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3 Recipes I Made Recently Using What We Had on Hand

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Now that I’m back to doing most of the menu-planning, grocery shopping, and cooking again, I’m having fun being creative in the kitchen and making do with what we have on hand.

To me, it’s like a game: to see what yummy recipes I can concoct using mostly ingredients we already have on hand or that I was able to get marked down. When you approach it like it’s an exciting adventure, it makes it much more fun and enjoyable.

{As I often say, your attitude makes or breaks every situation. And guess what? You get to choose your attitude! You can choose to embrace your life and make the most of right where you are or you can choose to hate your life and be miserable where you are. It’s your choice.}

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

When I’m planning our menu each week, I ask myself a few questions:

  1. What do we already have on hand? I look through the cupboards, pantry, and fridge and freezer and see what we already have on hand — maybe items I got on a great sale or got marked down or items we didn’t use the week before.
  2. What’s on sale at the store? Most stores post their sales on their websites or send their fliers in the mail. Look for what is advertised on the homepage especially as these are usually the best deals.
  3. What recipes do I feel inspired to make based upon those ingredients? Need some help? Check out RecipeMatcher.com, SuperCook.com, and MyFridgeFood.com.
  4. What can I substitute? Over the years, learning how to substitute ingredients has saved so much money and extra trips to the store. Here’s a great list of recipe substitutions. You can often Google for ingredient substitutions and get some great ideas.

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

3 Recipes I Made Recently Using What We Had on Hand

You can see last week’s menu plan here. (Next week’s menu plan is coming on Monday. We were in Arkansas on a family vacation with my extended family this week so I didn’t make a menu plan because my sister made the menu and we all pitched in on the cooking and clean up together).

Here are three recipes I made that were classic examples of “using what you have on hand” to feed your family:

French Toast Bake — I had gotten a bunch of eggs marked down and bread and hot dog buns marked down, so I used those as the inspiration to make two pans of this.

I made a lot of substitutions: I used almond milk instead of regular milk, half almond milk/half half & half instead of cream, the marked down bread and hamburger buns, coconut sugar + brown sugar (because I didn’t have much brown sugar), and coconut oil instead of butter (because we were out of butter). The final result was still really yummy!

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Sweet Potato Hash — I had gotten sausage marked down and had some sweet potatoes and onions that needed to be used up. So I turned it into a Sweet Potato/Sausage Hash and it was SO good! I’m a big fan of hash — it’s basically some kind of meat (ground beef or sausage), some kind of veggies (peppers, onions, or even squash), and potatoes or sweet potatoes.

I brown the meat first (if it’s meat that’s not already pre-cooked, like some sausage is) and then throw in the chopped up veggies and potatoes and fry until done. We sometimes serve it with ketchup or hot sauce, depending upon what kind of hash it was. (You can also do all sorts of variations of this: Ground Beef/Peas/Potatoes, Sausage/Sweet Potatoes/Onions, Ground Beef/Onions/Potatoes/Corn, etc. The possibilities are pretty endless!)

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Berry Cream Muffins — When I was planning our menu, I saw that blueberries were on sale for $0.99 and I looked in the fridge and saw we had some leftover sour cream from a taco night we’d had with friends. So I knew I should make these muffins!

I substituted coconut oil for butter since we didn’t have any butter on hand and I used coconut sugar instead of sucanat because that’s what I had on hand.

As I expected, these were incredibly delicious!

Have you concocted any recipes with what you had on hand? What are your favorite things to make when you feel like you “have nothing on hand”? I’d love to hear!

3 Ways I Made Do With What We Had This Week

Related Menu-Planning Posts:

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26 Comments

  • Mrs. W says:

    Your first picture looks really yummy! What kind of sauce did you put over the chicken on rice?

    • Jennifer B. says:

      There was a post from July 31st (“5 Things I’m Loving”) that has this same photo. This is what it states:

      “Pictured above was one night’s dinner — Chicken Sauce over Rice with broccoli and fruit (I was going to make a Chicken/Cheese/Broccoli Sauce over rice but changed my mind and did this instead.)”

  • Maryalene says:

    I feel like if I could master the art of substituting ingredients, family dinner time would be so much easier. As it is, I am a slave to recipes and often feel like I can’t make something if I don’t have everything exactly as listed. I really need to learn to cook without a book!

    • Shauna says:

      I am the same way. My Mom is amazing at whipping something up from what is around the house…Unfortunately that skill wasn’t passed down to me.

  • JoC says:

    I am so excited that you wrote this post. I’ve been trying to eat up what’s in our freezer, and run out of ideas. I have sweet potatoes, onions and lots of sausage. I must have run into a great sausage sale at some point. I’m going to use the websites to find some recipes now.

    In the meantime, we have eaten lots of omelettes and things wrapped burrito style. With enough salsa, my husband will eat anything in a cheesy wrap.

    I also save up leftover veggies for “dump soup”. With kids, we call it Stone Soup.

  • Yes! Someone recently gave me a bunch of zucchini, which I don’t usually like. But I made spaghetti with zucchini years ago, and it was great, so I thought I’d try to make pasta again. I used a potato peeler and sliced it into really thin slices and made zucchini “lasagna noodles.” Then built it into a cheese lasagna using some ricotta and other cheeses I had on hand. It turned out ok. It was good. It would have been better if I hadn’t sliced the zucchini so thin, because it got watery and you couldn’t hardly tell the zucchini was in there. But it was still ok, and I was excited about not letting it go to waste! 🙂

    • I love this! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • JoC says:

      Jamie, I’ve read that if you grill the zucchini it won’t melt.

    • Kim says:

      Zucchini, or any summer squash, is so versatile! There are probably at least 100 different ways to use zucchini. You can use it/them in any pasta dish, chili, veggie chowder, potato soup, minestrone soup, chilled zucchini soup (or pretty much any soup), stir frys, zucchini parmasan, topped with any cheese, in quiches, in a hash (as Crystal suggested), drizzled with olive oil & roasted with other vegetables, substitute it for green beans in tater tot casserole, with baked/crockpot chicken covered with pasta sauce, grilled, raw with salad dressing as a salad, cooked or raw in any pasta or vegetable salad, zucchini or zucchini potato pancakes, zucchini bread, in chocolate or other cakes/muffins (I may have to try substituting it in carrot cake :)).

  • MCL says:

    The Chicken Sauce over Rice reminds me of something me my mom made called Chicken Fricassee. Next time instead of broccoli try serving it with cooked carrots and peas on top. It is a delicious combination!

  • JoC says:

    You have inspired me, Crystal. My sister left a box of elbow pasta, carrots and some cucumbers, and I have a LOT of cherry tomatoes and basil. Normally I would give away the pasta, we don’t eat a whole lot of it in the summer. Then I looked up some recipes, and made an awesome pasta salad using:
    pasta, chopped carrots, chopped sweet onions, basil, dill, fresh garlic, halved cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, Greek yogurt and just a little mayo. It is awesome.

  • Johnna says:

    So how did you sub the coconut oil for butter? what is the ratio? Thx!

  • Alisha says:

    I just did this Friday night. I was trying to eat up what was left of our food from this week. I had fish on hand, some mangoes and tomatoes that were about to go bad, and left over mashed potatoes. I broiled the fish and made a salsa with the tomatoes and mango and a little lemon juice to go on top of the fish, which was absolutely delicious together! Then I made potato pancakes with the leftover mashed potatoes. They both were a huge hit with the family! I agree, that it can be a fun adventure to try to just make dinner with what you have on hand!

  • Hannah says:

    I love that you are doing these posts again! Thanks!

  • Guest says:

    Thank you for sharing! We subscribed to Blue Apron for a couple of months and there was a hash of sweet potato, red onion, apple and brussel sprouts. It was served with pork chops. I’m not a huge meat eater but became a huge fan of hash! Here’s the recipe if anyone would like to try it (you do not have to add the pork demiglace, just sautee them as directed): https://www.blueapron.com/recipes/pork-chops-fall-vegetable-hash-with-wild-rice I’ve used a lot of different vegetables with this and personally find it very filling without meat.

    I’ve noticed a number of people have said they don’t know how to use up what they have. I used to feel that way also. My mom had always been so good at it. You know what I realized? My mom was good at it because she HAD to be good at it and I hadn’t ever had to. If you think about some of your favorite family meals and what you have on hand, just try things out. Tonight I needed a really fast, easy meal. I saw we had pepperoni and sliced mozzarella cheese. We also had some wheat pitas. I made “pizza pockets” and heated up spaghetti sauce (or pizza sauce – whatever you have!) for a dipping sauce.

    – If you have bread that is close to getting stale, make French toast and have breakfast for dinner.
    – If you have a small amount of meat, chop or dice it and either make quiche or use it in crockpot fried rice. I’ve used leftover hamburgers in this recipe! http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2008/05/crockpot-fried-rice-recipe.html
    – Make soup! Several cans of seemingly random vegetables with a carton of chicken stock and a can of tomato sauce makes a wonderfully filling and delicious soup in fall or winter. (Make sure to season)
    – Make it into a quesadilla. We have had pizza-dillas, burger-dillas. You name it – haha! If you can add cheese to it, it can be a quesadilla. 🙂
    – Lastly, I keep cans of fruits as a quick side. Our kids love pears, pineapples and applesauce. Quesadillas with any of those are usually a hit and they also go well with breakfast for dinner. I also keep inexpensive boxed cornbread to whip up quickly to go with soup.

    Anyway, I’m not at all an expert but wanted to share a few things I’ve experimented with over the years that have been well received by my family. Best wishes to all of us as we try to feed our families well and creatively!

  • Raquel says:

    One of my favorite easy meals that uses up just about any veggies we have on hand is similar to your hash meals, but I tend to think of them as skillet dinners. I use any meat we have on hand, but ground beef is our favorite, and saute any vegetables we have around (I almost always add onions, and also particularly good are mushrooms and peppers) and mix it with the meat. I might add potatoes if we have them, or mix in rice, and if we have extra cheese it always makes it better to throw some of that on top.

    Soup is pretty much the ultimate ‘use up all the leftovers’ meal to me, though.

  • Stacy says:

    Thank you. 🙂

  • Kelli B says:

    It’s important to do this once in a while (in my opinion)… otherwise you end up with stuff lurking in your pantry or fridge WAAAYYY too long. You can definitely come up with some pretty interesting dishes this way and you save money by using what you already have on hand. Thanks for sharing!

  • Carrie in NC says:

    In the summer time, random bits from fridge, freezer and pantry become the basis for a frittata or a pasta salad around here. I’ll also sometimes make pizza dough in my bread maker and use random leftovers as the pizza toppings. In the fall and winter those same random bits become “once in a lifetime” soup. I make stock in my crockpot any time I have bones so that I always have stock on hand in my freezer.

    I’m like you, Crystal. I love the challenge and adventure of making random things come together in as tasty (and frugal!) way possible. I did it for years because there was literally no money to do anything else and now I do it for the challenge and because I love how it makes me feel connected with my grandmother’s style of cooking.

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