4 for 1 Deal: One Preparation, Four Different Meals!

Most of you that have followed me for a while know for much of my youth, I grew up on a sustainable farm. I grew up below the poverty level and living sustain-ably was not just a mantra but a way of life. Before any meal, if we were lucky, my Daddy would have “bagged” a quail, or rabbit, or best of all, a deer. When I was a child, my father was a house painter, which afforded him a schedule where he could go out hunting just about everyday. During the rainy winters of the southern section of the United States, Dad would be out all day hunting or fishing, because that is how we survived.

I can still hear his loud diesel engine driving up in the yard. With rapid honks of his horn, we all knew that he was back with the days catch. Squinting through the sunbeams in the breezeway, a shadow of an animal strung up by their back legs sways ever so slightly. My father pauses over the body and I hear him muttering a prayer. The mood is melancholy busy-ness. He places a five gallon bucket under the limp hanging head to catch the draining blood. With the precision of a surgeon, the skin makes slight ripping sounds as the sharpened blade of his buck knife slices through the abdominal area. Small plumes of steam rising and evaporating. A light smell of iron hangs in the air as the blood starts to coagulate on the cool concrete. Grabbing a steel bristled push broom, I would sweep the run off blood away, while he carefully pulled out each internal organ, placing them into a bowl of water to soak out any excess blood and impurities. As a rule, we never wasted anything.

In the back yard, were two huge wooden spindles that had housed telephone cables in another life. After Daddy “gutted” the animal, he would haul the body to the one spindle that was used for tanning the hide. Once the hide had been removed, he would move the body to next station to begin the butchering process of breaking it down into various cuts of meat. The portions of the animal that were exercised, such as legs, are naturally tougher and would immediately go into a BBQ pit to smoke over the low slow heat of a tended fire until the next day. Other parts would be carefully sealed and placed into a deep freezer for later use. My brother and I watched with the interest that is only born out of a child’s sweet adoration for their parent. Sure, there was the natural nauseous pangs of grief that I experienced every time Daddy brought a freshly killed animal home. It would be inhumane to not own the emotions of responsibility and remorse over a life lost no matter what the conditions are. Out of this dark reality was the beautiful offering of love that every good man expresses through providing for their family. Our Dad expressed this in his own way.

As an adult I am so thankful that I am not disconnected when I go into a market and see rows of meat sitting in pretty little saran wrap packages lined up as harmlessly as freshly picked fruits and vegetables under the fuzzy glow of the refrigerated cases. I fully understand an animal’s life was lost and I still make sure that I do not waste anything. This includes, dare I say, perhaps holding back on buying and  eating meat as often and when available, buying a whole animal from a butcher or farm, if that isn’t available, I like to buy the ground meat that has the lesser cuts in the package. I know, I know, “pink slime” has been all over the news lately, but I honestly do not have a problem with eating the “lesser” parts. Sure I don’t like the idea of eating “modified” foods, that have additional unwanted ingredients such as hormones, have been chemically treated or have unnatural preservatives, but I have respect for the butcher or farm that cleanly grinds up unadulterated trimmings into my meat.

Obviously, this is just my opinion and I have no ax to grind or agenda to drive, but I just wanted to give a more clear picture of my upbringing and how it affects my food choices and style of cooking as a whole. With that said, for me, “using it up” isn’t enough to get the food cooked, but to also consume every bit of it. For my family, this means creative uses of ingredients and leftovers. Today I bring you a step by step, day by day guide to making 4 different meals out of one meal preparation. It will save you time, money and make you a little less wasteful; while, most importantly, keeping your palate enticed.

Meat Mixture

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground turkey

1 lb sausage, if in casing, remove from casing

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper

1-1/2 tsp minced garlic

3/4 cup fresh plain breadcrumbs

1/8 cup -1/4 cup milk

2 eggs

1-1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp red pepper flake

In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onions, bell peppers, and celery and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 min. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 min. to soften. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients and add the cooled onion-garlic mixture. Mix with a rubber spatula or your hands just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t overwork the meat.

Day One: Meatballs and Form Meatloaf

Fettuccine and Meatballs
Fettuccine and Meatballs

Olive Oil

Tomato Sauce

1/2 lb pasta cooked to package specifications

Over medium heat, in a large skillet, add about an inch of olive oil. Roll meat mixture into about 20 2-inch balls. (I use a large ice cream scoop for this task.)  Pan fry until fully cooked and dark brown. Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce in a large pot until bubbling. Add meatballs and simmer for 2 hours. Serve over your favorite pasta and top with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

and Form Meatloaf:

Oil a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan, turn the remaining meat mixture out onto the pan, and shape it into a large loaf (I like mine to look like a slightly oval loaf of bread). Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Note: Keeping safe food handling practices in mind, you will want to cook the meat loaf by day two.

Day 2: Meatloaf

Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Peas
Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Peas

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup chili sauce

1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce

1 TBSP hot sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Take meatloaf out of refrigerator and take plastic wrap off. Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 60 min. for a large loaf. Take loaf out of oven. Turn the broiler on. In a medium bowl, mix together all of the ingredients listed above. Baste the meatloaf with ketchup mixture. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes. Take out of oven. Before slicing, let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 min. to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute. Enjoy with your favorite side dishes!

Day 3: Open Face Meatball Sandwich 

Open Face Meatball Sandwich
Open Face Meatball Sandwich

Note: I eat open face because I find the submarine version too messy for me. By all means adapt this to a meatball sub if that is your preference.

slice of bread

Leftover meatballs, reheated

slices of mozzarella or provolone

Turn on broiler. On a pan, assemble bread, meatballs and cheese. Stick under broiler until cheese melts, 1-2 minutes. Enjoy!

Day 4: Meatloaf Sandwich

Meatloaf Sandwich
Meatloaf Sandwich

2 slices of bread, toasted

kosher pickles

ketchup

mustard

leftover meatloaf (heated or unheated, whatever your preference)

Assemble sandwich and enjoy!

And there you have it, 4 different meals out of one preparation! A pretty good way to keep it interesting and on budget. Enjoy!

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16 thoughts on “4 for 1 Deal: One Preparation, Four Different Meals!

  1. I grew up below the poverty line too, and was taught not to waste anything – so I grew up to cook creatively with the little I was able to buy each month.

    Now that I’m disabled and recieving benefits and my husband is my full-time carer, it’s even more important that we waste as little as possible. We grow our own vegetables, and any that are bought from the supermarket which won’t be used up right away will have their remaining edible parts turned in to a sweet chutney or a piccalilli relish by me. Some of the vegetables need to be bought seperately – but at what price when I’m saving money overall?

    Leftover bolognese will become chilli the following day, or turned in to a lasagne. If I want something different such as venison or rabbit, we always shop at the butcher’s in the local market (more for less and you know it hasn’t been kept for goodness knows how long.

    There are two farms in my family – both dairy. Every rabbit shot ends up on the table

    1. I like your idea of the sweet chutney and of course, I still need to try your piccalilli recipe one of these days. I grew up canning a lot of our bounty from the garden so I can appreciate those types of flavors. Currently, I haven’t found a garden plot near my apartments to rent for a season, which makes me sad, as I love to grow my own food. Instead I buy from the local farmers here at the markets for now. I like your idea for the bolgnese becoming chili, very good one. You are so lucky to have dairy farms in your family. Two of my very good friends in college were from dairy farming families, one was goat and the other cow, and I would go hoem with them sometimes to help on the farms. They paid me in cheese, haha, I know hilarious, but I have to tell you that fresh cheese was something else.

      1. Oh, I know what you mean about the cheese – I used to drink freshly produced milk – untreated – straight from the bucket, and it was a little piece of heaven!

        Shame that I’m lactose intolerant now, but at least I got to try it :)

  2. I get what you are saying. I have friends who are from Kenya and they talk about how they don’t eat meat as often. They lived in the country with no electricity, therfore no refrigeration. They had to come up with ways of keeping the meat after slaughtering the animal, like curing it. Interesting to know how other live. We are spoiled here in America.

  3. Lovely post …. My grandpa was a forest caretaker and it was the same thing with him .. never knew what was for dinner – but I’m glad because no wild meat is strange to me.
    Once I came home with a fox over his shoulders and my grandma was so happy because she would get fox fur shawl – but so soon grandpa put down the fox on the front yard … the fox was off.
    I like the way you done this post … with how we can use leftovers. Ages since I eaten meatloaf. We east open meatballs sandwiches in Sweden, and a lot of them – but we put them on a salad made of pickled beetroots, apple and pineapple mixed in with mayonnaise and we halve the meatballs – so the lay still on top of the salad. Yummy.

    1. Woah, the fox was playing dead on his shoulder, now that IS a smart fox. And Viveka, not sure if Swedish meatballs are a real dish in Sweden but if they are, I would love to learn how to make authentic ones of those for sure.

      1. Swedish meatball …. Our national dish and that is why IKEA sells tons of it, but I’m sure that they origin from Italy – we eat them with mash potatoes .. and slightly sweet sauce. Will give you a recipe.

    1. I just read your post and enjoyed it. I hear you on not wanting to kill your chickens. I raised a pig once for FFA that would be slaughtered. That was one of the hardest things I have been through. Complete with a campaign to save my pig, but it didn’t happen for me. It just increased my awareness of the life cycle. I am sure you could barter and trade your chickens with other farmers. Our neighbors traded eggs and chickens with us for other meats and fish and or extra veggies we might have.

  4. My dad was also a hunter and his father before him. Although we wouldn’t have starved without the deer, fish, or better yet, elk he brought home we still gained an understanding and appreciation of where our food came from and how. I wish more people had these opportunities. Thanks for the story and the recipes!

  5. I am squemish. When my kids skin their knees or if I cut my finger in the kitchen my head goes immediately between my knees lol. I have a major appreciation for the life cycle. And I grew up broke as a joke in the suburbs (translation: my dad only killed houseflies). We don’t waste ANYTHING in this house (and with one blue collar income who could afford to?). I recycle leftovers until there is nothing left. Love the recipes! There is a restaurant about an hour from here that serves grilled BBQ meatloaf and then the next day makes a mean open faced meatloaf sandwich for lunch. Yummmmmmm.

    1. I can hear you on being squemish. I cant give blood without passing out. Growing up without definitely gives you practice in making do with what you do have. It also makes you appreciate what you have, kinda like you need the downs to appreciate the ups, you need to hear no to appreciate when you hear yes, etc… I hear where you are coming from and that’s why I enjoy reading about your life so much in your blogs, I can relate. Oh and I love a meatloaf sandwich.

  6. I really loved reading this post and love your creative ideas for keeping meatloaf interesting! I consider myself pretty good at batch cooking and repurposing meals to give them new life, but I do also run out of steam some times. I must admit that I find it easier to retain a fresh approach to cooking inexpensively and creatively during the major harvest months, when my garden makes it easy to do this. We’re working to stretch the months when we can be producing fresh vegetables as one way to improve on this.

    1. Thanks. Yes, my dad was the master at stretching harvests, he would not plant everything at once, but stagger row by row weeks of plantings so that everything came more evenly instead of being bombarded. He also built huge gazebo structures with chicken wire inserts for rows of squash, eggplant, cucumber, peas, etc to crawl on and create a cage almost of vegetation. With these items off the ground, they lasted longer and didn’t rot on one side. He also made decisions of where to plant items based on what was taken from the soil and what would give back to the soil every year, so the soil wasn’t stripped. Of course we composted and added layers of grass clippings or pine straw to keep the soil insulated. There were lots of little tricks, wish I had listened to him more before he was no longer around to teach me. He had quite the green thumb.

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