Fridge Triage

Thursday, March 28, 2013
I take the adage, "Waste Not, Want Not" pretty seriously, especially when it comes to my groceries. Being a frugal minded person, it kills me to throw out groceries, since essentially I'm just throwing away money whenever I let food spoil. To keep on top of food spoilage, I keep a fairly bare fridge at all times, but a well stocked pantry and freezer. I also perform fridge triage every couple of months to get rid of any science projects, as well as to save produce and other ingredients that are on their last legs.

After getting back from traveling last week, I knew it was time for another round of fridge triage and so I thought I'd share a few of the ways I "save" ingredients.

I tend to have a lot of jam lying around and this winter, we've also had a few jars of lemon curd in the fridge. Jam doesn't spoil very quickly, but lemon curd needs to be used up fairly quickly. Whenever we have a jar lingering in the fridge, I like to make a batch of thumbprint cookies using a simple butter cookie dough. Breakfast bars that call for a layer of jam are a good way to use up a jar of jam when I'm ready to get a new flavor in rotation. You could also use jam in a batch of  "surprise" muffins, by making basic muffins and putting a dollop of jam in the center of each before baking or just stir some jam or curd into plain yogurt for a snack or dessert.

I have a tendency to over buy peppers and mushrooms. Although we use both vegetables quite frequently (pizzas, stirfries, tacos, etc.), we occasionally don't go through them as quickly as I think we will. Happily, my marinara sauce (which is a hybrid of Jenna Woginrich's and my mother's spaghetti sauces) uses both ingredients. Whenever I notice mushrooms and peppers languishing in the fridge's crisper drawer, I make  a batch of marinara sauce. The sauce requires about 20 minutes of chopping and then I simmer it in the crockpot on high for 4-5 hours and freeze the sauces in portions appropriate for a spaghetti dinner or a pizza.
Fridge pickles are great way to save salad ingredients, like cucumbers, from the compost heap. Just mix together a vinegary brine (we like this one in particular), throw in your sliced veggies and enjoy as a side dish or very tasty layer in a cheese sandwich.  

Limp celery? Hairy carrots? I started roasting whole chickens on a somewhat regular basis after receiving Diana Henry's Plenty a few Christmases back. I always save the carcass to make a couple quarts of chicken stock for the freezer to use in soups and risottos and I throw in my worst looking (but still flavorful) celery and carrot, along with some onion and pepper corns when I make the stock. To make, you just throw everything in a pot, cover with water and simmer gently until reduced by half. Strain and freeze.

There are still plenty of ingredients that get the best of me. Half opened salsa jars pose an especial problem and I have a hard time catching broccoli before it's a yellow, fuzzy mess. Happily, one joy of composting is that spoiled produce is never a total loss.  

What are you best tricks for using up produce and ingredients before they go bad?


  1. Hi Ada, thanks for stopping by...I haven't heard of the book you mentioned, but I'll be on the look out for it. I might actually have it in my stash somewhere!

    As far as leftovers, we love to make grilled vegetable cheese sandwiches ...chop up your leftover onions, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce etc., and sprinkle on a bit of Italian seasonings. Add your favorite melting cheese and grill as usual. I have some lemon curd, I think that would go great in thumbprint cookies! I will have to try it.
    Have a great Easter weekend!

  2. You are very resourceful in utilizing your left overs. I tend to work many things into veggie broth and freeze in portions. or cut and season with herbs, add some cheese and wrap in puffpastry, 15 min in the oven and yummy. I usually buy 2 batches of Spring onions in Autumn and after cutting off the green I replant the little roots, keep watering and the batch gets me going all Winter. Actually I have to cut the the re-growth, freeze the little rings and just shake out what is needed.


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