Eating Down the Fridge: Save the Date!

What: A week-long kitchen challenge of abstaining from food shopping, and using up what’s in the fridge, freezer and kitchen cabinets. Inspired by eGullet’s Steven Shaw and AMA reader enthusiasm.

When: The week of March 9

Where: Right here, in the AMA kitchen, and in kitchens across the country

How: I’ll be actively participating, sharing the ups and downs of my experiences (and lessons learned) in the blog space, complete with recipes and improvisational meals based on what’s in the larder. You are invited to join me and sign up (and have your name included on the EDF Honor Roll) and share your experiences throughout the week. In addition, as done with the Eat Local Challenge last summer, I am seeking a few guest bloggers from different parts of the country.

RSVP: By Friday, March 6; e-mail me with the subject line: “Eating Down the Fridge” and in your note, include your first and last name, city, state and number of people in your household. You’ll be included in the EDF Honor Roll, which will be updated daily. And if you belong to Facebook, you can connect with other EDFers here. For those interested in guest blogging, the deadline is Monday, March 2.

Housekeeping and Anticipated FAQ

So how is this going to work?
The challenge is in effect from Monday, March 9, until Sunday, March 15. During this time, the goal is to do zero food shopping.

Does that mean I can stock up on the weekend before the challenge kicks off?
Sure, it does. But I urge you to exercise restraint and refrain from buying three weeks of groceries to stay in the game. The idea here is to take stock and be mindful of what you already have on hand.

Can I make exceptions for a few items? What if I forget to buy coffee and suddenly run out? Or if that head of lettuce has gone unexpectedly rotten?
The goal here is to challenge yourself, not inflict punishment or torture. If there’s something you just gotta have to get you (or a family member) through the week, by all means, go to the store. But I bet you’ll feel differently when/if you go.

Can I commit to just half a week? I'm traveling, and the we've been invited out to dinner.
Again, you are the best judge of what is and isn’t possible. If 3 ½ days are all you can do, that’s better than zero. Do what works within the scheme of your own life.

My kids are going to hate this. How do I get them on board?
Make it sound like an adventure, like you’re going camping or you’re off on a magic carpet with limited storage. And get them involved in meal prep; it will give them ownership.

Will you be around that week to lend a hand? This is going to be hard.
You betcha. In fact, I’m planning a special chat that focuses solely on what to make for dinner based on what’s in your larder. Stay tuned for those details.

Speaking of chats, join me today at 1ET for this month's meatless edition of What's Cooking.

Other questions? Send them my way in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 26, 2009; 9:00 AM ET Eating Down the Fridge
Previous: Chat Leftovers: Tamarind, Baking Stones, First Set of Pots/Pans | Next: Eating Down the Fridge Honor Roll


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I didn't feel like cooking the other night, suddenly dooming the Boyf to turkey sandwich instead of spicy and yummy fajitas. So I picked up a loaf of guilt bread with the milk on the way home, so that if my frozen homemade bread suddenly fell apart, I wouldn't be the one on the couch.

I have 2 freezers and barely had enough room for the bread when he pronounced my homemade stuff wonderful and showed me a half a loaf of guilt bread from last time I did this to him.

I am ON BOARD! It's possible I won't go shopping again (except milk - I don't have a cow!) until March 15!

Posted by: capecodner424 | February 26, 2009 10:06 AM

I started doing this in November. It really cuts down on grocery costs and food spoilage! I have a running list of dinners I can make without getting anything new, or that require only one or two ingredients from the store and will use up things from the house. I usually have at least one week of menus going, and then if I see something on sale at the store, I have money to stock up on it.

Posted by: janedoe5 | February 26, 2009 10:48 AM

This is such a great idea, Kim. Looking forward to it!


Posted by: civileater | February 26, 2009 11:17 AM

My husband and child are skiing for a long weekend and my plan was to clean out the pantry. I'm expecting to find a whole lot of "oh, yeah!" moments and ideas, and I expect that some non-perishables that I will never use will go to the food bank. I've planned to clear up as much space in my wine rack, too!

Posted by: Jess65 | February 26, 2009 11:36 AM

Hi Kim!
As I said over on facebook, I'm totally in! I'm looking forward to it.

Posted by: earlysun | February 26, 2009 12:21 PM

I'm in!

Posted by: LittleRed1 | February 26, 2009 4:22 PM

Does my garden count? I am in the Northern Virginia Piedmont, and I am harvesting a little from it at the moment (and hopefully more in two weeks!): kale, mache, arugula, herbs, tatsoi, sunchokes, some lettuce... it's like my extended pantry...


Posted by: rowandk | February 26, 2009 9:30 PM

I'm so looking forward to this, even if I will be at the opposite end of the seasonal-eating spectrum from everyone else here in Australia!


Posted by: njdmarston | February 27, 2009 5:06 PM

I'm looking forward to the challenge (I'm Paul Lane from Alexandria on the list). The challenge will be accommodating two young eaters (my three year old twins). We go through a LOT of milk and bananas are a big favorite as well.

Here's my plan. I'm not going to do any special stocking up. We have a plentiful pantry and a big fridge. I want to hit the farmers market (Courthouse), Costco, and the supermarket for perishables and then plan a week's meals around what we have in the larder. I'm blessed with an understanding wife (I've already taken the family meatless for Lent) and want to make this fun, not desperate.

If nothing else, we have a bottle of wings sauce from the source (Anchor Bar). One meal of buffalo shrimp and champagne should earn me some forebearance.

Thanks for a great idea, Kim!


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 27, 2009 7:38 PM

I'm in!!! My hubby retired Friday so it's budget time in our house. He is taking over the cooking and shopping and already decided to "clean out the freezer" which is chock full of everything. This will be a good challenge!!!! Especially since he is terrible about stopping at the store every day - a habit he needs to break to stay on a budget!!

Posted by: CarolinVA | February 28, 2009 8:47 AM

CarolinVA et al: We have EDFers signed up from as far as Australia and Denmark! And families from aroudn the country are getting hip to EDF -- St. Paul, Minn.; Cape Coral, Fla.; Muncie, Ind.; Chicago; Detroit -- it's so exciting!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | February 28, 2009 2:30 PM

We already did this last week. I came down with a horrible cold last Saturday and couldn't make myself go to the grocery store. A very busy schedule at work made it impossible to shop during the week. I knew had to go to the grocery store when I served "ham spaghetti" on Thursday. The recipe is as follows: Open a jar of Prego spaghetti sauce pour it over cooked spaghetti. Heat up a packaged slice of ham. Serve.

Posted by: MoKayDavis | March 4, 2009 1:11 PM

This is great! I've actually been doing this for years... once every 4 or 6 weeks I skip grocery shopping. It saves a lot of money and cleans out the fridge and cabinets. I started doing this when I went back to school because I was short on both time and money. It's also helpful for keeping my tiny kitchen tidy.

Posted by: aneer1 | March 5, 2009 5:06 PM

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