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Real Food On a Budget: Using up Leftovers

The easiest most common sense way to stretch your food budget when eating real food is to reduce waste.  Americans throw away one third (yes, one third) of the food that they buy.  How wasteful!

Of course, no food at my house goes to waste (except for two lonely steaks that were forgotten about in the back of the fridge last week- they were completely bad by the time I found them and had to go in the trash... it nearly killed me).  Past it's prime produce and produce scraps and leftovers that we don't eat go to the chickens in the winter, and in the summer they go into the compost pile, where the chickens still eat most of them (at least the good parts).

One of the things I do that helps reduce waste the most is to re-purpose leftovers.  Yes, most leftovers are good all on there own, but certain things begin to loose their appeal once they've sat in the fridge for a few days- baked potatoes is one of them.  A baked potato, fresh out of the oven, is fluffy and delicious.  After sitting in the fridge for a day or so it becomes heavy and waxy.

Yet I always intentionally make extra baked potatoes.  Why, you may be asking?  Because they make good lunches.

Hash is one way I use up devour leftover baked potatoes.  The idea, if not the exact execution, of hash is something I get from my Grandma- her version of hash usually involves diced potatoes and either sausage or hamburger if I remember correctly.  It's something she used to frequently make both for Sunday after church breakfast or for a quick supper for guests.  In fact, I believe my talent for throwing together a quick lunch using just what's on hand is something I have learned from her.  When she has guests she always offers to feed then lunch/dinner, even if she has nothing planned, and she always pulls something together- something I have witnessed often over the years.
Potato, bacon, and cheese hash... not the prettiest recipe I've ever made, but probably one of the tastiest
Easy Potato, Bacon, and Cheese Hash
  • 1-2 leftover baked potatoes
  • 4-6 slices of good bacon, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
  • about 1/2 cup good, sharp shredded cheddar (honestly, I didn't measure)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place a heavy skillet (cast iron would be ideal) over medium high heat and saute bacon until just crisp, stirring often.  While the bacon cooks, shred your baked potatoes using a cheese grater.

Add onion to the pan and cook until translucent, then push bacon and onions to the side and check out the oil situation in your pan- bacon can give off a highly variable amount of liquid fat.  If there's a nice, respectable but not disgusting layer of fat in the pan, you're good.  If there's a lot, drain a little off.  If there isn't much, add a few pats of butter.  Distribute shredded potatoes around the pan, pressing down lightly to form an even layer.  Then leave the potatoes undisturbed for at least 5 minutes- the more you stir and mess, the mushier they will be.

After about 5 minutes, lift up some potatoes with a small spatula to see if they are browning.  If they are, carefully flip them in sections.  The better you do this, the crisper they will be BUT I did a terrible job and my hash still came out absolutely delicious!  Anyway, flip the potatoes, then carefully push the bacon and onion mixture up over the top and add the spinach.  Cook for another 5 or so minutes to brown the other side (adding a cover helps wilt the spinach a little faster) then flip again just to incorporate the bacon, onion, and spinach.  Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and cover for a few minutes to properly melt the cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

I know it looks like a messy pile of mess, but the taste more than makes up for it, and it's an easy lunch that uses up leftovers- you can even use leftover meat instead of bacon (adjusting cooking times and fat accordingly) or leftover veg instead of spinach.  That's one of the beautiful things about hash, the possibilities are endless!

This post has been shared at New Life on a Homestead's Barn Hop, Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday, and Real Food Forager's Fat Tuesday.

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