Use What You've Got

One of the main premises of "Cooking with a Plan" is to buy ingredients when they're on sale and use them in several different recipes. Furthermore, use the leftovers from those recipes to make new meals!

Here's an example of buying ingredients on sale and using them effectively:

Two weeks ago, frozen raw shrimp was on sale at Giant. I bought a 2 lb bag. This week, cherry tomatoes were 2 for $4 and bagged greens were 2 for $4 at Wegman's.

Last week, I didn't have much food in the house and decided to use some of the shrimp I had bought as a base for a meal. I discovered some delicious portobello frozen raviolis in the freezer and a jar of vodka sauce in the pantry. I also had a small piece of stale bread from earlier in the week.
I sliced the bread and brushed it with olive oil. I sprinkled some Mrs. Dash Italian Seasoning over them and placed the slices on a cookie sheet. I broiled the bread for no more than 5 minutes (keep an eye on it!). Meanwhile, I thawed a handful of shrimp and peeled them. I also got a small pot of water boiling and cooked the ravioli. After a very quick saute of the shrimp, I tossed the cooked ravioli into the pan and then the vodka sauce. The shrimp and ravioli heated up the sauce and we were good to go. I wish I had gotten a picture of it because the bread was all golden and delicious and the ravioli looked much more decadent than a last minute meal should look.

Ok, now flash forward to this week. I made the Barley Salad with Chicken and Corn early in the week. This used up one of the pints of tomatoes and one bag of greens (baby spinach) and all the chicken I had in the house. As expected, I was flipping through Everyday Food Magazine when I was making my grocery list and saw that there was another recipe that would use the second pint of tomatoes, the second bag of greens, and the frozen shrimp that I bought on sale last week. With about ten minutes of planning, I was able to effectively use all the food I had purchased.

The biggest reason I like to cook with a plan is because I HATE wasting food (and money!). You think that you are getting this great deal when you get the 2 items for x amount of dollars, but then you never use both things. I've thrown away many bags of unused lettuce or pints of tomatoes because they spoil. You've got to have a plan for how to use ALL the ingredients you've purchased. I find that when I don't plan my meals around the quantity of ingredients I buy, things go bad and are wasted.

Sauteed Shrimp with Arugula and Tomatoes
~This is very simple, but satisfying~

  • olive oil (about 1 tbsp and 1 tsp)
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (I used 1 pint)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 oz. wild or baby arugula (4 cups)*
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • cooked pasta** or rice for serving
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they blister, about 2 minutes (it took more closer to 5).
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, until almost opaque throughout, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add arugula, season with salt and pepper, and toss until wilted, 1 minute.
  4. Add lemon juice and toss to combine. Serve the saute over rice or pasta (I used Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti...our favorite!).
*Arugula is fun because it's got a unique peppery taste to it.
**I made a half of a box of spaghetti...but following the mindset of this post, I could have made the whole box and used the leftover spaghetti for one of my "Asian Take Out" meals I learned to make from How to Cook Without A Book. More on that idea is coming up in a future post!

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