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.
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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)
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I share an very small (cabinet depth) fridge with two other adults in a very busy kitchen (we almost never eat out and never buy processed/prepared food). I'm the kitchen cop, here are my rules:
1) Label everything - I use an industrial Sharpie (look for it on Amazon) to write dates on directly on everything. For reusable containers with leftovers/ingredients, I use white electrical tape for labels - it's amazing stuff: never falls off, easy to remove with no residue, cheap and available at every hardware store.
2) Think about your storage - I generally avoid ziplocs because they get lost too easily. I'm also a fan of re-used glass jars since they're free, various useful sizes, easily display ingredients and it's easy to label directly on the glass with the aforementioned Sharpie. I've recently switched over to deli containers for other storage based on Food52 and SeriousEats commentary - the jury's still out on this...
3) Be organized - our fridge gets "zoned" - upper left is dairy-ish, upper right is olives/fats/pickles. Middle left is leftovers, middle right is ingredients. We have miserably small produce drawers so the bottom shelf tends to hold veggies. Adjust the shelves to the heights of typical storage containers and readjust over time.
4) Weekly clean-out: we do one big shop a week and part of assembling the shopping list involves culling the fridge. A hard look at what you have and what you need also means less waste in general.
4) Be brutal: not labeled? Toss it. No clue what it is? Toss it. Don't have a plan for something? Toss it. Ever so slightly dodgy? Toss it. Fridge overflowing? Be merciless.
This article is very good:
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.
more of my techniques, w/photos- can be found by clicking my name above,clicking my recipes, and scrolling through the entries til you find a technique title.
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. :)
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.