Most of us have walk-in pantries and enormous deep freezers and that means a lot of food stored in our kitchens. It's the season to figure out how to do more with less, or at least with what you've got – maybe balance out the excesses of the festive season.

Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what ingredients can be swapped in a recipe. Use a different pasta shape, for example, or canned tomatoes in a different form than what’s called for. But often it’s a matter of not knowing how to think in reverse, and make something out of what you have, rather than source ingredients for a recipe you want to make. Here are five ideas that will help you use whatever is taking up space in your pantry or freezer. They’ll help decrease the kitchen clutter, save on your grocery bill, and cut down on food waste this new year.

Make soup

It’s easy to make a pot of soup if you just trust and taste your way through it.

Soup is simply broth to which other elements (meat, vegetables and/or starch such as noodles, rice or potatoes) are added. A pot of soup can be made using virtually any ingredients you have in the kitchen, and is a great way to use up scraps of ingredients that aren’t substantial enough for much else. You don’t really need a recipe, just a general guide – recipes for soup are the least precise of any I know. And despite common belief, it doesn’t need to simmer for hours to taste wonderful.

Make a frittata

A frittata (a baked Italian egg pie) is much like a quiche,without a crust. It has the same characteristics as an omelet, but is much less finicky since you cook everything together at once in the pan. The eggs bind together any combination of ingredients you like – meat, cheese, vegetables, potatoes, herbs, cooked pasta – anything that goes well in an omelet makes a great frittata, and it’s a great way to use up leftovers. If you want to wing it, the basic proportions are 1 to 1 1/2 cups filling for every 5-6 eggs. Egg substitutes work well for frittata too.

Make a curry

A curry can be made up of any number of ingredients –meat, seafood, veggies – pulled together with some chilies, garlic, ginger, tomatoes (most of us have canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste or fresh tomatoes on hand) and a spoonful of curry paste or powder. Curry is also a great crisper cleaner – delicious with potatoes (plain or sweet), zucchini, spinach, onions, lentils, beans, peppers, kale, chard, cauliflower.

Make a rice bowl or fried rice

Globally speaking, fried rice is one of the most popular means of using up leftovers – bits of meat or veg – and stretching a little to feed a lot. In this case, leftovers are an ideal starting point. Cold rice won’t clump together like freshly cooked rice would, as the grains are nice and separate. All you need to do is saute cold rice in a bit of oil (sesame oil is good) and add bits of leftovers, or ingredients from your freezer such as roasted veg, crumbled sausage, bacon, fish, chicken, pork. A few green onions are nice, a pinch of sugar and a glug of soy sauce. Top with a fried egg to make it more of a meal.

Make chili

An impromptu Twitter poll showed there is a lot of meat in Calgary deep freezers. A great way to use up anything from beef to bison to sausage to game, is in a pot of chili. Toss in any kind of beans – they don’t have to be kidney – as well as meat, onions, peppers, tomatoes, spices and simmer until it tastes good.

For recipe ideas see the link above right to Julie's website Dinner with Julie.