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Help With Purging Refrigerators?

I have been inspired today by 52's Feature on Organizing Your KItchen. While we are better organized in our refrigerators than in the past, we still have ongoing issues that NEED ADDRESSING!! Can you help with your practices/guidelines/ links to related articles? Does anyone follow their own guidelines that say things like: "If there's more than 1/4 cup of something left over, save it" or "2 T. of ground nuts may come in handy but 2 T. of soup will not" or "If I haven't used it in 1 month/6 months/ 1 year/ 5 years, out it goes." I have the hardest time throwing edible food AWAY! It's just not in my nature...... Thx for your help.

asked by LE BEC FIN 11 months ago
25 answers 1805 views
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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 11 months ago

I keep perishables (cooked foods, open ingredients) in the fridge for a range of 3 to 7 days, sometimes 10 days. Within that period I either serve it, cook it (so the clock starts again) or freeze it. In rare cases, some things go bad or lose their taste, so they get chucked out...about a third of a bunch of celery went yesterday, despite good intentions. It was just DULL.
I keep foods with preservatives (jams, salad dressings, fragile oils) between 6 months and 2 years.
Some things, like nuts, dried fruits, uncooked meat or fish, go directly to the freezer.
When in doubt, consult sites like stilltasty.com or eatbydate.com which have useful guidelines to real shelf life of foods (e.g. canned pumpkin 2-5 years, so actually ok even if past the manufacturer's estimated "best by" date; milk and cream about a week to 10 days AFTER the labelled use by date).
No guidelines by amount. If it's tasty and within the guidelines, usually can find a use for it....a bit of onion to liven a sauce, a few nuts to add crunch to a pudding, etc.

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added 11 months ago

Onions, carrots and celery can go in the freezer to use for stock. Even if they're getting wilty.

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 11 months ago

Stacy - thanks for the tip about storing (wilty) veg in freezer for soup. Didn't know that.

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added 11 months ago

I'm with LBF what about the "light" salad dressings people bring to potlucks but you know you won't use. The fish sauce, tamarind paste, ketchup and pomegranate molasses the adult children buy when they are home and then leave. The black tea caramel that seemed like a such a good idea at Thanksgiving but not so much in January. All good but not things that are in my regular rotation, it's hard to give away opened containers, but I hate to throw them out. This is a great topic.

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ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 11 months ago

I "donate" any bottled salad dressings brought into the Chez Julia kitchen. We have a shelf in our garbage room where folks can share unwanted but still good goodies with neighbors (bottled or boxed items). They never hang around very long or they get pitched.

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added 11 months ago

I don't follow "rules," per se, but I am pretty quick to migrate a single serving of leftovers to the fridge for an easy future lunch or dinner. For me, menu planning around what is in season/available from my CSA goes a long way toward minimizing waste. I keep a large ziplock bag in the freezer for vegetable trimmings or past their prime veggies and these are used for stock-making. The same with chicken bones. Periodically, I plan dinners that are designed to use up odds and ends -- basically, "kitchen sink" soup, burritos or enchiladas, or grain bowls topped with bits of whatever needs to be used.

4798a9c2 4c90 45e5 a5be 81bcb1f69c5c  junechamp
ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 11 months ago

Thanks, Lyndie. You've reminded me there's a huge bag of "soup scraps" in my freezer that probably need to be used this weekend.

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added 11 months ago

oops! I meant to say "migrate to freezer!"

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added 11 months ago

On top of using bits and pieces of food in soup, stews---- if it's not meat or protein you can add it to your compost pile, if you own one.

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 11 months ago

It's funny that you brought this up. Just yesterday, I looked at all my tiny portions of things and decided to use them up.

First dish: Phad Thai. I used up the last 1/4 cup of tamarind, date palm sugar and ten chili arbols. I used a spaghetti squash instead of rice noodles and had no tofu, so I velveted some boneless chicken thighs that I had in the freezer and used those. I even used one cube of frozen like juice and zest that was in a small baggie in my freezer. I don't like peanuts, so I used up a small bag of macadamia nuts I also had in my freezer. It was delicious and it was satisfying to use up all the bits.

Second dish: I had opened a can of coconut milk and only used 1/4 cup. So..I made a delicious soup with chicken stock that I had just made, soaking water from my dried shiitake mushrooms, a knob of ginger, a knob of turmeric, garlic, more dried chili arbols, velveted pork (used up two thin chops from my freezer) and two TBS of red curry paste left at the bottom of the jar. I tossed in some shaoxing wine and mushroom soy sauce that I always have in my pantry and the last of the can of bamboo shoots that I had used in a previous stir fry.

Two delicious dishes and the huge satisfaction of clearing out my fridge for more stuff. :)

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SMSF

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added 11 months ago

Yum, that soup sounds delicious! I probably have most of the ingredients around and could use them up. Thanks.

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 11 months ago

It turned out really well. I tossed in a box (4 ounces) of baby kale that was hiding too. Forgot about that.

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luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added 11 months ago

Such a good question. I suffer from often buying more than I can cook and then throwing out good food. (once good, anyway) I am trying really hard to develop menus and shopping lists each week. Sometimes they morph from a more ambitious menu to something I can cook with the same ingredients really fast, but it's a start. I think I need to hire a housekeeper to help keep the refrigerator clean and organized. SOME people leave empty packages in the refrigerator and OTHER people leave a dab of food in a plastic container for a long period of time. Still, my refrigerator looks nicer than it used to. I have a big glass jar of candied kumquats in syrup on the top shelf and a couple of jars of preserved Mayer lemons, also quite beautiful. I would be interested in hearing how people keep their refrigerators and freezers organized. The freezer is a wilderness of good intentions for me.

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added 11 months ago

Freezer organization: I use "fish bins" (both deep and shallow)for everything (they are the semi-opaque white, sometimes bright blue, plastic bins that fish dealers use to deliver and store fish; a stranger might think i'd been a fish dealer.) In our new "tall freezer" in the pantry, 2 fish bins fit on each non-drawer shelf. I label their fronts w/ magic marker: MEAT, SFD, POULTRY, VEG, STARCH, DESSERT (incl. cookie dough), TR J , BREADS ,or i put a label on a basket drawer. SOUPS( alot of soups and stews, so i have devised an entire space-saving way of packaging them) are frozen in convenient shapes and stored on freezer doors.
https://food52.com/recipes...
Flours, grains, nuts, ice cream also on doors.
On the freezer door of our main frig, i keep OJ concentrate (i use for cooking, sauces, marinades) and little saran or ziploc packets of tomato paste, chipotle puree, jalapenos, ginger root,
small q's of grains, jars of sesame seeds, chili flakes.
In our second, back-up frig in the pantry, the freezer section is all SAUCES or sauce-makings, stocks, demi-glaces, divided in fish bins labeled MEX., ITAL., FRENCH, ASIAN.

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Kristen W.

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added 11 months ago

I do a lot of the things described by Lyndie so my problem isn't as much about unused food, as it is about keeping the two uneaten tablespoons of some cooked dish that I think I might...eat as a minuscule snack? Eat as a minuscule side to some other main? When I was at my worst with this my husband described our fridge as a museum of my past meals. I also am too lazy sometimes to swap out the large container that I originally put the leftovers in for a smaller, space-saving one once the leftovers diminish. I'm great at utilizing raw ingredients so they don't go to waste; I am a bit too sentimental, however, about the resulting dregs of leftovers. So my helpful idea would be...maybe don't do that?

21cce3cd 8e22 4227 97f9 2962d7d83240  photo squirrel
added 11 months ago

< head nodding>

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ktr
added 11 months ago

I always convince my husband to eat the last few bites so I don't feel like I have to save them.

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added 11 months ago

When I have odds and ends of similar things I try to combine them into one dish. Odds and ends of various pasta could go in a casserole or soup. Odds and ends of nuts could go in a batch of granola.

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AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 11 months ago

I suppose this is more a "what to do with dregs" point, but it's not entirely off topic:

We love mustards and pickled fruits and chutneys of all kinds. When there are only a few tablespoons of one or the other, especially if it's something like a mustard that I buy regularly, and I have another jar waiting in the pantry (as I tend not to let us ever run out of such items), I mix them together, e.g, I chop up a few pickled plums with a couple tablespoons of coarse mustard, and then we put that on panini or similar sandwiches over the next few days. I use the leftover brine from those pickles to make a salad dressing, often with a dab of whatever jam is down to dregs. (Perfect for dressing beets!)
Great way not to clear out the condiments, which tend to take over our fridge if not dealt with on a regular basis. ;o)

B3038408 42c1 4c18 b002 8441bee13ed3  new years kitchen hlc only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 11 months ago

That should be, "great way to clear out condiments." Sorry. ;o)