes into the big pot along with water to cover and a few hours later, what is usually trash for other people is transformed into amazing chicken stock.
Save Those Old Bananas
Something else to save in the freezer is old, mushy bananas. Your kids may be different but once spots of brown appear on a banana, mine won’t touch it. Now a lot of people know that you can save the bananas in the freezer for banana bread or smoothies, but there’s another option as well: Banana ice “cream”.
Lucy has a dairy allergy and she can’t have ice cream when the other kids have it so when it’s time for a treat, Melanie takes some bananas out of the freezer, puts them in a bowl with some chocolate powder and blends it up with an immersion blender. Nothing else is needed and with the chocolate it doesn’t even taste strongly of banana. Lucia loves it.
Save the Crusts and Bread Ends
We also make a lot of our own bread, although at the rate our kids eat it, we also buy a lot of loaves from the stores, whether packaged sandwich bread or whole loaves from the bakery. While the packaged stuff tends to disappear completely, there always seems to be some hard crusty ends leftover of the other breads. We save those ends, letting them dry out thoroughly and then put them, yep, in a bag in the freezer to pull out later for bread crumbs for recipes.
You could also use them to make croutons, which I intend to try sometime.
Save the Cooking Liquid
Living in New England relatively near the ocean, we have shellfish fairly often. When I’m making lobsters, shrimp or clams, I always save at least some of the cooking liquid, freezing it to use in sauces, soups, stews, gumbos, jambalaya, and other seafood dishes that require liquid. I’m always careful to filter it though because there can be small bits of shell or sand.
Save Lobster and Shrimp Shells
Likewise, I save lobster shells and bodies and shrimp shells to make seafood stock. Combine the saved cooking liquid and the stock and you have a very flavorful beginning to a pretty great dish.