This month, I’m focusing on using up the ingredients that I already have in the pantry and the refrigerator. I’m even using that mindset with my beverages. (The Apple Cinnamon Gin Toddy was a product of creatively re-use.)

This focus serves two purposes: I’m making sure that food doesn’t get wasted, and I’m saving money. So far this month, I’ve spent about half of what I typically do on my family’s groceries.

A cookbook came across my desk this month that fits right in with what I’m trying to do. "The Salvage Chef Cookbook" by Michael Love has more than “125 recipes, tips, and secrets to transform what you have in your kitchen into delicious dishes for the ones you love.”

In the foreword to the cookbook, celebrity chef Robert Irvine writes, “regardless of the popularity of cooking shows today, millions of cooks really don’t know what to do with the food they currently have stored in their pantries and refrigerators.” If you find yourself throwing away wilting vegetables and herbs, ditching leftovers, or staring at the same box of rice in your pantry month after month and wishing you could do something with those foods, this cookbook offers solutions.

I’m going to start with what I love most about this cookbook, the index. It’s titled "Salvage Index." Instead of being arranged by recipe title, it’s arranged by ingredients. So, if you have leftover cooked beef, for instance, you look for “beef, cooked” in the index. You’re led to two different recipes: Winter Bean Beef Stew and Beef Stir Fry.

Or, if like me, you have some pears that were part of a holiday gift in the fridge that need to be eaten soon, you can look under pears and find three recipes including Roasted Pears with Rum Maple Cream. I’m totally making that this weekend.

Another feature of this cookbook that impresses me are is the chapter on spice mixes, rubs, marinades and sauces that make the most of the all those jars on your spice shelf. Instead of going out and buying these items premade, you’ll be able to use what you have for a basic all-purpose rub or a chili spice blend.

There’s advice on how to increase the shelf life of foods and to determine if foods are truly spoiled or not since food expiration dates are arbitrary and contribute to a lot of unnecessary food waste.

A useful “Thanks for Everything: Holiday-Ever-After Dishes” chapter with recipes that use up leftover ham, turkey, squash, sweet potatoes, and more has some creative recipes, like this one for Holiday Hash. If you have leftover turkey or ham from the holidays in your freezer and some cranberry sauce still in your fridge, you’re going to love this recipe.


  • 1 cup cooked turkey, torn into bite-size pieces (white or dark meat, or both)
  • 1 cup cooked ham, torn into bite-size pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 pound roasted potatoes or 1 cup mashed potato
  • 1/2 cup stuffing
  • 1/4 cup cooked green beans, or mixed vegetables
  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a bowl and mix well.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  3. When oil is shimmering, add hash mixture in one large ball.
  4. Press down with the back of a wooden spoon or spatula until the hash reaches the edge of the pan, forming a 2-inch thick pancake.
  5. Cook for 3 minutes until brown and flip to the other side.
  6. Continue cooking until second side is brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove to a cutting board.
  7. While still warm, cut into wedges, sprinkle with cheese, and serve immediately.
  8. Also delicious served with applesauce, sour cream, warmed gravy or cranberry sauce.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.