Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Week on Waste: A Stroll Down Refrigerator Lane

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on $10/day.

In Jonathan Bloom's book, American Wasteland, Bloom discusses the way Americans let their refrigerators get away from them (I'm trying to resist a refrigerator running joke here). To start with, we tend to have large ones. And into them we tend to put perfectly good new food as well as leftovers (both those we wish to eat again and those we don't, but feel guilty wasting) as well as condiments, and you know, everything else. If you're a slightly scatterbrained mother of four, you might even find your keys in there on occasion.

I knew that our fridge was getting a little packed. I actually find it easier to keep the refrigerator in check in the winter. I mean, potatoes, carrots, and the like--they stay good pretty long. And we just don't get as much mass in the winter. But in the summer when we're getting lots of fresh foods from our garden, farmer's markets, friends's gardens, or a CSA, and when we're getting these foods sometimes in bulk (20 zucchini anyone). Add to that the fact that these foods can often go bad in just a few days and I find that our refrigerator starts to get a little packed, disorganized, and generally discouraging to look at. Today, however, inspired by the goal of wasting as very little as possible, I decided to brave its four walls and take a gander at the things inside. I am happy to report that it did not eat me, or even threaten too. In fact, it only took about 10 minutes to find out (and organize) what was inside and... it was totally enlightening. Inspiring, even. I discovered/remembered all of these foods that were still edible and that I could use to make entire meals. That's right--entire meals that were about to be forgotten because their edible parts had been containerized and shoved to the back.

First, let's have a look at what I found (this is in the freezer above the fridge and the refrigerator--I'm not going to the chest freezer today):


-ice packs
-partially used juice concentrate
-bags of frozen fruit: raspberries, bananas, strawberries, blueberries
-partially used bag spinach
-partially used bag peas
-3 bags/cubes cheese, one partially used, the other two unopened
-old cookies in bags--these were ugly or broken and I kept them to use for some sort of sweet crust
-hamburger--partially used
-chicken--partially used
-bacon--just a bit left (I tend to separate my meat into small portions and bag it)
-one loaf bread, one homemade round of bread
-sourdough dough
-2 packages of yeast
-barley flour
-2 containers cooked brown rice
-1 bag cooked broccoli
-freezer burnt bread crumbs
-freezer burnt bits of broccoli
-sunflower seeds from a sunflower we grew last year
-a few toffee bits in a bag
-some chocolate chunks
-lemon zest in a bag
-home dried cranberries in a bag
-partially used thing of spinach (had used half a can of it in something and not wanted to waste the rest, but it was kind of gross, so I'd never found a use for it)

(here's the door; the main refrigerator is at the top of the post)

-a bit of milk
-a bit of cream
-some pickles
-package lettuce
-2 partially used 32 oz. containers of yogurt (vanilla and plain)
-a bit of sour cream
-2 containers of leftover cream of wheat
-1/2 a watermelon
-bag carrots
-1 yellow squash
-3 small zucchini
-2 cucumbers
-2 1/2 onions
-1 bag red potatoes
-1 partially used bag russet potatoes
-1/2 a tomato
-a couple bunches cilantro
-partial block of cheddar
-2 little nubs of cheese (still good)
-3 tortillas
-partially used bag of cold cuts
-partially used feta
-partially used Parm
-unopened Parm
-homemade Italian dressing
-Caesar dressing, partially used
-Condiments: ketchup, BBQ sauce, worsh. sauce, soy sauce, mustard, generic Miracle Whip, sesame oil, teryaki sauce, plum sauce, fish sauce, curry, steak sauce
-lemon juice
-2 things lime juice
-1/2 lime
-tomato juice
-bit cottage cheese
-apples going south
-leftover green beans
-leftover gazpacho
-sour dough starter
-bit of corn
-2 slices leftover canned peaches
-leftover squash casserole
-leftover cheesy corn chip casserole
-stick butter
-leftover brats from friends
-poppy seeds
-bit tomato sauce (relegated to freezer)
-bit spaghetti for Emma
-a few artichoke hearts
-some squash already chopped
-Jams: strawberry, plum, grape, raspberry peach
-homemade lemonade starter

I know. I know. It seems like it could feed a third world country for a week.

The great thing about it was that with my new information about what we had and how much, I could plan several meals for us:

-Veggie pizza with artichokes and squash (dough from freezer, artichokes, squash, a bit of chicken or brats chopped up)
-Sitr fry with squash, cheese, brats, tomato (squash is really really good stir-fried in case you're wondering)
-Zucchini chowder (tortillas, cheese bits, brats, 1/2 tomato, squash)
-Fried rice with broccoli and carrots (rice from freezer, broccoli from freezer, carrots, green beans)
-Gazpacho (tomato juice, tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro, onion)
-Blueberry soup (yogurt, berries, milk, maybe a bit of cream if we're feeling good about ourselves)
-chicken with celery and cream sauce (chicken from freezer, celery, beans, corn, or squash, cream)

And the thing is that now I know that if I follow that meal plan, we'll use all the stuff that must be used by the time it must be used. I also know what to feed my kids when they're whining they're hungry. It makes my heart happy.

Today for lunch I took this:
a tortilla, 1/2 tomato, squash I'd chopped but not used in a casserole, 2 bits of cheese

And (added a little olive oil and) made this:

(saute the squash in oil with salt and pepper, add chopped tomatoes after the squash is tender and getting some color, throw in the cheese and serve on a tortilla)

I ate it with some leftover gazpacho and, besides the fact that they were both perfectly delicious (seriously, you've got to saute some diced yellow squash--it's one of my favorite summer staples), it gave me more than 3 C of vegetables in one meal.

Ah, refrigerator--how I love you when you're demystified and no longer frightening and standing there ready to feed me inexpensive ultra-wholesome foods.

Oh--and what did I waste today from my refrigerator purge and cleaning? Only some strawberry jam--very very little that was very very very old. I also sent a few foods to the compost: some freezer burnt bread crumbs and broccoli, and some old old freezer spinach. The rest, I aim to use.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life freezer are made..




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