Get the full measure of your money - using leftovers

20 January 2011
Thank you all for contributing your ideas on how to save money.  I have to confess, we already do most of the things suggested and seeing them as comments validated our frugal choices. I think we'll have to start thinking about our Etsy shop soon or I'll have to find some more writing work.

 I'd like to continue on this theme with some thoughts on being frugal and then I'll go to to using leftover food.

First let me say something about being frugal.  There is a debate in the English newspapers at the moment about penny pinchers and tightwads as if it's a bad thing.  Being frugal with some things so you can buy the things you truly need and want, or to live in a way that is unusual by today's standards doesn't make us mean, cheap or miserly. It simply means we have gone outside what is "normal" and we dare to use our money on what enriches us and not what others think we should have.  If you've been frugal for a long time, or if you're new to the neighbourhood, you're doing a wonderful thing for yourself and for the planet.  Keep doing it.  The peace of mind that comes from paying off debt, living debt-free, and not wasting time in shops so you can spend more time with family or doing what you love, far outweighs any pleasure gained from spending money.  It's sad that most people don't know that but don't let it put you off your path.  Be confident in your frugal choices and march to the beat of your own drum.  It's the only way.

On current estimates, we all waste thirty percent of the food we buy.  Just think!  That's like taking $100 to the shop, throwing away $30 and coming home with $70 worth of goods. It's insane.  Most of us cook too much but that's not a bad way to cook.  I usually cook enough for four meals most evenings, even though there are only two of us living here.  The leftovers are either frozen for the following week or eaten the following night, saving time and money.  If there is only enough leftover for one meal, use it for lunch the following day, or add vegetables or rice to it and serve it up for two. Don't let it sit in the fridge to turn into a science project; don't throw good money away.

I remember my mother baking a leg of lamb for Sunday lunch, that night we'd have toasted lamb and salad sandwiches for tea.  Monday night we'd have lamb curry and if there was any lamb left over, it would be shepherds pie the following night, made by mincing the lamb with one of those manual metal grinders attached to the kitchen table.  I loved that job.  With that in mind, last week, after we had our half lamb leg roast, we had lamb sandwiches and then lamb curry the following night.  This is the recipe for it.

This can be made with any leftover meat, chicken or fish, or freshly boiled eggs, or just vegetables.

1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced
1 stick celery, sliced
plus whatever other vegetables you want to use
1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons curry powder or paste
salt and pepper
1 can coconut milk, or stock or plain water if you have neither
a portion of leftover meat or fish cut into cubes. If you have no meat, or are vegetarian, boil some eggs and serve them with the curry sauce.

* Place the onion, carrot and celery in a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil and cook until the onion is transparent.
* When the onion is cooked, add the garlic, salt and pepper and tomato paste and stir for 30 seconds.
* Add the curry powder|paste and stir to allow the curry spices to release their flavours.
* Add coconut milk|stock and meat and stir throughly.
* Bring to the boil, simmer for 30 minutes or until the coconut milk|stock has halved in volume and the sauce is thick.
* Serve with boiled rice.

You could use any cooked vegetables that were in the fridge as well in this and if you had no rice, serve with potato, polenta|cornmeal or a piece of toast or bread on the side.  It's delicious and filling and will make sure you get the full measure of the money you spend on your food.


  1. Mmm. Yum! Thanks for sharing this delicious-sounding recipe. I like what you said about frugality versus miserliness. The one is showing restraint towards what you give YOURSELF (materially, at least) and the other is a total lack of generosity towards OTHERS. But really, the frugal person can better afford to be very generous in their giving to others, right? That's how I hope my frugality benefits those around me, and not just myself.

  2. I loved this post...thank you!

  3. Most of the times I make patatoes, meat and vegetables for just one meal, but my homemade soup, a meal with rice or something from the oven is most of the times enough for a meal or two. The left-overs are going into our freezer for the week or month after.

    In my last weeks of pregnancy (still 7 1/2 weeks to go) I am filling up our freezer so my husband is having an easy time of cooking while I am in my first nursery days. Just looking ahead and be aware of waste of money.. ;o)

    Love from Holland!

  4. Not a comment about food,but certainly leftovers. I've recently had work done on my house...restumped, a little extension to the kitchen and a deck. Lots of old timbers from the stumps, steps and framing timber. I kept looking at the growing mountain of timber, and finding reasons for the builder not to haul it away to landfill. Then I found a young man who makes furniture from recycled wood, he's taken all the timber, and is going to make me a daybed for my deck.

    The rest I'm happy for him to use to make furniture to sell. He's a new dad, and is hoping to make his living doing what he loves.

    And I can't think of anything better than spending time relaxing on my new daybed, knowing the timber I'm sitting on is close to 100 years old, and now has a new life. Almost as good as shepherd's pie :)

  5. Root and Twig, definately, it's all to do with the giving and not taking.

    Hi Melissa and Monique.

    Nanette, that's a great use of the timber and I loved that you shared it. Hugs

  6. I love leftovers - sometimes more so than the first meal! We had a roast gammon on sunday with veggies. The next day the leftovers made a ham pasta tomatoe and veg sauce, I had ham for lunch monday too in a salad. Tuesday lunchtime I had a ham sandwich then in the evening ham, pickles and mash, Wednesday was ham for lunch again and then curry. all delicious. Leftovers are awesome !

  7. Just my two pence, but I think there's a big difference between being frugal and being so cheap you won't turn the heat on when your houseguests are shivering.

    I think the outright misers are what the British papers are refering too, the American news did something similar last year discussing people who take frugality too far (never turning on the lights and carrying a kerosene lamp everywhere or living off of noodles and tinned beans). When it gets to the point that you stop doing things you love because you feel compelled to save money it starts getting weird in my opinion. I have no problem giving up cable tv or not going to the movies but I could never give up travelling if I had the money to afford it.

  8. I made a big batch of beef and venison chili last weekend and we are still eating it. 2 dinners of a big bowl of chili, 2 lunches of bowls of chili and now it is on to re-purpose it. Chili over baked potatoes, chili on pizza and chili over brown rice will all make it onto our menu this week!

    Every last bit will be eaten and enjoyed. I find this not only a wonderfully frugal practice, but also a practice in creativity. How many ways can one eat the same food (with different variations) without becoming overly tired of it? Aparently many!

    Well wishes from Wisconsin!

  9. I am always trying to figure out a new way to use up the food that is leftover. We just can't waste anything right now and it pains me to throw anything away. 30%! I would hate to know how much I've thrown away in my lifetime. I love these posts on frugality. Is it okay if I link this post on my blog?

  10. This standard in our house but not with lamb which is very expensive in the UK. I use chicken or pork both make a lovely curry. Plus the chicken carcass can be boiled down to make stock for soup.

  11. Thank you for sharing your recipe - I love a good coconutty curry! Having a good week so far here - lunch has been leftovers every day. Your posts have been a real guidance as I try to become more money-savvy. Thank you.

  12. I use up leftovers and I cook almost everything from scratch Except for pasta and few other odds and ends. My question is what is that bread you have pictured? It looks heavenly.

  13. Melissa, it's a sourdough wholegrain loaf I made using a starter one of my readers sent me last year. It was absolutely delicious and crusty and just what sourdough should taste like.

  14. I think the issue of miserlyness (thanks for that word Dickens) is a deeper one than the tabloids infer. People are the sum of their life experiences, a lot of people who came through the depression, the blitz in London or just downright poverty aren't going to be swinging from the chandeliers in their older age. This world needs tolerance and understanding.
    Vicki xx

  15. I think frugality has nothing to do with deprivation and so much more to do with enrichment. Being frugal allows me to enjoy so much more with money I have available to me. Once there is deprivation I think there is creeping cheapness and miserlyness. We eat well, we are warm and we have fun stuff to do because we are frugal.

  16. Being frugal is the normal way of life for us. I do agree there is a difference between frugality and miserliness. I love the definition from RootAndTwig. Really gives me something to think about.

    We also love leftovers! Thanks for sharing the curry recipe. In our household of three adults we often have leftovers for lunch. We all work outside the home and having leftovers at lunch lets us have great variety without eating out. This has saved us quite a bit of money in the last two years.

    Leftovers often finally end up as soup. Now I often thing of my grandmother's old saying: "waste not, want not". It's still true.

  17. That's how I make curry, too. One other thing I like to do to save time is, when we make mash; could be potatoes or a mix of root veg and squash; I do extra, then the next day, mix it with enough flour until it comes together and mould fritters/cakes to fry. We often have them with bacon, sausages, eggs, and veg like grilled mushrooms and tomatoes and baked beans. If there are still some cakes left over, I leave them uncooked in the fridge and have one or two for asnack with chilli sauce (when OH is out, Shh!)

  18. With just the two of us, once a meal is prepared the left overs go into freezer..I hate waste, so strive to have none :)

  19. How did you know what I had for tea tonight?!!! I made enough for about 4 meals too, so will have some more tomorrow and freeze the other two portions.

    When I was young I was the one who got to mince the lamb for the Shepherd's Pie - my favourite job. I now have, ahem, a soft spot for mincers, and have a collection of several . . .

  20. I love those old metal grinders!
    My mom used to have one and a dear friend from another board sent me one and I now use it frequently!
    Yeah for saving and turning leftovers into a completely different meal!
    God bless,

  21. I often am alone or just with my little child. I rarely have leftovers (which anyway I eat the next day). I hate throwing away food. there's still too many people starving. and I don't like wasting money too.

  22. I LOVE curry with coconut milk - it is a taste of heaven! You are totally right about how much food is wasted - if people saved that money by not wasting the food, think how many starving children could be fed!

  23. I don't think there's anything wrong with being a "penny pincher" as long as it doesn't turn you into a crazy person that has no room for fun :) :) :) I'm not worried about that here :) :) it's a fine line that has to be drawn. One of the things my good friend, a certified public accountant, once told me, is that you always have to make some sort of budget for fun...even if it's just a couple of dollars. Otherwise, you'll be saving money , but have no life and then be miserable!! I think what you and Hanno are doing is really wise!!! You'll be able to live well!!!! What do you plan on selling in your Etsy shop? Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  24. Our meat leftovers (especially corned meat) usually end up in fritters (like little savoury pancakes). Very easy to make and one of those recipes you can add anything too.

    My other super favourite recipe is chicken soup made from the leftover cooked chicken carcass. It’s from the SimpleSavers website/book. The secret ingredient is the peanut oil…

    As a future post idea. I would love for you to share what your sons are planning to purchase for the arrival of their babies. A list would be wonderful. You would die if you saw the list that Target has been producing – at least 60 items I think! I always think of the babies over the centuries raised happily in forests, caves, villages, slums and wonder if all that stuff is really needed. I think your family would come up with a happy medium; some modern comforts combined with some good ol’ fashioned practicality and sensibility. This is the next stage of my life and I would love your help in planning for it.

  25. Sometimes, as a busy mom of two little ones, if we have leftover meat and I can't summon the energy or time to do something with it, I just freeze it before it turns into a science experiment - it also gives me extra options to work with later on.

  26. Hello lovely Rhonda - it makes me CRAZY when the popular response to an economic downturn is to urge folks to BUY MORE CRAP - it is just so morally and ethically WRONG and short sited. Anyway, don't get me started....except to weigh in with the idea that to uncouple your happiness from rampant planet destroying consumerism is liberating, and joyous, and politically DEFIANT and in the end, the only responsible, small blue green planet loving thing you can do.

    If money is energy and power, I would rather use my energy and power shrewdly and wisely by actively supporting small farming families rather than multinationals that underpay their employees, and artisans and trades folks and people who provide SERVICES that do not cost the earth... Goodness, rant over!
    As if I need to say any of this on YOUR blog!

    Love duckie.

    PS, Our equivalent to the continuous evolving roast lamb was the casserole which was made on Saturday mornings. Casserole Saturday night turned into "Stew" with mashed potato on Sunday, which turned into sandwich filling for school lunches Monday and Tuesday. xxxx

  27. I repurpose savoury mince in a similar way to this because I usually cook double and freeze half. The leftovers from the first night become my version of shepherd's pie the night after and the frozen half becomes spaghetti bolognaise sauce with the addition of tomato paste and spices then curried mince with rice.

  28. I love this post, Rhonda! My mom grew up during the Great Depression and knew how to stretch leftovers. We would have roast beef with vegetables for Sunday dinner and with the leftovers she would chop up the meat, the remaining vegetables, sometimes add additional potatoes, carrots and onions if needed and the leftover gravy --this "roast beef hash" as she called it was even more delicious than the original roast dinner! Ham leftovers would go into a bean dish(pintos or Great Northern beans) or creamy, cheesy potato soup! Yum!!! The amount of waste that goes on these days are a disgrace! We need to teach this to the younger generation.

  29. My favorite thing to eat is leftovers! Oh sure, the meal the first night is great, but the leftovers have been sitting there letting all the flavors run through.
    Our Thanksgiving meal is always a huge thing. I cook way more than we need for the one meal, but we have sandwiches, casseroles, soups, etc for the next week! It's wonderful!

  30. Have to share! I giggled at the title of your recipe and my 11yo daughter asked what I was laughing at. So I showed her, she thought you had to have ALL those things in there!!! lol I explain it's an "or" situation! I love it how kids look at life differently to adults.

  31. My mother always made what she called "curried lamb" after leg of lamb...I love it!

    I don't really understand how anyone can debate being frugal. Perhaps it is a generational thing. I am 66 this month and my parents were slightly older when I was born and were working (as young adults) during the depression. So I did pick up some of their mindset. But we lived a very nice and satisfying lifestyle. It seems there should be no debate about questions of waste, of being in debt, or of not knowing how to manage ones own domestic economy. But that is not being a miser. Money should never be the most important thing in anybody's life. And being prudent and sensible will prevent that from happening.....

    Leftovers can be used as filling in crepes, or in casseroles, or millions of delicious ways. It's an aspect of being creative!

  32. We were invited to dinner at another couple's home for new year's, and while I helped in the kitchen the other woman and I were discussing ways to save money when shopping for food. After dinner, I was appalled to see her scrape perfectly good leftovers into the trash, rather than pack them up for another meal. I couldn't think how to tactfully say, at the time, "THAT'S how to save money, right there! What are you *doing*?!"

    That never would have occurred to me. Sure, I've occasionally overlooked something that got pushed to the back of the fridge and went bad, but to just throw away perfectly good food? Couldn't believe it.

  33. Hi Rhonda, I have been reading your blog for a while now ... and love it! This is the only way I know how to live, my parents always watched their money and we only ever had from 'scratch'. We were always well fed and well dressed. I don't feel I have missed out on anything. To many we know our lifestyle is a 'novelty', kids friends all come for the food because they don't have 'homemade'. To me this is quite sad, my eldest has not long moved out and is now living the same. This makes me incredibly proud that she can see this is a good way to live when young ones can be so impressionable and influenced. Thank you for sharing, not only your knowledge but your wonderful life.


  34. I think why people that live frugally are looked down upon by some is...a vast majority of society want to buy what ever they want when ever they want and they done want to be accountable for their spending.... Along comes someone who is living frugally and it makes them look at themselves and they fell threatened,many people buy things and keep on buying things they don't need to fill a void within themselves.

  35. Hi everyone,
    all our leftovers end up (after we can't stand to eat them any more) in the dog. Haven't bought commercial dogfood ever. If there are no leftovers, he eats weetbix with the occasional bone.

  36. Well said and articulated(as always:), Rhonda!

  37. I've just read a book of epigrams by G.K. Chesterton (in Czech translation) and there was a very nice one saying that frugality is creative. I loved that. I wish I knew which of his books it came from. :P Chesterton's said a lot of things that are relevant now!
    Thank you for the recipe! I'm not sure about the curry spices, but I'm sure I can use the basic idea!

  38. Love this post. Have you ever seen dumpsters behind restaurants and all the wasted food? I always go by praying it was heading to a pig farm somewhere to be used sensibly, but that is the farmer in me thinking.I am sure it goes to the waste site.

    I get the biggest kick when my eldest daughter comes over for a visit ( weekly) and she always heads to the fridge and proclaims there is nothing in my fridge to eat. yes it often looks empty ( organized!) but everything in there is accountable to a meal. Menu planning!! My leftovers some nights go for Dearest lunch at work next day, they have a microwave. Tuesdays soup supper is Saturday leftover lunch.

    Watching how your money in spent is one thing but when you count how many sheets of toilet paper each person is allowed per wipe, makes life unreasonable. We have but one life here now! ( don't laugh I know someone who does this... 2 sheets per wipe!!) Blaw.


  39. HI RJ.
    The curry you posted sounds much like an Indian Curry..coming back to your post.. We have a Rule in our home that no new food is cooked till we have used up the already cooked food. so this helps us in keeping a tab on the budgeting...Coming from an Indian family, our normal evryday food is stretched into 2 or 3 items per the rotis/Flat Breads become the wraps for next day lunch...with leftover veggies and cheese as filling....Hardly takes any time and a decent meal is we all take lunch box form home including my 3 yr old we do save more than $100 a mnth there.....on school lunch for 2 kids...Being Frugal is not being cheap but being tongues will wag if you spend or you dont spend....MY take is, "Why bother with such people who cannot undertsand the basics of being grounded".. I was brought up with a strong belief that IF you think You are the best, its good enough for you to succeed.. success again is a debatable issue....Hope I did not bore you with the long comment...
    LOve You RJ for your constant reminder of Gods gift to us.
    LOve Ash.

  40. Oh Rhonda, you are a lamb - no pun intended:>) My mother was one of the few women in our small farming community that served lamb. We grew up loving lamb roast and the leftovers that followed. My favorite was her lamb curry. Sadly, I never asked her for the recipe. Right now lamb is on sale at our local grocer...I am off to buy a lamb roast and make your curry recipe. Thank you so much for posting it as I have had lamb curry on my mind for days.

  41. Oh yum, that leftover recipe looks so nice.
    When we do a bit of a fry-up something with leftover roast vegies (which I bump up with sliced cabbage etc), we name the dish "Roast Remainders".
    Lovely to remember the old meat mincer... sitting watching Mum working it.
    Thanks once again Rhonda Jean.

  42. Hi Rhonda, I loved this post-my husband and I eat leftovers for lunch every wor day and brunch on the weekends. Many foods taste so much better sitting for a day or so. For all you lamb lovers here is a recipe I make in the crockpot. The spice mix has a lot of ingredients but I triple the amounts so I have several meals of spice ready to go. Here it is- Hope you try it! Karen from CT

  43. Hi rhonda, I have been catching up on your blog, and have read the past four or five entries, starting with the sad report about couple that disappeared in the floods and the deaths caused by the flooding. I can only imagine what it looks and smells like. WE had flooding a few years back after some horrible hurricanes, and the smell of rot,sewage, and mold was horrendous.

  44. You wrote a good piece about leftovers a while back that really made me pay attention to what we were throwing away. And a shame it is to waste and not even being aware of it as waste. Now days we rarely waste much .. and now that I make our dog's food, if we have any little scraps of food, it gets incorporated in her food. She got deathly ill on a brand she'd been eating for years .. but pulled through with a good home made variety. The vet was amazed.

  45. I am the self-described queen of leftovers. With a family and a full-time job (and a hubby who travels), I've made it a priority.

    On weekends, I cook two big meals. They last long enough for lunch and dinner for most of the week. Sometimes I make a third and it goes into the freezer for another week.

    I wonder if the 30% waste number is from homes, or if it includes grocery stores and restaurants.

    I don't understand why everyone thinks we should "buy buy buy" in a downturn. What is that going to solve? I have money, but I don't want crap. I'd rather give the money to charity, or start up a scholarship, than buy stuff.

  46. Rhonda,

    What is the name to your Etsy shop?

  47. Mrs B, I haven't opened it yet. Too many other things happening right now. I'll post about it when it opens.

  48. hello friend! I dont comment much but I still read :)
    Maple Valley off-grid Farm

  49. Last week I made left over stew turnovers and left over stew pot pies. Both are always a big hit. I took pictures to write a post but haven't gotten to it. I'll try to get it up this week so stop by and check it out.

  50. This is the first time I stumbled upon your site. Great! And I love the life motto: preparing for future by learning from past. So true! I will definitely be back again and again...
    I, too, hate food wastage. My mum is a master in "Food Recycling". One of my favourites is her Potato Bread made from left over mashed potatoes. I have the recipe on my blog

  51. Hi Rhonda,,
    I love all your posts, you are a women after my own heart (is that an English saying?).
    I was just wondering what is happening about your book, have I missed some news? I assure you that when your book does come out, that I and many, many others will buy it, recommend it, write rave reviews about it and then hopefully it will be enough to give you a financial boost.
    Please keep up the great work, continue to inspire us all; you certainly help me to feel a little less like a crazy person for caring about the seemingly small things.
    Much love and appreciation
    Surrey, UK
    x x

  52. Hello Gail and thank you for your support and encouragement. It means more than you know. I know that expression and it's good to find another woman who understands this life.

    Regarding the book, just yesterday I met my first deadline. I have one more month to get the book finished and then we have two months of editing. Penguin is the publisher and they say it will be on the shelves in Australia and NZ in Feb 2012. My agent is confident of sales in the UK and the US as well so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

  53. I've started freezing leftover veggies for soups and leftover fruits for smoothies and bread. We do pretty good at eating our leftovers, but definitely not perfect!



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