To the Non-Believers on Sunday: Kitchen Economy is Possible and Not That Hard, Even on Sunday Night

Sunday afternoon. A weekend spent engaged in wholesome family activities, none of which included grocery shopping. Five p.m., we’re heading home, when my husband asks, “Should we stop at a store to buy something for dinner?”
I am loath to spend money on groceries; we’ve spent money on lunch out already. “Nah,” I say, “I’ll figure something out when we get home. We have some leftover chicken breast from the other night.”
My husband gives me a glance that we’ll call doubtful-but-polite. I blithely wait until 6.10 to step into the kitchen, at which point I pull the chicken from the fridge and reach for a bulb of garlic.

The chicken had been sautéed in coconut oil and cooked with garlic, onion, and the dregs of a bottle of ginger beer. After two days in the fridge, the leftover chicken is encased in solidified oil; the chicken juices have jellied a little. I take two more fat cloves of garlic and slice them thickly; I take the solid coconut oil off the chicken pieces and throw them into a small pot on the stove. The garlic cooks in the melting oil. I slice up one green hot pepper of type unknown, but purchased recently in an Asian grocery store. It goes into the pot with the garlic. When the garlic is golden brown, I pour the chicken juices into the pan and add about 1/4 cup of ketchup and 1/8 cup of soy sauce. I slice the leftover chicken, place the slices in the pot, and let that simmer.

In the meantime, a pot of rice is cooking. Two partially-full bags of frozen peas, which had been forgotten in the freezer, are thawing on the kitchen counter. Those peas will be dumped into the chicken pot when we’re almost ready to eat; they’ll heat up quickly. The rice will be done in about 10 minutes. This will be a dish we could pay $15 dollars for, eating out in a restaurant, if there were a restaurant that served this kind of thing, but I will have made it at home for probably $4, if that. And have pulled it together out of leftovers and scraps, to boot. And, no, the hot pepper is NOT required, so that’s not an excuse. It is possible, easy, even, to take the not-enough-for-another-meal leftovers you have in the fridge and turn them into something that IS enough to feed your family. If you can’t keep a bag of frozen peas around, though, I don’t know what to tell you.

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