Making the Best of What’s On Hand and Getting Creative

Hey all! I figured I would post one of my longest held tenets of cooking that has served me well and will help you save time, money and use your innate creativity: using what you have on hand and being inventive.

Here’s a perfect example of what I mean. At my house, the kitchen is all torn apart because of renovations. Shopping isn’t really getting done and there is very little on hand other than pantry staples and a few fridge things. One night, having eaten wieners and beans for about a week, I couldn’t take it anymore. So I went on a journey through my pantry and fridge.

Going through spices, tins of various meats and old pumpkin pie mix, I hit a few key things: microwaveable rice (Uncle Ben’s Bistro Express Basmati to be specific), oil and curry powder. That gave me the idea to make a very rough estimate of fried rice a la me. I went through the fridge, found some celery and bacon, and knew I was in business. I microwaved the rice and sauteed the celery in oil with a bit of curry powder until the celery was a warm but still crunchy. I took the celery out of the pan, added the bacon (which I had cut up) and fried it up until it was slightly crisp. I added the celery back, added the rice and kept frying it up.

Trying to think back to how I’ve seen fried rice made around Japanese teppanyaki tables, I made a hole in the rice and fried up an egg, blending it into the mixture once cooked. I added soy sauce and a bit of sriracha. Plated. Ate it. And it was good. So so so good.

It took me no more than 10 minutes, cost me about $2 and had enough for lunch the next day.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and it is a key part of being comfortable while cooking. You can mix together any few things you may have and probably turn it into something great! Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’ve only got a few things, think of flavours you like and things you may have seen before and try it out.

Things won’t always turn out, but that’s all part of the learning process of cooking. Start off with flavours you know, ingredients you trust and it is incredibly hard to not end up with a tasty product at the end. The important thing is to keep a few staples around that you are comfortable with, so you will always have something in your back pocket to whip up.

Also, as your comfort grows, you can begin to save a lot more money by purchasing discounted fruit, vegetables and meats that need to be used ASAP. Often, discounted food is only one or two days older than the “new” items out on the shelves for sale. So check out the reduced rack at your local supermarket and see if anything inspires you!

Don’t ever be afraid to put a few things in a pot and get creative. Most of the time, it’ll be delicious.

Happy eating!

– Andrew