My fridge is actually pretty empty right now.

by Kristen on September 21, 2012 · 49 comments

in Food Waste Friday

Every week, I post a picture of the food that has gone bad over the last seven days. Why do I do this? Because in March of 2008, I finally got fed up with the amount of food I was wasting, and I thought that showing my waste to other people would motivate me to use up my food instead of wasting it. Because this often embarrassing practice was so helpful for me, I invited other bloggers to join me in posting their food waste photos, and Food Waste Friday was born.

For those of you who are used to the empty fridge that Simply Being Mum shows you every week, this won’t be that impressive. But for me, this is really good…

I didn’t set out to do this, but once I put these two photos in a collage, you do sort of get a panoramic shot of my fridge.

An empty fridge shouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s goal, but I find that I’m much more likely to stay on top of my food waste when my fridge isn’t stuffed to the gills.

My fridge might be in good shape, but the freezer below it could use some help.

One of my goals this week is to use up some of the food in there and also to get it more organized. As things stand, I don’t really have a good idea of what is lurking inside, and that’s not good when you’re trying to avoid food waste.

Speaking of which, here’s mine for the week:

I’m starting to think I should just limit myself to spinach or something, because at least there are multiple things you can do with spinach. Salad greens are mostly just good for…salad.

I suppose I could always just eat more salad. ;)

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Live and Learn-Toss and Turn September 21, 2012 at 7:06 am

I also find that if I don’t have a crowded fridge, I can keep control of my waste better. However, I agree. I’m not sure if any of us will ever be able to equal Simply Being Mum with her clean fridge and a use planned for everything in it.

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2 Kristen September 21, 2012 at 8:19 am

Yep, I need to be able to see what I have. That’s also precisely why I use clear glass containers…otherwise it’s so easy to forget what’s in them.

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3 Heather September 21, 2012 at 9:33 am

Having an empty fridge keeps our waste down, but it gives my husband and oldest two children the jitters!

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4 Jo@simplybeingmum September 21, 2012 at 7:58 am

Most certainly an empty Friday fridge will not work for everyone. It has to be complemented by a pretty stringent meal-plan, you have some good basic storecupboard long-life ingredients on hand (and be adventurous in what to do with them), and also you need to be somewhere food is easily accessible. I live probably in the one of the most predictable parts of the world (and probably the most predictable part of the UK also) as far as weather goes (we have rain pretty much all the time ;-)). It’s unlikely (but not impossible, who am I to say?) that no ‘force majeure’ is on the horizon. Although it was once pointed out (was it WilliamB?) the UK has a history of industrial strikes – granted! (but I do live in suburbia with great neighbours…so that helps also…I’ve borrowed an egg from time to time).
It’s not so much the emptiness that’s key, it’s being as you quite rightly say – being able to see what you have. You use what is in view…this is one of the reasons I use the drawer at the bottom of my small fridge to keep long-life condiments – they stand a better chance. Fresh produce would soon deteriorate. I also keep fruit (and some veg) in a bowl on the counter most of the year unless we have hot weather (yes, I’m laughing at the irony!).
I must say – your fridge looks mighty fine. I love a fridge picture… seriously I do!
p.s – my FWF confession – a carrot got away. Horrible photo, it took…

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5 WilliamB September 21, 2012 at 10:59 am

My “empty” fridge looks fuller than your “full” fridge. Different strokes, thankfully.

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6 Skirnir Hamilton September 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

How the heck do you have a family and have a fridge that is that empty? My fridge is never, ever that empty.

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7 Jo@simplybeingmum September 22, 2012 at 2:45 am

The photo of my fridge is just before my grocery shop, and after shopping it will look pretty full as my fridge is small by most standards. I have a very specific routine and by Friday the fridge should be bare if all goes to plan. It’s then topped up ready to go for the next week. I only buy for 7-days worth of perishables, and meal-plan for 6 (as we all have one of those days!). I see my fridge more as a holding bay rather than a storage unit. The only exception are some spreads/condiments, things that last up to 6-weeks – they of course are stored there.

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8 Meeghan September 21, 2012 at 8:40 am

We keep a freezer list. We write down everything that goes in there (with the exception of ice cream!) and cross it off as we consume it. Every couple months we unpack the freezer and rewrite the list, because the count inevitably veers off. It helps us use the oldest things first, it prevents us from forgetting about that certain so and so, and lastly when money is tight, we can easily eat out of the freezer and plan out meals around what’s in there.

I can’t take credit for this idea, someone else told me to do it when I complained about my freezer mess!

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9 Becky September 22, 2012 at 5:15 am

Great idea! I’ve been mulling over how to better organize my freezer (I have one of those deep chest freezers, and everything just gets ‘lost’ at the bottom!)
But I can see how keeping an inventory of the freezer contents helps with planning and shopping.
Thanks :-)

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10 WilliamB September 24, 2012 at 9:02 am

My deep freezer is too small to come with built-in organization so I hacked a system myself. I use 3 milk crates and 1 small hanging basket (the freezer came with two baskets but it’s a choice between 3rd milk crate and 2nd basket).

Let’s see if I can create a visual that will survive posting:
LEFT CENTER RIGHT

UPPER crate hanging basket crate

LOWER motor no container crate

So the center is defined as the space between the crates. I also have a bit of space between the crates and the freezer wall, called FRONT. It’s good for thin things like pizza crusts and ham slices.

My freezer list is organized by location, for example “3×2 chix breasts, left upper.” If I don’t know where something is then I check my list first so I don’t have to rummage and therefore ruin my organization. I still have to do inventory every know and then, though.

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11 Economiesofkale September 21, 2012 at 8:46 am

I had my first zero waste week this week :) Yay!

My fridge also looks a lot like yours, FG, and I could never get it empty every week, we eat way too many sauces, pickles, condiments and jam (both homemade and bought), and these last for weeks in the fridge.

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12 WilliamB September 21, 2012 at 8:48 am

I definitely get the itches if my fridge is too full or disorganized. I find that just moving food from round glass bowls to rectilinear labelable TellFresh helps tremendously. Bowls take up much more space than rectangles and I don’t have room to stack them. TellFresh I can stack 2-3 high so I can see more in one glance, and my roommate (who apparently can’t see through clear glass) will read the labels.

Wasted:
* 2-3 cups of jalapeno cheesy rice. Made for a block party, I don’t like it and my roommate didn’t like it enough to finish the leftovers
* About 1/2 c. green bean ends. They started to go bad, I clipped off the bad bits and had the rest for dinner.
* About 1/4 c spinach. Sorted through the leaves to get rid of the slimy leaves.

Saved:
* Green beans. See above.
* Spinach. Cooked into spinach-ricotta dumplings.
* Cut mushrooms. Must stop buying them at my usual store, just last week I returned 2 pkgs because they went bad in 3 days. This box I saved just in time, to become the bed for the spinach-ricotta dumplings.

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13 Kate September 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

I don’t have a blog to link, but this post made me laugh out loud, because my fridge looks pathetically empty compared to you and SimplyBeingMum! My shelves only have:
1. tupperware of oil for frying
2. eggs
3. a thermometer (HA!)
4. yogurt
5. tonight’s chili dinner
6. tupperware with chicken for lunches
7. 1/2 gallon of milk
8. a tupperware with meat thawing for the weekend
and in the drawer:
9. cheese sticks
10. yeast
Yep, that’s all, except the door! In my defense, I have been playing “use up everything before buying more” this week… perhaps it is time to go grocery shopping now? ;)

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14 Sharon September 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

I was thinking the same thing about salad greens vs spinach this week! For whatever reason, I don’t feel like eating a salad but if it was spinach, I could use it for pizza, quesadillas, etc.

Food waste was minimal for me this week. However, the 3 weeks before that, not so good. :(

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15 michelle d September 21, 2012 at 9:10 am

If I have greens to use up and I don’t feel like having a salad I’ll make it a wrap. I use the same ingredients I would have used in the salad, but it feels a little heartier. I try to keep a bag of wraps on hand. I think they are great for lunch and a good way to transform leftovers.

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16 Lili@creativesavv September 21, 2012 at 9:19 am

We have the same sort of freezer beneath our fridge — a large wire basket. It’s difficult to keep it as organized as I did when we had a freezer with shelves. It seems that all it takes os one person rummaging through the contents, and any ideas I had, of where to find thing, are totally gone.

For waste this week,one of our family was sick and didn’t eat his salad, so I composted it. I don’t feel badly about that kind of waste for 1) he was sick, 2) it was composted in our own backyard, so no fuel was used to truck it someplace,(and it becomes something to add to my soil) and 3) it was grown in our backyard, so no fuel was used to truck it to the market and then to my house.

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17 Heather September 21, 2012 at 9:32 am

I saved a grapefruit. I also downsized….blogs that is. I’m just going to be doing one instead of two.

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18 Kristen September 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm

It definitely does simplify things! I’m really glad I made the decision to pare down my blogging a bit.

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19 WilliamB September 24, 2012 at 9:03 am

I’m glad it’s working for you.

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20 Lindsey September 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

I chop up salad greens and add them to soup and stew, as well as stir fry. On the internet, you can find recipes for lettuce soup…

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21 Mary H September 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I do this, too! I also add them to omelets and mix them in with pasta or rice.

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22 Elaine in Ark September 21, 2012 at 9:44 am

Salad greens are also good in wraps. I usually have more than I can use up in a week, too, though.

I had a really bad week. I made a great big pot of potato soup (from a mix), added the fresh potatoes that I had left, and cut up a smoked sausage and threw that in. It made me sick, and I had to toss 3 large containers.

Also a couple of peaches that I didn’t eat quickly enough.

Next week will be better!

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23 WilliamB September 21, 2012 at 11:02 am

Possible waste, unless y’all can help me: solidified sugar.

I discovered “guests” in my flour bin so I put the contents – several 5lb bags of sugar – in the freezer as a precaution. I now have several 5lb lumps of sugar.

Can anyone suggest a non-labor-intensive way to turn the lump into granulated? Banging it with a hammer, grating, or using a food processor all count as highly labor-intensive.

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24 Liz September 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Would a sugar bear work? I am guessing the lumpiness is from freezers/fridges being high-moisture areas.

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25 AFS September 22, 2012 at 12:45 am

if you make jam… I think you could put in your sugar lump and it would desolve with the heat & fruit.

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26 Lyn-the lazy September 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

We did really well this week! Just the outside of some lettuce, but we ate the rest!

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27 Lucy September 21, 2012 at 11:16 am

All we wasted this week was an orange that turned black and wrinkly and oozy well before it’s time.

I’m one of those that never lets the fridge get empty, as we live far from town in Minnesota and in the winter there may be several days in a row the road is impassable due to snow or ice.

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28 Judy September 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

I have the same problem with salad greens and cucumbers lately. I actually like salads and they sound like a good idea at the store. Then I find we don’t feel like eating them and I end up tossing too much. Spinach seems to get used better- yes, even in salads, quiches, and stir-fried or steamed.
Guess I’m sort of happy to know even the FG has this problem! Thanks for sharing.

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29 Melissa September 21, 2012 at 11:49 am

I’ve stopped buying lettuce/salad greens for the most part, or buying smaller amounts even if it isn’t as good of a “deal” because I don’t really eat much salad, however good my intentions of doing so.

It is easier to keep track of things when you don’t have as much in the fridge. I’ve been better about feeding my husband leftovers lately, and prioritizing what needs to be eaten/used in what order.

Also to reduce my waste, I’ve gotten boring with my food purchases. We like to try new things but a lot of the times those interesting items don’t get used up, whereas milk, vanilla yogurt, sliced ham, carrots, grapes, celery are constantly eaten and restocked.

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30 Sanquinetta September 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm

You can throw salad greens into a smoothie :) My food waste this week was a container of chopped olives, leftover from a taco salad that got pushed to the back :( In a clear container too! Your food waste posts have been inspiring to me for a while I just haven’t posted. Thank you! Your blog continues to be a favorite of mine, I never “mark all as read” your blog ;)

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31 Kristen September 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Really? I tried adding in iceberg lettuce once and it was super gross!

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32 WilliamB September 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Iceburg is really different than green leafy lettuce.

You can also make Cream of Greens Soup:
1. Saute onion/garlic/celery/carrot/peppers (any or all).
2. Add cut up greens, toss, cover with a lid and let steam in the pot.
3. Puree.
4. Season to taste, add cream for Real Cream of Green Soup, or not for Fake Cream of Green Soup.
optional: add potatoes, other cut-up veg, minced meat, beans, etc.

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33 Skirnir Hamilton September 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm

My food waste, at least what I can remember for the past two weeks, 1/4 cup spaghetti noodles, a slice of moldy cheese, some spinach leaves and I think that is about it.

I do have a question. I made some mashed potatoes recently and we didn’t eat them much at the meal in question, so have quite a bit left. Was thinking of making a shepherd’s pie, which I have never done. Any other ideas for left over mashed potatoes? Oh, I have seen potato bread recipes that start with mashed potatoes and may do that too.

Managed to use up some things that were close, did a rolled sandwich with some cold cut ham that was close to the loose stage, IE almost smelled enough to say toss, which I treat as a eat but only heated. Saved some leftover salsa rice by making it into soup, which I love eating, but the rest of my family does not eat. For some reason no one in my household eats left over mashed potatoes or left over salsa rice. So have to repurpose them, or stop making so much that we have leftovers.

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34 Liz September 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm

I make potato patties, kinda like FG’s fried mush. Mix mashed taters with an egg, some seasoning, maybe some cheese and ham, and “fry” like pancakes. I serve them with mustard, and carrots on the side.

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35 Raye September 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Those potato patties sound really good! Thanks for sharing the recipe!!

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36 Lisa September 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Left over mashed potatoes make good potato cakes. Just mix with some egg, make into patties, dust with some flour, and fry until hot and a little crispy.

You can also add leftover mashed potatoes to soup to thicken it.

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37 Beth M. September 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm

You can make pesto out of salad greens too. It’s good! I just add other things (dried herbs, peppers, nuts, onions, garlic, leftover fresh herbs… whatever I have on hand that sounds good) to give it flavor. Same with spinach.

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38 Beth M. September 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Also, if you add napa cabbage to your salad greens, it lasts longer.

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39 sarah@everydaylifeonashoestring September 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Not tooooo bad this week, but the waste could have been avoided if it had gone in the fridge sooner. Never mind, there’s always next week!

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40 Raye September 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I love the fact that everyone is “emptying” their refrigerator but please be aware that a refrigerator is one of the home appliances that can generate the most electricity so your refrigerator does need to have enough food in it to keep it from continuously running.

When I bought my first house I came home one day to find my refrigerator filled with my cereal boxes and flour and stuff like that which I usually keep in my pantry. I found out that my Dad did this to keep my refrigerator from running all of the time.

From what my Dad said if there is nothing in the frig then it will take a long time for the frig to reach it’s desired temperature because it has to cool all of the “air” in the frig. If you fill your frig with food then there is less “air” in the frig and it doesn’t have to run as long to get to the desired temp.

So do as my Dad did to my frig – still have a neat frig (which, BTW, Kristin, your frig looks great!!) but fill it with items that can be refrigerated so it won’t run so long and use a lot of electricity.

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41 AFS September 22, 2012 at 12:55 am

I’ve done this with the freezer. freeze jugs of H2o. never thought of doing the same with the fridge. Good idea.

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42 Jo@simplybeingmum September 24, 2012 at 6:55 am

As my fridge empties and space appears (usually Tuesday (ish)), I start storing items in there that do not require constant refrigeration. Such as drinks/fruit etc… so the white wine (from the dining room wine rack) may go in there, or beers out of the cupboard which normally I would chill prior to use rather than keeping them in there 24/7. Filling bottles of tap water is great also.

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43 Diane September 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Hmmm. probably not good for the wine to chill/cool/chill/cool. I think water makes more sense. Better still, water stored in glass containers. I re-purpose San Pellegrino bottles for this. No, I don’t buy them, I get the bottles from a friend who does. If you really have a lot of freezer space too. you can freeze jugs and then move them into the ref. Place them on a towel or in a shallow bowl. they’ll defrost slowly and keep temps. down nicely. Milk jugs are faves for this.

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44 Molly F. C. September 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Another way to use up leftover mashed potatoes is to make pierogi pizza. Start with a pizza shell, (either homemade or store bought), add sauteed onions, mashed potatoes, shredded cheddar, and top with sauerkraut. Bake in oven. If you like potato pierogis, and sauerkraut, you’ll probably like this too. I’ve frozen excess mashed potatoes, and thawed for use in both bread and pizza with great success.

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45 Dawn A. September 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Hi everyone! This is my first week participating. Looking forward to learning & sharing tips to help reduce waste!

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46 AFS September 21, 2012 at 10:50 pm

It seems my cream cheese and bagels never get used at the same rate. I lost about a half of a cube of cream cheese. If I had been paying attention I would have used it up but once the bagels were gone I forgot about it.

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47 WilliamB September 22, 2012 at 11:01 am

Full-fat cream cheese freezes pretty well.

You can also use it in many of the cooking (not baking) places you’d use cream: soup if you like a bit of tang, pasta sauce. Cooks Illustrated has a great recipe for sugar cookies that uses 2T. cream cheese. Icing. On crackers, of course, or in sandwichs and roll-ups.

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48 AFS September 22, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Good to know thanks WilliamB

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49 Kristyna September 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Just a thought… I’m pretty sure you could add salad greens to a smoothie the same way you can add spinach. Won’t affect the taste (unless it’s arugula or something really bitter) and definitely NOT salad! :)

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