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5 Ways to make a meal out of what's already in your kitchen

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Frugal living

Are you on a tight budget? Do you have a few days to go before payday arrives and you can go to the grocery store? Here are five tips of how to make delicious dishes out of what’s already in your kitchen.

Woman baking bread


1Grocery shopping 101

If you are living on a tight budget, one of the best ways to maximize your grocery money is to stock your pantry and freezer with foods that have a long shelf life. Fill your shelves with plenty of flour, pasta, rice, beans, dry cereals, canned or frozen veggies, soups, stocks, pasta sauce and other condiments. These foods will make an excellent foundation for any menu.

2Creative cooking

Don't be afraid to use your imagination when you are looking for ways to stretch that grocery budget. You don't have to stick to a recipe to make a tasty dish. No pasta in the house and the kids are clamoring for mac n' cheese? How about using rice instead? Does the chili you are making call for ground beef but you can't get to the store until next week? Try substituting beans in place of beef. Want to toss together a stir-fry, but you don't have the usual broccoli and carrots? Stir-fry tastes good with almost any vegetable. Just look in your fridge and use whatever veggies you have on hand.

3Make tasty breads from scratch

One good way to dress up any breakfast, lunch or dinner is fresh homemade bread. It's very filling, healthy and cheap too. Make sure you always keep plenty of flour, yeast, baking soda and baking powder on hand and you will always have the ingredients you need to whip up anything from wheat bread and dinner rolls to scones, muffins, waffles or biscuits.

4Give your leftovers a makeover

Don't let those leftovers go to waste! It's amazing how much food gets thrown away in America's kitchens. Think outside the box and turn that leftover roast chicken into spicy enchiladas. Or toss that leftover fruit salad into the blender with some yogurt and make a tasty smoothie. Do you love soup? Almost any leftover dinner can be repurposed into a delicious soup in no time at all. Your leftover baked potatoes? Mix them up with a little sour cream and chicken stock. Crumble a little bacon on top and you've got yourself a tasty baked potato soup. Pasta sauce? Toss it in the blender with some cream and you've made a delicious creamy tomato soup. Noodles and veggies? Add some tomato sauce and parmesan cheese and you'll be eating Pasta Fagioli in no time. The possibilities are endless.

5Let your computer design your dinner

End of the week and fresh out of ideas? Don't worry. There are a variety of websites on the internet now that will help you use the ingredients you have in your very own kitchen to create tasty dinners for your family. Recipe Puppy and Supercook are ingredient-based search engines that allow you to type in the ingredients you have on hand before searching their database for a perfect recipe. So let your fingers do the walking and you'll have a healthy dinner in your hands before you know it!

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