As a mom of a large family, I’ve found that the best thing I can do, from a frugal standpoint, is to freeze leftovers. And, sometimes, I upcycle them.
A little while back, we made beef brisket for a dinner at our house. There was a considerable amount of au jus left over from cooking the brisket and I immediately thought that I should freeze it. My plan was to put it in the crockpot with a roast for Sunday lunch.
Fast forward to this past Saturday night. I was dreaming of that roast and that bag of au jus. I pulled them both out of the freezer in preparation for the crockpot. At the 5 am feeding of my son, I commissioned my husband to put the roast and the bag of au jus in the crockpot and turn it on low. He did because he’s a wonderful, helpful husband.
As I ran through the kitchen on the way out to church, I leaned over the crockpot to smell the delicious roast swimming in yummy, rich au jus. And, I had to lean back over the crockpot. THAT was NOT the smell I was imagining. Why did this roast smell like cinnamon?? Then, it hit me. I had taken out a bag of juice alright… but it wasn’t au jus. It was the leftover apple cider from a ladies’ event that I had hosted. Crap. Well, I explained to my husband, that we would be trying the roast in a different way today. And, we ran out of the house for church.
My family, in the good natured way that rarely accompanies small children trying new foods, ate the roast without complaint. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t my favorite but we don’t throw away food just because it isn’t our favorite.
That night I decided to upcycle the leftover half of the roast. I knew that I had a huge bag of frozen mixed veggies and I had two pie crusts in my refrigerator. Beef Pot Pie. YES. I could definitely redeem this apple cider soaked hunk of meat. I carefully cubed the remaining meat and put it in the refrigerator for the next day. I smiled. I would provide a yummy meal for my family with little effort.
The next day, I conferred with my mom about the gravy for the pot pie. We decided that it would be good to use a can of cream of mushroom soup and some beef broth. I emptied the can of cream of mushroom soup, 2 cups of hot water, 2 beef bouillon cubes and a ton of frozen mixed veggies into my big pot. I turned the burner on high to let the concoction come to a boil. I planned on turning it down to a slow simmer so the veggies would cook well.
Then, my 2 year old awoke from his nap. I playfully greeted him and he requested to facetime his daddy at work. It always makes his (and mine!!) afternoon go so much easier so I obliged. After we facetimed daddy, he needed to potty. And, then I needed to potty. Then, I debated with myself in the mirror whether I should cut my hair. And, good grief my eyebrows need to be waxed. And, which kid peed on my bathroom floor THIS time? And, I need to go see what my oldest son is asking about his worksheet for school. So, I walked downstairs. As I rounded the corner into the dining room, I smell it. And, I hear it. My pot pie gravy concoction is burning. Crap. I ran to the pot to see just how bad the burning was.
It was bad. It was mom of 5 kids type of bad. If you have your brain sucked out by 5 kids, you understand the magnitude of how bad the gravy was. The cream of mushroom soup and beef broth was completely evaporated. The veggies were a crispy brownish black color on one side. The aroma was of burnt, stuck to the pan veggies. Classic bad.
So, you know what I did?? I went to the pantry and pulled out another can of cream of mushroom soup and dumped it in the pot. I stirred it. And then I dumped the cubed roast into the pot. Then I rolled out my pie crust on my baking dish and I filled it with the burnt gravy, veggie and meat mix. I knew what I needed to do. I had to taste it. I had to see just how much weeping and complaining my kids were going to do when they took the first bite. I confess that I did the taste with apprehension.
It wasn’t bad! In fact, the burnt flavor added character to the gravy. Perhaps they wouldn’t complain too much. That’s the goal these days. If we are honest as moms, we just want to survive meal time. So, that was my prayer, survival. And, did we survive? YES! My husband even said it was good.
So, the moral of the story is this: Even when you ruin the meal TWICE, you can still survive. It is possible. Soldier on, mama. Serve that burnt meal and smile. You worked hard to love and take care of your family. Success.