How Do You Stretch The Contents Of Your Kitchen To Create Culinary Delights?

Our delightfully crafty siblings at ShopSmart Magazine are always coming up with creative ways to stretch a dollar. And when it comes to getting the last bit of food from the bottom of that peanut butter jar or the final swig in a wine bottle, they’ve discovered some very hand tips for turning kitchen dregs into culinary delight. Check out a few of their suggestions and let us know — have you devised any tasty uses for those otherwise used up bottles, jars and bags?

These tricks come from ShopSmart‘s test-kitchen experts and chef Aaron McCargo, host of the Food Network’s Big Daddy’s House. Check out the September issue of ShopSmart for more, and add your own tips in the comments below if you’ve got a particularly crafty way of working kitchen magic.

Nuke sticky stuff. Place an almost empty peanut butter jar in the microwave for a few seconds to soften the skimpy remains, then add soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and vegetable oil, and shake to make an Asian marinade to brush on chicken or beef skewers. Or pour it over a salad of mandarin orange slices, chicken, and tomatoes. The last scrapes of honey and marmalade in jars can also be nuked, even if they have crystallized, to make them easier to mix with lime juice, grapeseed oil, salt, and pepper for a delicious salad dressing.

Recycle olive and pickle juice. The tangy brine can be used to perk up a number of dishes. Swap olive juice for vinegar in a vinaigrette; the dressing will add a nice olive flavor to tossed greens and egg or tuna salad. Make your own pickles by slicing cucumbers into a jar of leftover pickle juice and letting them steep for 3 or 4 hours. Slip the pickled cukes into sandwiches for added crunch. Or add a little hot pepper and cut-up vegetables, such as string beans, tomatoes, carrots, and celery, to the juice. Let them sit for a few hours and you’ll have a tasty side dish or addition to a pasta salad.

Savor the last drops of vino. All it takes is a splash to flavor a dish. If the wine is just about gone, try braising vegetables in a little mixed with olive oil, or sprinkle it on fish with some herbs, wrap in foil, and bake.


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  1. AtlantaCPA says:

    The cereal crumbs at the bottom of the bag I mix into bread (granted, this requires that you are a bread baker). We eat mostly shredded wheat which lends itself perfectly to being mixed into bread, but most other healthy cereals work too.

  2. AtlantaCPA says:

    Also, saving bones to make stock is a no-brainer, but I also will save and freeze some vege trimmings like the tops of leeks and the bottoms of asparagus. Once you have enough you can simmer and make vege stock. Assuming you didn’t add any salt you can still compost what’s leftover.

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      I do that too. A couple of store roasted chickens give us 3 sometimes four meals. Following the first meal with the easy meat we make chicken salad for lunches, soups and stews.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      And celery leaves! I look for celery with the most leaves now, because I can use them when I make chicken broth.

    • Cacao says:

      One of my favorites is saving shrimp and crab shells to make stock.

    • pamelad says:

      I’m a big fan of homemade stock. I save a couple of chicken carcasses and some vegetable trimmings in the freezer. Price of stock for about 16 meals, not including what would otherwise have been discarded is about $1.50 for garlic and an onion. Plus, I don’t have to feel guilty about getting every last bit of meat off the chicken bones. “It’ll flavor the stock,” I justify to myself. Nice feeling.

      I use a lot of garlic in it. The stock helps make many nice meals with less effort (no chopping garlic, extra layers of flavor).

      Keys: Keep solids barely covered with water, simmer uncovered slowly for a long time, about eight hours, skim the bubbly whitish stuff from the top occasionally, then strain and toss or compost the solids. Refrigerate the thick liquid overnight, skim off the fat from the top that will rise during refrigeration, then put into small plastic bags and freeze.

  3. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    I did this the other day when preparing a couple racks of pork ribs… I found 5 bottles of BBQ sauce sitting in the fridge so I put some hot water in each, shook well, and poured over the ribs in a large deep, bbq safe pan. Then covered with foil before bbq’ing for an hour at 200 degrees. Pulled the ribs out of the “sauce” and finished them on the flame while reducing the “sauce” (after draining the obvious fat) to later pour over the ribs.

    The ribs were hoovered up in minutes and I got rid of all sorts of part bottles of sauce.

  4. travel_nut says:

    I save all vegetable scraps in the freezer and once every couple months make a giant batch of veg broth. I usually have 2-3 gallon Ziplocks full of asparagus ends, potato/carrot/zucchini peels, celery leaves, garlic skin, etc waiting to be made into broth.

    To make the broth, I just put it in a giant stock pot, cover with water, maybe add a little bay leaf and a cut onion, and simmer all day. Strain and separate into various size portions. I do 1/2, 1, 2, and 4 cup portions, all stored in cheap plastic containers in the freezer.

    Bonus, if you compost (or know someone who does) the cooked vegetable scraps can be thrown into your compost pile, as long as you didn’t add any meat scraps.

    When my bread starts to get stale, I vacuum seal and freeze it, and eventually make bread crumbs with it. I then store the bread crumbs in the freezer as well.

    • rgf207 says:

      This is a great tip. Thanks

    • meguin says:

      I do the same thing, except I also throw in the bones and scraps after I clean off everything edible from a roasted chicken. I also do it overnight in a crock pot most of the time, then strain and put it in the fridge all day to make scraping the fat off easier.

      An easier way (though not reusable) to store the broth is in ziploc bags. Freeze them single-layer on a baking sheet, and they they stack quite easily.

  5. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    She should have used the ‘I’m doing research’ excuse.

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      Ah, so you’ve come to this thread to do research on saving money in the kitchen? Perfect! The comment elves are producing results! (I’m assuming this was for the debit card thief post, but it kind of works here)

  6. Dagny Taggart says:

    The nuking thing also works to soften up brown sugar that has turned into a rock. Add a damp (not wet) paper towel to the container before putting it in the microwave.

    Nuking for about ten seconds can also revive stale bread or pastry.

    • Lethe says:

      A great way to get rid of hard brown sugar lumps is to put a piece of bread in the container with it. I don’t know exactly how, but it keeps the sugar lump-free for months, and it never gets mouldy itself.

      • dangermike says:

        Sugar is hygroscopic. The moisture content in is too low for microorganisms to grow but humidity can cause it to clump. I would speculate that the bread absorbs the humidity before the sugar can clump, but that the inside of the container remains too dry for mold and bacteria spores to activate. There’s a similar trick of adding a few dozen grains of rice to a salt shaker to prevent clumping. I’ve heard that one explained by a similar humidity mechanism. (But I’ve also head the humidity think claimed to be bunk for rice/salt and the alternate explanation offered that the rice simply breaks up clumps during shaking)

        • beappleby says:

          I don’t think so – the bread gets hard and the sugar gets soft! Just an inch or so of bread in the sugar bowl works wonders.

  7. grillin_man says:

    who are you kidding with the “wine is just about gone” – when the bottle is opened, it’s also finished

    • Lethe says:

      Alcohol goes bad if you leave it open for too long.

      • Dagny Taggart says:

        Funny…I don’t think I have ever possessed a partial bottle of wine…at least not for more than an hour or so…..

    • Dagny Taggart says:

      I hear you! My mom once sent me one of those internet lists of helpful hints, and one of them was a use for leftover Snickers bars. Does such a thing exist?

  8. pyster says:

    I make peanut sauce using the empty jar using misc stuff i have around. it’s normally garlic chives, rice wine, soy sauce, ginger, and whatever. Nuke it and pour it over rice noodles, ramen, or udon. It is the win.

    • Thnaggle Tooph says:

      Near empty peanut butter containers make excellent dog treats. Licking the peanut butter off the bottom occupies them for hours. Best utilized outside.

      • NotEd says:

        Not good with small dogs and big jars unless you test fit beforehand to make sure you can extract their head from said jar if they get “enthusiastic”.

      • becina says:

        Yeah, it keeps my dog busy for quite some time but I take it away from her once she starts chipping the plastic. It’s really funny to see her go at it though!

  9. Polish Engineer says:

    Save a couple inches at the root ends on your green onions and plant them. They grow like like mad and you will never need to buy green onions again.

    Parsley stems and corn cobs can also be frozen and used later to flavor a stock.

    Left over caper juice adds nice brine to a pasta dish.

  10. meguin says:

    If there’s only a splash of wine left in the bottle, I just skip using a glass altogether.

  11. olddog1213 says:

    A much better way to recycle pickle juice is to pour it around your gardenia bushes. They love it and will reward you with great blossoms.

  12. Cacao says:

    I put sliced carrots into a jar of pickle juice. They were meh.

    • PercussionQueen7 says:

      Pickled carrots are awesome if you do it right. Add a couple of cloves of garlic and a bay leaf or two. (I miss my grandma who would do this for us!)

  13. HogwartsProfessor says:

    –The last few crackers left in the bottom of the sleeve or box can be crushed, mixed with a can or package of salmon (or mackerel) and an egg, then made into salmon patties (or mackerel patties. Mackerel is cheaper if you’re poor.). The little packages of salmon are best if it’s only you, because there’s less waste. Makes two patties whereas the can sometimes makes more than you can eat.

    –The last bits of onions and/or peppers can be chopped up and put into omelets or quiches. When you cut off the ends of the pepper, save those bits that aren’t stem and cut them up. You can freeze them.

    –Only one egg left? Fry it, put it on toast with a slice of cheese and the last ham slice for a breakfast sammich. English muffin is even better.

    –The little dab of spaghetti sauce in the jar will stretch if you add a bit of water and swirl it around. It might be enough sauce for a portion or two, or if you don’t put too much water, you can put it on top of a chicken patty. Add mozzarella cheese and you have chicken parmesan.

    –Speaking of parmesan, you can put the last bit on your salad. Mmm.

  14. dangermike says:

    Tired of throwing that plate full of jus after bring in some freshly grilled steaks or cutting your prize roast? Sop it up with a sheet or two of finely shredded newspaper, refrigerate overnight, and bake for an hour at 350 the next day. Bing-o, near-zero-effort yorkshire pudding virtually for free!

    • pamelad says:

      Newspress ink plus whatever is in newsprint paper? That sounds toxic. I wonder if your name is “dangermike” for good reason. But maybe you were just kidding.

  15. msgogo says:

    If you garden, the core ends of lettuce, celery, and green onions can just be replanted right into your garden- they’ll grow whole new veggies!

  16. fleef says:

    Ohh I get it… I it’s all clear to me now.

    The banksters that own these sites, now that they’re under the gun, getting investigated and all and don’t have their piles of gold coins and hundies to swim in are looking for money saving tips from us poors since they never had to eat that heel that was the last slice in the bag of bread.

    Well, no dice! WHO’S YOUR GOD NOW

    thought I’d end this thread since I can sum it all up in one package for you:

    don’t throw anything away use the bits in something else
    rinse out jar with liquid to get the last 1/8th teaspoon of goo out of it
    use freezer for unused things to use for later.

    how’s that