The stretch between Christmas and the end of January is always a little long for a teacher, at least in NC. We get paid before school lets out for the holidays, which is nice for last minute shopping, but that check has to last until the end of January, meaning that sometimes it's more like 5-6 weeks between checks, rather than just four. Thankfully, this is usually not a problem for us, as we always have a well stocked freezer and pantry, and usually have some leftover Christmas food bounty to get us through. So, this post is all about making the most of the holiday leftovers and our pantry/freezer so that grocery trips are minimal, but the menu is varied and enjoyable. I'm also including a few recipes to share with you so that you have some new ways to use up those holiday leftovers, without getting bored.
Holiday leftovers on hand: sliced ham, ham bone, turkey carcass, smoked turkey breast (since we didn't do most of our holiday eating here, there is no stuffing/mashed potatoes or gravy for a turkey casserole--but we did manage to scavenge the ham bone and turkey carcass, as well as sweet-talking my grill master uncle into smoking a turkey breast for us)
Pantry/freezer staples on hand: tortillas, cheese, pasta, rice, dried beans/split peas, canned tomatoes, canned potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, newly stocked spices/herbs (thanks so Santa), frozen veggies, frozen meat (ground beef and sausage) sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms, basic baking supplies, home canned veggies gifted by a coworker, eggs, canned salmon
Breads to bake (with aid of bread machine): whole wheat burger buns, pumpernickel bread, breakfast bread suitable for jam/peanut butter
Week 1: ham/turkey melts on pumpernickel bread, chickpea burgers with lemon aiole sauce (using dried chickpeas prepared in crock pot), split pea soup (using ham bone and pantry staples), supper club swap
items to purchase for week 1: whole wheat flour, 2 green peppers (chop all and freeze half for week 3)
Week 2: barbecue turkey burritos with beans and sour cream (shred the turkey and saute with cumin and onion, then mix in homemade or prepared barbecue sauce and the black beans to create the filling for the burritos), wild rice and mushroom pilaf, breakfast casserole with sun dried tomatoes, ham, and mushrooms
items to purchase for week 2: sour cream, can of black beans, organic milk
Week 3: ship wreck (everyone calls this something different--it's that casserole with potatoes, canned tomatoes, ground beef, onion, and pepper), salmon patties on a spinach salad with mandarin oranges, pecans, and homemade croutons, fill in w/ canned soup if needed, supper club swap
items to purchase for week 3: organic baby spinach
Week 4: vegetable soup using 1/2 lb. ground beef, freezer/canned veggies, and onion/garlic on hand, jambalaya, bread for sopping up soup broth
items to purchase for week 4: organic milk
Breakfasts will consist of cereal and milk, toast with jam/peanut butter, or yogurt with frozen berries. Snacks will be nuts from the pantry, Ches mix (gifted by Benny's mom), or trail mix from dried fruit and cereal. We are really trying to cut down on sweets, so we will limit desserts to a piece of chocolate from the stocking loot, or our small group gatherings. Lunches will be the usual leftovers from dinners during the week.
As you can see, there's not much to purchase this month, and if we stick to the plan, we shouldn't spend more than about $30 on groceries for this month, which will help us to stretch that paycheck as far as it can go. This will also hopefully help us to save a bit more this month, which will be a good boost for our emergency fund.
Below, you'll find my loose variation on my grandmother's split pea soup. It's not at all what you think of as that army green mush, so give it a shot if you've got a ham bone leftover from the holiday festivities.
Split Pea Soup (in the crock pot)
6 c homemade or store-bought veggie/chicken stock
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
1 package split peas, sorted and rinsed
1 ham bone, with some bits left on for flavor and added meat, add additional chopped ham if desired
Seasonings: salt, pepper, bay leaf, oregano (all to taste)
Combine all ingredients and cook on low in the crock pot for 6-8 hours, until peas are done and tender, but not mushy. Serve with quality bread or a sandwich (we like a ham melt with pumpernickel and brown mustard).
Let me know if you like the recipes, or if you have any other favorites to use up holiday leftovers! I'd love to hear from you!