Cleaning Out the Fridge


Leftovers night.  Souffle.  Scrambled eggs.  Casseroles.  Bento boxes.  Soup.  Pumpkin-arepa stuffing (quite edible, actually).

There are many destinations for your bits of leftovers.  The key, of course, is timing.  Always clean out the fridge often enough that your forgotten leftovers are still edible.  Example: 1 cup of lentil cooking liquid that would have been a nice quick vegetable soup base was abandoned in a far corner and is, alas, no longer edible.  In fact, I’m slightly scared to open the jar.

Nevertheless, I vow to be more efficient in my storage and use of leftovers.  Food waste is one of our national tragedies.  Much of it may occur prior to the kitchen, but a significant amount can be curbed by chief cook and eater.

General tips:

  • When in doubt, freeze your leftovers for longer storage times.
  • Clean out or take a quick inventory of your produce drawers and fridge shelves twice a week and use it.  No excuses.
  • Try using clear storage containers if you tend to forget about things (glass jars are handy at home).
  • Place recently cooked items in the back, and use the items in the front first.
  • Try to have cohesively themed meals for several days so the leftovers go together well and so that you use all of your base ingredients (like tortillas, or canned pumpkin).
  • Don’t get carried away when buying food at the store!  Know how much you’ll eat before it goes bad, and adjust according to your plans for eating away from home for the week.

Cooking tips:

  • Don’t mix too many flavors when combining leftovers for one meal– Italian Roasted Vegetables with Pesto may not go well with a Spicy Chicken Enchilada but Italian Roasted Vegetables with a White Bean and Fennel Salad would be quite nice.
  • Reheat appropriately!  If it’s supposed to be crisp or crunchy, use the oven.  If it’s a grain or pasta, toss with a little hot water or sauce before heating in the microwave or stovetop.  Casserole?  Add a little more liquid.  Soups or stews are the most forgiving of all food to reheat.
  • Revamp often.  Lentil Salad is nice for a day or two, but then it’s time to make a sandwich, a loaf, or burgers.  You can add ingredients, or change the shape and texture.

Check back in for more suggestions on how to revamp your leftovers.  Hmm, maybe we should call it the leftover makeover challenge?

Need more info?  Bloom has a great blog focused entirely on food waste: http://www.wastedfood.com/

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2 thoughts on “Cleaning Out the Fridge

  1. Pingback: Revamping Leftovers, Part Three | Sustainable Food and Cooking by GroundCherry

  2. So yesterday I had in my head that there was something thawed in the fridge for dinner, but figured out at 6:30 that it was firmly frozen in the freezer still, but resisted panicking and ate a couple handfuls of strawberries (from the stand near school) in order to be able to cook something. Then I assembled most of the not cooked food in the fridge on the counter & made a Goop. Asparagus cooking water (cup and a half), half pound of potatoes I couldn’t resist digging up on Sunday, cut into 3/4″ cubes, 1/3 cup frozen green onions, 1/4 t ground sage (did I mention I’m moving in 2 months and trying to use up rather than move accumulated food?), 1/4 cup unidentified seaweed, 2 corn tortillas torn into nickel-sized pieces. Simmered until potatoes done. Meanwhile, wash and break asparagus into 1″ pieces (I had a little more than a cup of pieces) and mash medium baked sweet potato with a fork. Shell 1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, mix a little milk into 1 egg. Once potatoes are cooked, add sweet potatoes and asparagus to pot (1 quart is what I used), then scramble egg. The sweet potato & tortillas transform a soup into a stew so it seems appropriate to pile egg and peanuts on top once it’s in a shallow bowl. I’m a vinegar enthusiast & the color seemed okay for it, so also once in the bowl, I added probably 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.
    The sweet potato, asparagus water, corn tortillas, green onions and sage were things that needed used up. The potatoes, asparagus, egg and peanuts didn’t seem quite enough by themselves, but combining everything made a filling dinner, with enough for tonight, too, when I probably will add beans or sauteed tofu rather than egg. I might also garnish with thawed roasted tomatoes, because it really is time to stop hoarding last year’s bounty.

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