woman at stove realizing she made a mistake in cooking

I don’t recall my mother or grandmother ever ruining a meal. They avoiding cooking mishaps by “minding the stove,” as Mom’s friend Louise used to say, and by following the same, familiar recipes and using the same kitchen equipment.

On the other hand, I always have fun experimenting with new flavors and devices when I cook. But when I first bought a wok and pressure cooker, I faced a learning curve before I could cook successfully with those tools.

What did I do when food didn’t come out right? I learned how to salvage meals from dry or burned meat, overcooked beans, and other cooking mishaps.

Meat that is a little burnt can be tasty with the addition of barbecue sauce. If I overcooked it in a slow cooker, I might add it to a cream soup or chicken salad. Or I might shred it for sliders or tacos.

I’ll salvage overcooked, mushy veggies by pureeing them and adding them to soups, baked potatoes, and smoothies. Overdone beans that are not too burnt can be added to chili or a spicy gumbo. A small amount of smokey beans could be used in refried beans — just mix with fresh ingredients (including beans that are not burnt) and put the rest in the freezer for another meal. You may need to adjust the spices.

Salmon loaf too dried out? Crumble it and add it to pasta sauce for a tasty meal. Add the salmon at the very end just to warm it through. You can even turn lightly charred fish into Cajun blackened fish with the right seasonings. It’s worth experimenting to avoid food waste!

By being a little creative, we can salvage our cooking mishaps into new meals. No wasted food and you might even come up with a new recipe or two like I did!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.