how cut food waste, cut bills and see the back of your fridge

How often do you eat?  I rest my case.  You will spend a LOT of time in your fridge and larder (or food cupboards or wherever you keep the food that doesn’t live in your fridge, please don’t email me, larder is an easy word that you all understand 🙂 )

Is your fridge full of little bowls of leftovers, unidentified things in silver foil?  Do you take one look and think it would be easier just to pop out and buy a couple of chicken breasts for dinner?  How much money are you wasting on food?  Combine decluttering with the essential post holiday belt tighten and clear out your fridge.

Give it a really good clean whilst you are at it (a paste made from water or water and vinegar and bicarb is an excellent cleaner and gets rid of any unwanted smells).  Put back all the regular essentials (milk, butter, fruit juice etc.) and have a good look at what is left.  Divide it up into OMG how long has that been there , it is no longer recognisable as food, and the rest.  You can chuck the former.  This is the only time you will do that.  From now on there will be no more UFOs (unidentified food objects) in your fridge.

The rest needs to be sorted into what you have to eat fairly quickly, the open packet of bacon for example and what can hang on for a while yet, that hard heel of cheese.  Take the first group and work out what you could cook with them.  I tidied my fridge after the Christmas holidays, it was full of bits of leftovers and was driving me nuts.    The last bits of cooked ham, some cold boiled potatoes, some rather dried out sausages and the end of homemade terrine (ie I knew what was in it) was chopped up and added to the butchers scraps and cooked up for the dogs.  We had crunchy topped  cheese and squash bake using only leftovers from the fridge.  1 elderly and slightly worse for wear squash, 1 bowl of dried breadcrumbs, the remains of a pot of creme fraiche, the open packet of bacon and all the left over and rather hard heels of cheese from the holidays.  It was delicious.

If you really can’t think of what to cook with your assorted ingredients then hit the internet.  “Cabbage and cranberry recipes” alone brought up pages and pages of recipes.  So now you have tonight’s supper sorted you can put those ingredients to one side and look at the rest.

Again sort them into order of decay – i.e. use the ingredients that will last longest last.

Hey presto!  You have cleared your fridge AND written a menu plan for the next few days and you haven’t even spent a single penny.

If you are feeling brave you really ought to combine a fridge clear with a freezer clear.  With careful jiggling and swapping of ingredients you can take the hassle out of “what are we going to eat tonight”, save a fortune on groceries and find order in your kitchen.  What’s not to like?

I plan menus every week, it makes life so much easier and cheaper.  I don’t subscribe to the 15 (or whatever) circulating recipes.  How boring that must get.  Instead I start my shopping in my pantry and freezer.  Then I get out 2-4 recipe books and look for new recipes to try using the major ingredients I have found on my “in-house shop”.  I have planned every meal this week without having to purchase a single ingredient.  Last night we had pan fried steak and cranberry sauce using the left over cranberries and two rather small steaks from the freezer.  We are a family of five so cut the steak into strips after I cooked it, laid it over a mound of mashed potato, poured the sauce over the top and added lots of veg.

Once you have your recipes  allocate them to days of the week, taking into account any evenings where you will have to serve at different times to accommodate other people’s commitments or will have little time to prepare.  Baked potatoes and pasta (not together!) are our” no time to faff in the kitchn”meals.  The shopping list is made on the basis on the ingredients I need which are not in the pantry or freezer.

And this is what our fridge looks like now.


Yes I know there are still some foil covered bowls.  One is the last of the brandy butter and my life is not worth living if I don’t keep that, but I know it will go.  The other is the meat from the remains of a game pie I made which I am keeping to pill Meg (an elderly springer spaniel not my daughter – she has six tablets twice a day and it can be a bit of a challenge persuading her to take them).  Oh and you know those little plastic punnets that you get with soft fruit?  I keep them and use them to hold little things like garlic, chillies, ginger, cherry tomatoes, shallots etc.  It stops them rolling around in the vegetable drawer and means I can see exactly how much I have left of anything.

Tonight is cauliflower cheese by the way 🙂

9 thoughts on “how cut food waste, cut bills and see the back of your fridge

  1. You are a woman after my own heart! If you move house regularly, or live somewhere really small, (both apply to me) you really have no choice but to be organised and tidy. I don’t have room to store much food, so it all gets planned and used up. Great tip on Googling the contents of your fridge for what to make. I’ve done that on many an occasion. I know someone who has a huge larder and while staying with her for a while I uncovered a jar of marmite that was 22 years old. Yes, 22. That was older than her grown-up son. I guess they don’t like marmite, but it’s also easily done when you have the space to store stuff. I knew there was a plus side to living in tiny houses! Loved reading your post, with the added bonus of a picture of a tidy clean fridge. That’s my OCD fed for today!! Andrea

    1. Marmite would never last that long in this house, I love the stuff! I do have a huge larder as well and I have to be very strict on not letting it get over full. I bake a lot and both my husband and I are keen cooks so we do have a large selection of what we consider the basics (although I appreciate we probably have more than most) but they get used and replaced. Thank you for the lovely comment about the fridge. Would that it was always that neat and tidy!

  2. I try my best to stay on top of the perishables. What does me in is the unexpected — everyone getting sick, for example. Or some unexpected appointments that prevent me from making dinner as planned. That’s when I really wish I composted b/c I feel so terrible throwing spoiled food in the trash knowing it’s going to the landfill : (

    1. You can’t plan for the unexpected 🙂
      When I can’t cook a meal for whatever reason I hold it over to the next day and “bank” one for the following week. It does help to have chickens, geese and dogs if you don’t have a compost bin!

  3. Oh, am I odd, that’s how I cook already! The googling recipes idea is one of my favourite activities Every time they announce these “we throw away 36% of the food we buy” figures I am gob-smacked. Tonight’s dinner was braised red cabbage with apple/onion made on the stove top with sausages and last nights left over boiled pots slung on top of the cabbage to warm up! Now there are only three of us at home there is quite often a left over portion, I always cook extra pasta/carbs and that makes two lunches for the husband as good as free. I’ll have braised cabbage for lunch tomorrow but he wouldn’t eat that as lunch! Anything can go in a soup, inc broccoli stalks, and I boil up all chicken carcasses, we have a chicken 1-2 time a week as it feeds us for 2 meals plus a lunch or two and soup stock too. One thing I am going to try is the bicarb deep clean…my fridge is still post Christmas gunky underfoot but is rather bare. Fiona x

    1. I actually get rather tetchy when there are no leftovers for my lunch the next day. If you leave a small bowl of bicarb in the fridge it helps keep any unwanted whiffs at bay. Also you can run a short wash on the dishwasher with a small ramekin of bicarb on the top tray it brings it up all clean and sparkly and not a whiff in sight.

  4. We are trying to do this more in our house. The thing is, I’m not crazy about leftovers. But after reading about what you threw together I started thinking that I could cook anything in a frying pan with some butter and my boys would eat it. Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Tonight all the children are out. Hurrah we can eat offal! One small liver lurking in the back of the freezer will be fried up with bacon for starters and the lamb’s kidney’s from the lamb we bought earlier this year will be devilled for main course. Potatoes from the garden.

      On the other hand, it is possible to go too far. One day I will confess to the details of what has gone down in family history as the worst supper every. Catfood pie and thistle salad…..

  5. I’m just beggining to meal plan and shop with a list (all focusing on minimizing waste). It’s only been 1 week and I love knowing what I’m going to cook and not wasting anything. I’m also focusing on making smaller portions so that I don’t have so many leftovers that they go bad. I hope I can keep this up!

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