Creative meal idea for a tight budget

Tortilla: A Frugal Solution for Leftovers

by Ron Geelan

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I grew up in a family of eight. Out of necessity, the food budget was stretched to extremes, and was supplemented by whatever was in season in dad's vegetable garden. Wasting food was not an option. It was considered sinful, so leftovers were commonplace. The problem was that flour tortillas were not so commonplace in the 1970s in Connecticut.

That upbringing has served me well over the last ten months. Since losing my job as a banker last December, I have had to be creative to feed my family of four a decent meal each night on a limited budget. We don't waste food in my house either. We can't afford to. Since I discovered the versatility of the simple flour tortilla, we never do.

My kids, like all kids, hate leftovers, except when I make chicken or steak fajitas. In fact, I think they endure a nice London broil meal on Monday so they can enjoy steak fajitas and nachos later on in the week made from the leftover meat.

I usually buy a London broil that is between one and two pounds with the intention of having leftovers. This costs about five or six dollars. Add in the cost of a side dish on the night I make the London broil and the cost of tortillas, toppings and nacho chips for steak fajita night, it comes to a total of somewhere between ten and fifteen dollars, a great price to feed a family of four two nice dinners.

The same process can be repeated with grilled chicken or ground beef for about the same price or less. Make a nice grilled chicken dinner one night, and then make chicken fajitas later on in the week with the leftovers. Buy a package of ground beef that is big enough to make a meat loaf or spaghetti and meatballs one night, but leave enough ground beef to make soft tacos another day.

Related: DIY Tortillas and Other Breads from Around the World

Stuffing flour tortillas with leftover meat not only saves a lot of money, but it also saves a lot time. On fajita or taco night, dinner can be prepared in about ten minutes. Simply warm up the meat, throw it in the tortilla with some toppings, wrap it up, and serve it with some nacho chips. It's a great option on nights where dinner is served late due to the kids' extra-curricular activities.

You may find your kids will start looking forward to leftover night. But we don't call it leftover night in our house anymore. Now, it is either "Taco Tuesday" or "Fajita Friday."

Take the Next Step:

  • Discover more creative ways to use up those leftovers by visiting the Dollar Streter Library.
  • Take the TDS Pantry Challenge. Clean out that pantry, fridge and freezer and see how much extra cash you can free up this month!
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

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