Three Types of Food that Can Make Encores

As much as I enjoy cooking, I hate doing more work than I have to. I’ve made a point to start making dishes that easily become something else for the next meal (or two or three). I’m not talking about just recycling leftovers, though. I like making meals that at least look completely from scratch. I save plenty of money this way, too: not only do I get the price drop that comes from buying ingredients, rather than prepared meals, I get an added benefit from buying fewer ingredients. So what recipes do I rely on?

Pizza Dough

I make pizza dough in triple batches — I’d make more, but I just don’t have a bowl big enough! It keeps in the fridge for a couple of days, but I routinely freeze my dough, so that I have a little more time to turn it into:

  • Pizza, in endless varieties
  • Calzones
  • Breadsticks
  • Focaccia (which, in turn, can be part of sandwiches, a side dish, or half a dozen other things)

Tomato Sauce

My tomato sauce recipe is fairly simple, and based on cheap canned tomatoes. I have plenty of jars and I make fairly large batches at a time. But, since I don’t actually do anything to preserve my sauce, it is fairly common to have several days worth of meals involving the stuff in a row.

  • Pasta, of course
  • Pizza sauce
  • Tomato soup (same ingredients, basically, with a slightly different method)
  • Chicken sort-of-Provencal (add in a few more chunky vegetables to your sauce, and only a professional chef will notice the difference)
  • Calzone sauce

Grilled Chicken

If you’re planning to eat chicken breasts most of the week anyhow, it’s hard to justify not cooking it all up at once. I use a Foreman grill, drag a book and a chair into the kitchen and knock out a bunch of cooking at once. I let the chicken cool down and then chop it into chunks.

  • Pasta topping
  • Pizza topping
  • Calzone filler
  • Quesadillas
  • Sandwiches

Pizza is, I admit, a regular dinner at my place. It might have something to do with the fact that I enjoy cold pizza for breakfast, and don’t mind it showing up for lunch, either. Factor that in with basically all the ingredients can be used for other meals, as well, and I’m sold!

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Guest's picture

Would you share your pizza dough and tomato sauce recipe? I'm especially curious about the sauce/soup


Guest's picture
Samantha Bailey

Just a note that tomato sauce freezes beautifully (and I think it even tastes better after it's thawed as the flavors are fully melded). I make a double batch of tomato sauce using a recipe that combines a pound of lean ground beef or turkey (both work equally well; with ground beef the flavor is a little richer), an onion, a green pepper, 3 carrots, a can of mushroom stems/pieces, a can of pumpkin (sounds weird, but adds vegetables and you never know it's in there), one cup of cheap red wine and a tablespoon of italian herb seasoning. I let it cook for at least an hour. Then I use half of it to make a big lasagne, which also freezes well cut into individual pieces. I figure that we get 5 meals from the lasagne and 4-6 meals from the remaining sauce, depending on how we use it. Instead of pasta, we often have the sauce over spaghetti squash--low calorie and very filling; not as cheap as pasta, but healthier.

Guest's picture

Your tomato sauce sounds fantastic, I love the idea of adding pumpkin (which I love) and was hoping you could post the rest of the recipe? (like how many tomatoes/cans of tomato paste, etc.) Thanks!

Guest's picture

no tomatoes?

Myscha Theriault's picture

Right up my alley!

Guest's picture

"Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook" has some fine recipes for mass quantities of tomator sauces, including a marinara sauce, one with red wine and meat, a vegetarian one, etc., as well as a really nice thick pizza sauce that is very inexpensive. I have made many of these, especially the sauce, since I work, and these can cook all day and be ready for dinner when I get home.

Additionally, the authors also have nice recipes for pizza dough that can be made in a bread machine (or conventionally, by hand), to accompany your homemade sauce. This works out nicely, because my high-schooler gets home earlier some days, and can assemble the ingredients for the pizza dough and get that working, and the timing works out fine.

You could, I guess, get all your appliances going at once and have a grilled chicken pizza. We don't have enough outlets in our tiny kitchen, though :)

Thursday Bram's picture

I have the same problem, which sort of got me into the process of making one thing at a time (and finding extra uses for it). My kitchen is almost large enough for two people to stand in at the same time, provided neither one really needs personal space. For Thanksgiving, I had to put a table in the hallway outside my kitchen door to have enough prep area.

I'm putting my recipes together and will post them the morning (have to transcribe some hard to read notes, sorry.)

Guest's picture
martha in mobile

Here's a 3 day menu we use once each month:

Day 1 - grill chicken breasts that have been coated in olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped rosemary and salt (out of How to Cook Everything by Bittman). serve with steamed/nuked potatoes and a steamed veggie.

Day 2 - hash! slice leftover potatoes, chop onions, add diced leftover chicken and make hash. serve with a different steamed veggie

Day 3 - pot pie! put leftover hash, leftover veggies in a deep dish pie pan on top of a refrigerator pie crust. make a roux and add chicken broth to make a sauce. pour over above, put on a top crust, cut a few vents and bake at 425 for approx. 30 min.

Works a treat!

Guest's picture

I lived off cold pizza in college, but typically shy away from it now because delivery doesn't fit into my frugal lifestyle. This post has me curious to try some homemade pizza recipes so that I can again enjoy a pie without feeling guilty over the expense. I agree with the other comments, a follow up recipe would be wonderful - unless your keeping a family secret recipe a secret.

Guest's picture

We do pizza dough in our bread machine. It can do 2 pound batches and that makes about six good sized pizzas. Leftover pizza is pretty popular so it extends to other meals.
We found a store brand double sized cans of italian style crushed tomatoes. They are fairly cheap and work right out of the can as pizza sauce. They also make a good start to meat sauce.
When there were too many tomatoes last summer we started slow roasting them with a bit of olive oil and italian seasoning in the oven. We made extra and froze it but it didn't last long, they were pretty good.

Leftover taco meat also gets reused pretty fast. Nachos or in eggs.

Guest's picture

THe commercial moonsand is one of the worst things invented...give me playdough! Moonsand gets into everything and if you follow the directions, is actually a danger to children. I learned to make a modeling mixture of baking soda, cornstarch and water and it is great stuff.

Guest's picture

Sitting over a Foreman and grilling chicken? Nah.

I get a giant bag of frozen chicken breasts from Aldi (they're the cheapest around here)

I place in a 13 x9 dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with Adobo (it's in the Mexican aisle - a sort of seasoning mix with salt,pepper, garlic and onion powders)

bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until done.