Low-Cost Poaching

Leftover Tostada from bibberche.com

When the times get tough financially, my instincts kick in and the survival mode becomes default. But I don’t really change my modus operandi, as frugality is somehow ingrained in me, and I just keep on doing what I do best: digging through my pantry and my freezer and putting healthy, nutritious, appetizing food in front of my girls, playing with ingredients, pimping up the leftovers, and offering colorful and enticing meals that would make them appreciate all aspects of the culinary world.

Sometimes the prompts come from them, if they feel inspired and creative – in  the rare moments when they are not entranced in a fantasy play or a puppet show. But most of the times it takes a few minutes poring through the contents of my legume drawer or taking inventory of every refrigerator shelf to come up with a perfectly balanced meal that would be cost-effective, creative, flavorful, and overall nutritious.

It breaks my heart when I see food being wasted. I collect the tough asparagus stems, cauliflower stalks, celery leaves, and lettuce cores to make a vegetable stock. I salvage the roasted chicken carcass with all the gelatinous deposit on the bottom of the pan and make a hearty chicken stock. I collect egg whites for a future angel food cake, and pork fat for the day I feel inspired to render lard. I place parsley and cilantro stems in bags and add them to stews and soups, reluctant to waste even a smidgen of the goodness they impart.

My freezer is a repository of oddly shaped bags containing fish heads, shrimp and lobster shells, chicken gizzards, and stock. There are labeled plastic containers with leftover tomato sauce, chopped herbs, and duck fat, along with neatly wrapped packages of beef and lamb bones destined for a soup.

The girls rarely know what they will have for breakfast or dinner, because I employ all my resources when I start to contemplate it. They are adventurous and open to new culinary challenges, which makes my thought process much easier.

School lunches are limited in creativity as they have to be stored in a locker for hours, eaten within fifteen minutes and relatively easy to handle. They eat outside and have no access to a microwave. I smuggle a Ferrero Rocher treat or a square of dark chocolate in their paper bags to give them a sense of adventure.

This week they had state testing and school let out earlier, which allowed me more freedom with their mid-day repast. They arrived from school famished and I had a perfect meal for them every single day, taking advantage of the amenities I had at home, excited to offer them something different than the usual sandwich or wrap fare.

True to my nature, I had to be frugal, and most days the lunches were spruced-up leftovers. But every single time their faces lit up and they brought the plates to the kitchen licked clean.

These tostadas elicited a whole lot of squeals. I loved how my girls’ faces alighted with excitement when I poked the eggs and released the yolks. This lunch did not cost me anything, but a few minutes of my time and some kilowatts of energy. But it made my daughters feel special, loved, cherished, and adored. And in the times when every dollar spent has to be spent wisely, that’s the only thing that matters to me.



  • Corn tortillas
  • Remoulade (recipe bellow)
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • Black bean and corn salsa (recipe bellow)
  • Jack cheese, shredded
  • Poached eggs (recipe bellow)
  • Cilantro


Preheat the oven to 450F. Place corn tortillas on a cookie sheet. Spread remoulade all over the tortilla. Spoon salsa and diced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with cheese and place in the oven. Bake for five minutes until the cheese is melted. Take out of the oven and place each tortilla on a separate plate. Place a poached egg on top, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


Mix together ½ cup of mayonnaise, 1 tsp of capers, 1 tsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, a bit of salt, and 1 tablespoon of chopped dill.

Black Bean Salsa:

Combine 1 can (14oz) rinsed black beans, 1 cup frozen cor kernels, 1 chopped jalapenñño, ½ shopped onion, salt, pepper, and lime juice.

Poached eggs:

Heat the water in a small stainless steel pot until it boils. Turn the heat down to simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Break an egg into a ramekin and pour it carefully into the boiling water. Fold the egg white over the yolk with a spoon and cook for 1 minute. Using the slotted spoon remove the egg and place it onto a plate covered with a few layers of paper towels to absorb the moisture.

25 Responses to Low-Cost Poaching

  1. Rachel says:

    I loved reading that oozing poached eggs illicited so much excitment from your daughters. They’re little foodies in the making : )
    This frugal, seat-of-the pants way of cooking is my absolute favorite. Living on a boat, when I couldn’t rely on finding ingredients, I always cooked with that I had on hand and what I needed to use up. Like you, I can’t stand to waste food. I may not have fish heads in my freezer but I have a very, very small freezer.

    • Lana says:

      Rachel, I can only imagine what you can and cannot do on the boat! A box freezer is a must in my life, no matter how small my apartment is, but I don’t think I could keep it on a boat:)

  2. LiztheChef says:

    Gorgeous – you need a pinterest button so I can pin it…Love the phrase, “…pimping up the leftovers”!

    • Lana says:

      Thanks, Liz! I just installed the Pinterest button for my pages (not really techie:) When I want to pin something, I just use the Pin It button I installed on my browser bar (very easy, of course:)

  3. Wendy Read says:

    Beautifully written and I too, love the excitment your daughters had when you punctured those eggs! Simple and delightful fare…I am going to print one off for my own recipe box :)

  4. Ilke says:

    It must be coming from your background, how you were raised. We were not supposed to waste anything. When I tell my husband the parts of a sheep or a cow we used to cook or eat, I get sometimes a disgusted look “Do you EAT that?” My grandfather always said “If I paid for the whole animal, I will eat the whole animal” :)
    I am glad your girls go along with the culinary adventure. You raised them right!

    • Lana says:

      Ilke, I think that it does not matter how much money you have, you still have to be frugal. I agree with your grandpa, even though I don’t like all the parts of the animals (but there are members of my family that do – my youngest daughter loves chicken feet, even though I cannot stand them!)

  5. Purabi Naha says:

    OMG! This looks so stunning!! Loved the recipe and saving this recipe for the weekend. Have a wonderful day and happy cooking/baking. http://cosmopolitancurrymania.blogspot.com
    Warm regards: Purabi Naha

  6. Valentina says:

    Lana — I LOVE this recipe! I have a friend who always says, “just crack an egg over it!” I think he even does so with his take-out leftovers. This is much fancier! :-) xo

  7. sippitysup says:

    If you want to save a little cash. I have some ideas about “poaching” you might be interested in (wink wink) GREG

  8. Hotly Spiced says:

    You sound like a fabulous loving and caring mother. Your girls are blessed with all the good food you are giving them. I love the look of this dish with the perfectly cooked poached eggs. The flavours must have been amazing xx

  9. Kristen says:

    I love the idea of using leftovers from dinner for breakfast the next day. Will be trying this recipe for sure! Thanks for sharing it :)

  10. Gloria says:

    I admire your creativity Lana. I am always trying to challenge myself to see what I can come up with in the kitchen without making a trip to the store. I have been saving up parmesan rinds in the freezer for about a year now and have been wondering exactly what I’m going to do with them. You’ve inspired me to put my creative hat on. P.S. Your photo is stunning!

    • Lana says:

      Gloria, I think it was the poached egg with broken yolk that made that photo so lovely! And just today I used some of my parmesan rinds for a Tuscan bean and kale soup. Once you start playing with the ingredients in your pantry, you’ll see how much fun it is!

  11. A oozy poached egg can brighten just about any meal….my go to if late home & wanting dinner in a hurry, and on top of a crisp tostada even better, what a great idea.

  12. What an awesome budget-friendly dish! You’re so innovative!

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