Sometimes you have food that’s good and nutritious, but there’s too much of one or two ingredients. The school meals always come with milk and often, an apple. They’re piling up! You got a pre-packed bag of groceries that has items you’ve never tried. You have a CSA share from a local farm that includes a few vegetables that your family never seems to eat.
You don’t want it to go to waste. What can you do?
You’re not alone, and we have some ideas for you!
Kia Burton-King, Family Support Worker and School Liaison at the Community Action Family Center, and Ilana Gerjuoy, 4SC Coordinator, have been chatting about how to use extra food from school summer meals and other food distribution. We keep hearing that people want tips for how to use extra ingredients, so we decided to share some ideas from our conversations.
Kia, her husband, and her kids (ages almost 9 and 11) all love to cook. Kia doesn’t think of herself as an amazing or fancy cook, and emphasized that you don’t have to be either! She just likes to find creative ways to cook food that her family will enjoy on a budget. Ilana also really enjoys cooking, but while working full-time and raising a 4 year-old who is home all the time due to covid, there isn’t much time to do it – unless her 4 year-old is involved! It was awesome to hear from Kia how her family has been using extra food from school summer meals and other places.
Here are some ideas that may help to use up those ingredients:
Got extra veggies from school lunches that the kids haven’t eaten? Kids may not like them plain, but you can put them in something else that they might like better!
– Throw broccoli florets, peas, or spinach into a quiche, which is something that a lot of kids like. Quiche recipes here. Or if someone in your house is gluten-free, try a frittata instead. Frittata recipes here.
– Blend veggies into a smoothie if you have a blender. Smoothie recipes with veggies here. If you don’t have all the ingredients, don’t worry. Smoothie recipes are generally very flexible and you can usually put more of something else in. Try adding a little juice if you don’t have fruit (or vice versa), a different kind of fruit, or some yogurt.
– Add veggies in small pieces (or blended) to tomato sauce and use it on pasta. Peppers, spinach, zucchini, and other summer squash all work really well in sauces.
– Add veggies in small pieces (or blended) to salsa and use it on top or nachos or for dipping chips.
There are a LOT of things to do with apples, so we are just offering a few suggestions.
– Kia’s family likes to make applesauce in the crock pot. She notes that it’s really simple and you can just walk away from it if you use a slow cooker. Slow cooker applesauce recipe here.
– Stove top applesauce is also very easy! Just core and chop the apples in large chunks (you can leave the skin on for added nutrition), put in a pot with enough water or juice to cover the bottom of the pot, add cinnamon or other spices (optional), and stir every few minutes on medium-low heat until the apples are soft enough for your liking. Add more water or juice if apples start sticking.
– If the apples aren’t looking so good, you can still use them. Ideas here.
– Baking and other (on the gourmet side of things) ideas for what to do with extra apples here.
Turn milk into…
– Yogurt! Kia has been figuring out ways to use extra milk from lunches, something a lot of families have been discussing. When we talked, she said she wanted to try making yogurt! Locally, Upinngil Farm Store has yogurt starter or you can use packaged yogurt to turn milk into more yogurt. Yogurt recipe here.
– Lots of other things….soups, sauces, pancakes, baking…More ideas for what to do with extra milk here.
A few extra ideas
– Kia notes that since everything is grab n’ go there’s not as much choice. One food distribution site recently gave away chili, so her family made “tater tot nachos” (using tater tots instead of tortilla chips) with chili and cheese – the kids loved them! Of course, you can use tortilla chips and make chili nachos with chips. Or, she says, grab a pack of hot dogs and make chili dogs.
– Got extra oats? Try making oatmeal cookies, granola (which is usually way cheaper to make at home than to buy and you can use fewer nuts and more seeds to reduce cost), or use them as the main ingredient in the topping for an apple crisp or other fruit crisp.
– Instead of ordering pizza, try English muffin personal pizzas, a much cheaper alternative. Pita pizzas work really well too. Put your favorite sauce on and have kids sprinkle their own cheese on. Add veggies or other toppings based on personal preference.
Interested in more ideas like this?
- You can also get in touch with Kia through the Family Center.
- Kia and Ilana both find free recipes on allrecipes.com, pinterest, and other online sources.
- One cool feature on allrecipes is the recipe by ingredient search…If you have extra food that you want to use, type an ingredient into the search bar at the top, and recipes using that ingredient will pop up!
- Good Cheap Eats has a bunch of recipes designed to keep grocery bills down.
Cooking together is family time!
Kia and Ilana also love to talk about how cooking can be great family time! Positive time together as a family is positive for kids and teens in multiple ways. More about that from The Family Dinner Project. Also, kids are more likely to eat food they help to prepare, they learn skills, and they appreciate the work that goes into cooking. Food cooked at home is not only less expensive, it’s often less processed and healthier too! Happy Cooking!