Multi-purposing food means taking one food, and using it for many things. It can be a great way to make shopping easier, and save you a lot of money.
One way to multi-purpose food is to start with recipes. For example, you’re planning on buying ground beef to make hamburgers. What else can you do with ground beef? You could make Salisbury steak, meatloaf, or meatballs. So, when you go shopping, buy 5lbs of beef instead of one (which saves money in the long run), and cook several meals using ground beef, then freeze the cooked meals so you can heat them up later. Ground beef, poultry and roasts are especially good for this. Fish and pork can be harder to get creative with.
Another way to multi-purpose food is just thinking ahead. Whenever we make turkey for the holidays I always make sure to buy veggies as well, and I turn the leftover turkey into a big pot of soup, which I freeze off into 2-bowl portions. You could also freeze plates of turkey, potatoes and gravy as microwave meals for later. If you make a pot roast, have ingredients on hand to turn the leftovers into shepherd’s pie, beef stew, or beef soup.
Pasta is really great for multi-purposing. If you’re cooking pasta for dinner, cook more than you need. Put some into containers with tomato sauce, melt cheese over some and freeze it as quick mac and cheese, pour soup over some and freeze that as well. You can also freeze the pasta by itself. Then, when you need pasta, you can just toss it in hot water to reheat, and you’re done!
Potatoes can be good as well. Boil a whole bag in one go, then turn them into a variety of things. Chop some and make a potato salad to eat right away. (Potato salad doesn’t usually freeze well.) Take some of the potatoes and mash them, then freeze it. Slice or cube some of the potatoes and freeze them. You can take the slices or cubes out later and fry them in some butter and spices for a great side dish. Just remember, you should pull the potatoes you’re going to freeze out of the water while they’re still a tad underdone. They’ll cook the rest of the way when you reheat the portions.
Some people might be thinking: If I buy a ton of ground beef, and make all kinds of beef meals, I’ll be eating beef every day for weeks! Not so. The beauty of freezing portions is that you can take them back out whenever you want. Right now we have turkey soup, lasagna rolls, meatballs, goulash and plain pasta frozen up. We eat the ones we want, when we want. As long as they’re frozen, they’ll be good for several months. I ate turkey soup tonight that I made at Thanksgiving, and it still tasted wonderful!
If you’re going to multi-purpose food and make frozen meals, I suggest you invest in a chest freezer or standing freezer, so you have plenty of room for all the great food you’ll be storing. Try looking at second-hand appliance stores for your freezer, you can often get a really good deal that won’t break the bank.