Frugality in My Kitchen

I often wonder if I’ve always been frugal at heart. I like a good bargain like everyone else, but I really enjoy the idea of eking out every bit of the produce in your grocery bag. One of the things that caught my eye this past month was an article on how restaurteurs saved all the clean scraps from vegetable peeling and the ends of chopped onions, carrots, etc. and placed them in containers in the freezer. Once they had a sufficient amount, they would boil them up to produce a vegetable stock. I thought it worth a try, keeping in mind their dos and don’ts and the cautions on balancing allium scraps to sweeter vegetables, but the resulting product was too ‘muddy’ for our tastes. Perhaps I was doing something wrong, but I deemed it too much of a hassle and not worth trying again. Better fodder for the compost heap.

However, making stock with the leftover carcass of roast chicken (and turkey) has always been a success in my kitchen. I have been doing this for as long as I have been cooking. The resulting stock is a little deeper colour (due to the roasting) than stock made from raw chicken bones or with cheaper cuts such as wings, but still delicious. Like that chicken stock, other experiments at frugality this month were more successful.

Brassica are abundant in our local Athens open air market this time of year. One of our favourites is broccoli. I often find myself looking for broccoli heads with a lot of leaf still on. Just the other week, I watched as one of the vegetable purveyors lop off leaves from the broccoli before putting the head out on the stall, making it more presentable to the buyer. When I asked for it with the leaves, he was very bemused but humoured me nonetheless. I know a lot of people consider the leaf a throw-away product, but it is, in fact, an edible part of the plant with a subtle broccoli flavour. You can use these greens the same way you would use other brassicas (cabbage, kale, collard greens, etc.) in cooking. I am considering making a pasta dish called Haluski, substituting broccoli greens for the more traditional cabbage.

Parmesan rinds are another common throw-away item. I have always saved them, bagging them up and popping them in the freezer. I’d pull one out to use when making minestrone or ragú to give the soup or sauce a little bit of a Parmesan kick. However, since I recently found a huge stash of them in the freezer, I decided to make Parmesan broth – a recipe I’ve saved, waiting for the time when I had a large cache of frozen rinds. You can read about in an earlier post this past month: Rind Broth. It is one way to capture all that flavour that otherwise would have gone to waste.

I recently made a risotto using the broth – mushroom, peas and tarragon. The Parmesan broth had been in the freezer and I noticed a couple of things: a lot of solid fats had risen to the top and the broth is surprisingly devoid of salt. So, discard the fat and salt the broth (the latter often euphemistically written in recipes as ‘adjust seasoning’). Using this broth, I don’t need to add grated Parmesan at the end. However, I did add a knob of butter as I usually do to produce a glossy-looking risotto.

Speaking of mushrooms, I have seen many cooks remove the stalks and discard them since they are not as delicate as the caps. I find this a terrible waste and I usually use the whole mushroom. But, I set out to test how the stalks could be used in other ways. I first removed the stalks, cleaned them, chopped them into little cubes and froze them so they could be used to make soups or be sautéed in smaller batches for inclusion in omelettes, pastas, risottos or anything else where a handful of mushrooms might enhance the dish. When freezing them in their raw state, I discovered that the mushrooms tend to lose their shape and colour when defrosted. Actually, that is an understatement: the defrosted bits looked like a dark mush. The sight of them sent me scrambling to the internet to see if they were safe to use. They are, but I now sauté the mushroom bits first before freezing which prevents them from becoming that blackened mess.

After a lot of preserving last month, I thought to share the frugal use of things that often end in the bin, but with a bit of creativity are still very useful. Have a look at my other In My Kitchen posts and with other IMK bloggers who connect at Sherry’s Pickings. Wherever you are in the world, stay safe.

31 comments

  1. I was brought up frugal by a mother who had lived through two world wars. I’m astonished that most people find my routinely making stock from bones to be very odd? and not-worth-the-trouble. Mushroom stalks, cauliflower and broccoli leaves and stalks are similarly my friends. I’d always assumed it was a generational thing, as I haven’t succeeded in passing all this down to my now-adult children all of whom enjoy cooking. But no, we’re just a bit odd, you and me. And happy to be so!

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    • My parents also grew up through two wars (and the Great Depression in between). I’ve managed to convince my adult child to at least cook from scratch rather then buying pre-processed foods – step one in conversion! It always gives a thrill when I managed to get 3 or 4 meals out of a roast chicken.

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  2. Saving vegetable scraps is tricky, but I’ve managed to save only the ones that make a good addition to chicken stock, which I make whenever I cook a chicken. I’m not sure I understand why you throw away fat from stock — but I’ve never made parmesan stock so maybe it’s different. I’m not sure how much effort and time is worth it when rescuing a few scraps, but I try to do it in small ways.

    be safe… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • Mae, that’s a good idea to keep some veg scraps that would go well with chicken stock. I may try that in future – carrot ends and peel, parsley stalks, possibly onion. I throw the fat away from stock to keep the resulting soups from being too oily/fatty, but I suppose the fat could be used separately in frying. I have more Parmesan stock in the freezer to try this. You’ve given me a lot of good ideas!

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  3. yes i like to save food stuff too. i freeze parmesan rinds, and herbs, and ginger root, and just about anything i can. even Philly cheese! which goes grainy but is fine when whipped up with other ingredients. and i love to collect chicken corpses and turn them into stock (after roasting):-) cheers and have a great festive season.
    sherry

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    • I freeze, pickle, preserve, dry anything I can. Have you found that some things are better frozen than preserved or better dried? I usually freeze knobs of ginger which are easier to peel and grate when still part frozen. Philly cheese does get grainy, but I have found that if you cook with it, it is fine (same goes for other soft cheeses). Hope your festive season is happy and safe!

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      • freezing is just so darn easy and quick! mostly just means chucking stuff in bags and into the freezer. i chop up the ginger first (throwing into a small food processor) and into the freezer so it’s all ready to go. herbs i either freeze or zap with a wee bit of salt and olive oil then into the fridge or freezer. Happy festive season to you.

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        • Currently we have ample freezer space which was a great blessing during lockdown. I am now looking into getting sustainable, reusable freezer bags since I’d like to reduce all that plastic and foil although we do use a lot of reusable containers. That tip on freezing ginger is a good one. Thanks for sharing! Happy holidays to you, too!

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    • Once we get to asparagus season again, I must try your combination with mushrooms and other peels. Now that sounds good. I also hate food waste. Working on a zero waste kitchen, but there inevitably is a bit of waste. Hope you manage to make the Parmesan broth. It’s a good one.

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  4. I popped over from Sherry’s blog to say hello. I also like to cook from scratch and keep all the veg scraps for broth, way better than anything store bought.
    Amalia
    xo

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  5. Thanks for this post, I really love your ideas on reducing food waste and it’s a real passion of mine. I’ve saved veggie ends and peels too but also found that sometimes the stock is too “unclean” for my tastes. I guess maybe I need to scrub the potatoes more before I peel them! I find that carrots / celery / onion with the more “normal” stock flavours work the best. I also did it with prawns before but it went bad very quickly in the fridge…

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    • Unclean is a good description of the veg scrap broth (even if one has scrubbed and scrubbed the vegetables before peeling). One of the comments here suggested keeping just the things that might go into chicken stock making like carrot and parsley stalks. I may try that rather than a vegetable broth on its own.

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  6. I have been making parmesan broth for years and find it very useful. But, the mushroom idea was new to me. Thank you. My mother used to keep a half gallon waxed milk container in the freezer to add all her vegetable bits and ends for stock. I usually feed my own to the worms in my worm bin…but I certainly keep all those chicken caucasus for chicken broth. Have a wonderful holiday.

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    • So glad to hear that someone else is making Parmesan broth. It was a recipe I saw a few years ago and wondered when I would have enough rinds to be able to make it. Worth the wait! I generally use the entire mushroom in my dishes, but I’ve seen so many people discard the stems that I though it might be worth exploring a way of using them. I’m using some of that chicken carcass broth in soup today!

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  7. Bravo for your frugal thoughts, Debi, and thanks for your tips! I’m constantly musing “what else can I make with this?” — even if it’s a lil’ bit of leftover veg or protein in the freezer, fridge, or wherever. Shhh… don’t tell my hubby, lol! There’s SO much waste in the world (and potentially tasty meals, too) when you use your ingenuity or frugality. Your Parmesan broth and resulting risotto look fantastic! Happy and Safe Holidays, xo.

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    • Hi Kim, Like you, I find it really creative working with leftovers. I’ve never understood why people waste so much food. Perhaps it was those constant reminders of the starving children in India (why India, I don’t know) that we were pelted with as children when we didn’t eat everything on our plates. Parmesan broth is really good, but I need to start hoarding those rinds again to built up a supply. Happy holidays to you, too – and stay safe!

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    • Absolutely the best use of a chicken carcass! I think it makes a really flavourful stock – for soups, risottos, stews, etc. In fact, I’ve got another one in the freezer I need to get out and make more stock. Thanks for visiting In My Kitchen!

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