Necessity is the Mother of Inventive Meals

by Katy on August 17, 2010 · 10 comments

I’m not sure how it happened, but my fridge, freezer and cupboards are fit to burst. I know it’s not that I’ve over shopped. I actually let my $10 off $50 Safeway coupon sit idle, as I couldn’t think of  anything that I needed. I’ve mostly been shopping for a few things here and there, never filling more than a small basket at a time.

So I decided that I needed to eat down the stash. Not in any kind of organized manner, no inventory was taken and no meals were planned. I would hate for you to think that I’d undergone a personality transplant!

Tonight’s dinner was supposed to be simple and cool. It’s been mightily hot here in Portland, and the last thing I wanted was a big heavy meal to heat the kitchen and weigh down the family.

I knew our freezer held individually frozen chicken breasts, so I figured I would make a big green salad with some chicken on top. Like a Caesar salad. So I started the chicken breasts, (two for the four of us) in a cast iron pan and pulled the lettuce out of the fridge. Uh oh . . . there was only enough lettuce for a single salad. A quick glance through the garden confirmed that there was not enough growing to remedy the situation.

So what did I do? Did I drive to the grocery store and buy more lettuce? No way! I quickly reconfigured the meal and served “pulled chicken sandwiches,” like pulled pork, but made with chicken instead. I pulled some rolls from the freezer, used up the last of two different bottles of barbecue sauce, sauteed some frozen chopped onion, popped open a jar of pickled red peppers, (thank you Grocery Outlet!) and served it with the last of the lettuce.

And let me tell ya’, it was gol durned delish!

I had actually planned on not making dinner, (too hot!) as I had prepared a full meal at 3:00 P.M. Sadly, my family grew hungry again, which is the risk of serving early suppers. The lunch was pasta with shrimp, artichoke hearts, parmesan cheese and homemade pesto from the freezer. It was guest-worthy.

I am starting to make a dent in the fridge, but it might be another week or so before there’s enough elbow room to not perform food stuff origami. Then again I shouldn’t pat myself on the back too enthusiastically, as I do have ten or so loaves of Dave’s Killer Bread in the next-door-neighbor’s basement freezer.

I may actually spend significantly less this month than I did when I was doing the June Food Stamp Challenge.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Molly On Money August 17, 2010 at 6:40 am

We are still on the grocery challenge and this month we are trying to go the entire month without spending ANY $.
Yesterday I delivered a whole chicken to my Mom (it’s my side business) and my youngest daughter asked my Mom if she could pay us in milk rather then cash!
Believe it or not, it has been fun. We’ve been making all sorts of funky recipes- it’s inspired the cooking around our house.


Beth August 17, 2010 at 7:39 am

“Food stuff origami” makes me imagine trying to fold a loaf of bread into a crane ;o). How about Fridge Tetris?


Lisa August 17, 2010 at 10:18 am

My grocery bill has been minimal this month mainly because it’s been too hot to cook or eat.


Katy August 17, 2010 at 10:21 am

Which in theory should decrease the waistline, but the ice cream more than makes up the difference. At least in my house it does. 😉



Julia August 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm

It was extremely hot here in Seattle too (86 degrees in the house!) and my son (9) had no appetite. I, however, was still as hungry as ever and indeed talked him into walking to the ice cream place down the street so I could get some…isn’t the kid the one who’s supposed to be begging for cold sweet treats??


jana @ the empty kitchen August 17, 2010 at 10:35 am

those kinds of recipes are my absolute favorite! it makes me feel like i’ve accomplished something so big by 1)reinventing my menu plan and 2)altering a recipe.

could you play food stuff jenga?


Mrs. Roy August 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Great minds think alike – I’m a graduate of the June Food Stamp Challenge and just had this article posted:


WilliamB August 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I enjoy Inventive Meals, – my cooking goal is to be able to walk into a strange kitchen and make a meal with whatever I find. So learning how to cook with what I have is a top (cooking) priority. I will do it a couple of times this week.

1. Decided at last minute to invite 2 neighbors and their kids over for dinner on Thursday. One neighbor is vegetarian, kids are not. I’m going out to dinner tomorrow and I have a day job so advance prep is important. I noodle around the kitchen, the fridge, the freezer and my list of recipes to try. Aha! – I have chix stew I made for lunches so all I need is a topping to make Chix Pot Pie, all it needs is last minute assembly. (I’ll use freezered leftovers for lunch instead.) Mushroom quiche is more last minute work but I need to buy only the fresh mushrooms, even the pie crust is made already – I made an extra set and froze it when I made Peach Pie last weekend to use up the peaches that went almost bad during the week I was sick. Dessert will be the fruit ice creams I made for the same reason. So I’m feeding 3 adults and 4 kids, need buy only 1/2 lb mushrooms, most of it is done in advance, and I’m working two recipes off the list.

2. My CSA gave me eggplant, something I don’t usually use. My friend suggested a dish of eggplant, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, pearl barley, and onions. Realization: if I sub the full-sized CSA tomatoes for cherry then all I need buy is goat cheese and it’ll use up lots of the annual box of barley. Friend will be sharing the bounty as we watch preseason football. Dessert will be whatever fruit I have, and chocolate.

So yes, Inventive Meals are alive and well at Chez WB.


Katy August 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm


That’s sounds fantastic!



Jinger August 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I am with you, Katy..for some reason, my larder has been full to the brim lately. I have been stopping at Sprouts for their terrific weekly sales on produce. Can’t beat their prices and the rest of my shopping seems to be just for staples when we run out. No meat for several weeks now and we have full satisfying meals. Tonight combo fajitas with sauteed onion, peppers, corn and shrimp and fresh cantaloupe for dessert.


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