This post is all about my favorite frugal kitchen tips! I save every single glass jar that comes with a decent lid. I can’t help it! Here’s the thing though, I use them CONSTANTLY. A big batch of stock to freeze? I fill up a bunch of jars and stick them in the freezer. Leftover soup? Yup it all goes in jars and gets frozen. One of my old plastic herb shakers finally breaks? Dump that garlic salt in a jar! (My entire seasoning cabinet will eventually be nothing but jars with green Parmesan container lids screwed on them.) Leftover bacon grease? Yup, it goes in a jar so I can use it later. Leftover every other kind of grease? That also goes in a jar and when the jar is full, it gets thrown away. So handy. I’ve also managed to collect 6 glass drinking “bottles” from my favorite organic tea that I spoil myself with from time to time now I always have one full of our water in my car at all times, which helps me avoid the impulse purchase of buying something to drink when I’m in town.
Remember the frozen juice everyone used to buy? Yeah, we started doing that again. Juice is very expensive! Now I always have a few frozen juices in the freezer at any given time and they all even claim to be “100% juice” I saved a couple of large jugs from past juice purchases and just funnel them into there, add water until they’re full and viola: I can’t believe how much money this has saved us! (Each little thing of frozen juice is less then $1.50 and it entirely fills up a gallon jug.)
I don’t always remember to use my cloth shopping bags so that means I bring home plastic grocery bags on occasion so we use them as garbage bags in all of our trash cans throughout our home. I also use them in our freezer, one got 12 bags of frozen carrots, the other helped corral 15 bags of frozen tomatoes and several other things. They don’t last forever in the freezer but it does help keep something resembling order. I also always keep one in my car behind my front seat for catching trash. I might not have the prettiest or newest car on the block but she’s clean on the inside 🙂
Save vegetable scraps. I can’t believe I had to see a video online because this is so OBVIOUS. Just save your scraps. I keep a gallon zip lock bag in the freezer at all times. Peal potatoes? Great, the peals go in the bag. Clean an onion? Awesome the skins and everything go in the bag. Peal a bunch of carrots? Yup their skins go in the bag too. (Just make sure and wash all your veggies first.) I literally don’t throw anything away when I clean any kind of vegetable now, it all goes in the bag.
Save your bones. Just like saving your vegetable scraps its time to start saving all of your meat scraps too. One of our favorite recipes is pan fried chicken thighs so when I bring them home I debone them and all raw chicken bones and scraps go in their own gallon size zip lock bag. (One thing that’s really nice about this is that I don’t have to be so careful to get every last bit of meat off the bone now because I know it won’t be going to waste.) The other day my dad made a ham and we brought the whole thing home and, of course, the bone and all of the scraps went in its own bag in the freezer too and I’ll either make beans or ham soup out of it.
This last weekend I noticed my chicken scrap bag was getting full so I dumped it in a pot with my vegetable scraps and boiled it all day. (Note: My stock is so richly colored now that I’m using onion skins – great unforeseen benefit!) It made SEVEN big jars worth of stock and, seriously: once you start doing this you won’t believe the amount of meat that you would have thrown away otherwise. When the stock is finished I always separate out and save all of the meat I can and just drop it back into my jars of stock. Normally I would have cut up an onion and thrown a bag of carrots in there as well, this time though I didn’t need to as my veggie scraps bag did that for me. Literally I just made several almost-full meals for us out of nothing but SCRAPS that most people would have thrown away. My mom called me sick the other day so I thawed out a jar of stock, threw some cooked pasta in there and delivered her a pot of absolutely delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. When I cook a turkey now (for thanksgiving, xmas, holidays etc.) I butcher it completely and boil the entire “carcass” and make homemade turkey stock in the same way I make chicken stock. (I’ve actually found now that I’m more fond of turkey stock then chicken stock – it seems to have more flavor.)
And so now, after a long day of working at my day job, and I don’t want to make supper, I’ll just thaw out a jar of stock, add some noddles and BOOM: homemade chicken noodle soup. And all it cost was half a box of pasta which is usually less then $1! SO easy. If I feel like doing a bit more I’ll thicken up the stock, add some Parmesan, seasonings and Linguine noodles, throw some garlic bread in the oven and make pasta instead. Joe and I stopped buying milk and, ya know what? We like our “Fettuccine Alfredo” now WAY better using my homemade stock instead of milk or cream – it is so much more flavorful!
This is the pot I use to make my stock in and, ya know what? Its actually a big pasta pot so it literally has a strainer built in! PERFECT for making stock! And I’ve made enough stock now that I also purchased myself a second strainer to also put inside my pasta pot – essentially giving me two separate strainers. So, I fill the pot halfway with water, insert its strainer, add all of my chicken pieces and then, on top of that, I drop in THIS strainer that I purchased on amazon and put all of my vegetables in there. This keeps the veggies and the meat separate which means I don’t have to sort through them and have to separate the meat out after its been boiled together. I salt and pepper the stock as I’m cooking it but otherwise I don’t season it at all, but in this case its really a free for all, stock takes flavors beautifully and if I have any leftover fresh herbs I throw them in there too.
I generally cook the stock at least four hours but you can really let it simmer ALL day. Once its done, I pull out both strainers, toss the cooked veggies in the trees outside and set the chicken in a bowl to cool. I put my big pasta pot with the broth directly in my sink because I always seem to manage to spill a bit. I tried using ladles and funnels initially but, honestly, the easiest way to fill your jars is to just dunk them in the pot. Once the broth gets so low you can’t dunk the jars anymore then I use a ladle to get the rest of it out. You’ll find if you season with pepper that it will settle to the bottom so the last inch or so of stock that’s full of pepper I divide between the jars. Then I separate the meat from the bones and divide that up between the jars too. From there you just need to wait for them to cool to room temperature before you lid them and freeze them. Remember: DON’T fill your jars too full. It is better here to ere on the side of caution or else your jars will blow their lids when the broth freezes.
And there you have it! My dad’s mom (my Grandma Eleonora) knew that my favorite meal was her homemade chicken noodle soup and every year on my birthday she would boil an entire chicken for me. Once the stock was done she would strain it and then take all of the meat off the bone, put it in a pan by itself, cover it with cream and salt and pepper and we would eat that on buttered toast beside her homemade chicken noodle soup. Goodness my mouth is watering just thinking about it lol! Her favorite noodles to use were the angel hair pasta egg noodles that were only a couple of inches long but I have a very hard time finding them… So I just toss in whatever pasta I have on hand.