Eating Down the Fridge: Let the Fun Begin!

Well, howdy do and welcome to Day One of Eating Down the Fridge!

I am so excited to embark on this week-long adventure with you and see just how resourceful we can be with our collective edible surplus from the fridge, freezer and pantry. As of today, we are 112 households strong, representing 30 states and four additional countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark and South Africa); you can see the entire list of participants on the EDF Honor Roll, which continues to be updated today. On the EDF Facebook Group page, 163 members are talking (and cooking) up a storm around the clock, and if you’re a Twitterer, you can find all related tweets by searching with the following hashtag: #eatfridge

In addition to reports from Casa Appetite, you’ll hear from a lively bunch of guest bloggers, including Julia Watson, DC-based food writer and the creative force behind Eat Washington; Paula Crossfield, managing editor of CivilEats, who writes, cooks and gardens from New York City; San Francisco-based blogger Nicole Spiradakis who pens Cucina Nicolina; Eddie Gehman Kohan, Obama Foodorama diva-a-rama and AMA reader Nancy Owen, who’s chronicling her adventures from Canberra, Australia.

It is shaping up to be one heckuva week, and I hope you’re excited as I am.

Here at the Casa, we made some decisions about how the week would flow. Instead of picking up last-minute items at the store over the weekend, I decided to see how long we could go on the existing supply of vittles. For the most part, I think we’ll last nearly the whole way, with the exception of fresh vegetables and coffee beans. Maybe we’ll have enough after all; I’m game to see how the pantry flows. Already, I’ve made a few loaves of bread, and a batch of Lulu’s cookies are in the works.

Our first night of the challenge was a feast, of Thanksgiving proportions. I roasted a small turkey that had been parked in the freezer since the holidays, seasoned with a rub of salt, smoked paprika and coriander which yielded zesty gravy drippings. Mister MA made a quick pot of cous cous (seasoned with chicken stock made from a frozen chicken back over the weekend) and I roasted a bunch of kale with a clove of garlic and a spritzing of olive oil.

There are plenty of leftovers, and we’ll be making turkey sandwiches, some kind of chili or soup, and who knows what else. There’s corn tortillas to play with! Eggs and lentils and a few frozen salmon fillets! A couple of kohlrabi, a frozen container of pasta e fagioli and a jar of lime-mustard marinade in a jar. Ladies and gents, start your stove tops!

By Kim ODonnel |  March 9, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Eating Down the Fridge
Previous: Chat Leftovers: When Life Gets in the Way of Dinner | Next: White Bread, Three Ways: Part III


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Saturday morning: made orange rolls for breakfast. There's still some left on the counter because Boyf doesn't eat breakfast. A whole pan of orange rolls myself? I can see a problem.
Sat lunch: BLTs with bacon from the freezer, lettuce leftover from Frida's fajitas, and tomatoes cut up and mashed into avocado, with some slices of swiss and horseradish on the potato "guilt bread."

Sunday: Dinner was a fairly bland mix -- steamed spinach (freezer), yellow rice (pantry) and chicken strips (freezer), breaded and into the frying pan. I may not run out of anything this week except my olive oil. I'm down to about 4 tablespoons!!
I also made a pot of steel cut oatmeal and dropped some blueberries (freezer) in, and split it into 3 containers. I'll make another pot on Wed night, and that's breakfast for the week.
Lunch is the leftover spinach, a piece of shepherd's pie (freezer) and a stick of cheddar.

And I have a great idea for dinner tonight!

Posted by: capecodner424 | March 9, 2009 8:20 AM

We're off to a great start. I realized I had four lemons in the refrigerator that I needed to use. So for Saturday dinner, I made chicken piccata with frozen chicken breasts, chicken broth and capers from the fridge and one of the lemons. (Side of broccoli from the veggie drawer and rice from the pantry.) Then, yesterday, we had ham and swiss omelets (used up some sliced ham from last week) plus a romaine/arugula/tomato salad. I used the last three lemons in a lemon meringue pie. Thinking about the challenge got me to use up what was there instead of going to the store. This is going to be fun.

Posted by: margaret6 | March 9, 2009 9:12 AM

We're officially beginning today, after hosting over 30 people for a co-ed baby shower cookout yesterday. We had lots of burgers, hot dogs, pasta salad and potato salad.
Today we eat the leftovers!

Posted by: earlysun | March 9, 2009 9:24 AM

If you have corn tortillas, you have one of two dishes that are famous (well, where I'm from) for cleaning out the freezer/pantry: either King Ranch Casserole or cheese enchiladas.

Look up the King Ranch Casserole: it sounds like you already have a big bunch of boiled chicken or some leftover turkey that you can donate to that cause. If you have a couple of cans of Campbell's soup and a can of stewed tomatoes or Rotel, you are there.

Of course, if you make chicken or turkey enchiladas, you can likewise use frozen spinach, any sourcream you might have back in the fridge -- the possibilities are endless.

Finally, if you are not from the southwest, you have probably never heard of "Migas." This is a breakfast dish, but also makes a hearty dinner. Fry some onion and either a tomato or some canned tomato in a little fat (bacon fat is ideal) along with torn up pieces of corn tortilla. When the onion is soft and translucent and the tortilla is a little crunchy, add in several beaten eggs. Most of us add a jalepeno, but there is no requirement. Scramble up the eggs, and serve. This dish is especially for tortillas that have gotten stale so that nothing is wasted; accordingly, the condition of those tortillas is not material. ;)

Good luck! We started out the morning with yogurt and dry cereal and I'm thawing a chicken as we speak. Our freezer is bulging with frozen veggies, so there is probably a pot pie in our immediate future.

Posted by: badmommy | March 9, 2009 10:11 AM

We had to do a little stocking up as two young boys go through a lot of milk & bananas! Beyond that, it was mostly normal weekend shopping. Dropped by the farmer's market and picked up some ricotta cheese and marscapone. Hit Costco for milk and TJ's for a few misc. supplies.

Sunday night was some skate wing I bought over the weekend with couscous and the last of the green gumbo. I've had the couscous sitting around for ages and used up the last of a big jar of capers. Off to a good start! Unfortunately, the skate had gone off (ammonia smell), so we had a second helping of couscous with some leftover hummus and muharrram dips. That's EDF, just not how I intended.

The plan is to make each night's meal using several ingredients that have been sitting around in the pantry. I foresee the big challenges being that I have only a few onions and one can of tomatoes. Those onions will have to be used carefully. Another plus of EDF. It makes you think about your ingredients.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 9, 2009 10:17 AM

Can't wait to start today!! I did have to hit the store on Saturday because I realized I was out of milk and other vittles, so I bought milk, onions and a few cans of basic soup (tomato, chicken noodle) to use as bases.
Tonight I am making Taco soup--ground beef, tomato sauce, taco seasoning, onion, and canned sweet corn. I've had pounds of meat in my freezer forever, and this is a great way to use it up. Also makes very tasty leftovers.

Posted by: choirgirl04 | March 9, 2009 10:48 AM

I started yesterday by using up the remains of a quart of buttermilk that was on the verge. I made pancakes and some biscuits. We'll have the rest of the biscuits tonight to go with beef barley soup I made Saturday as a way to deal with a surplus in the veggie bin.

Posted by: khachiya1 | March 9, 2009 11:12 AM

Does anyone else put containers of sauce in their freezer and then forget what it is?

Posted by: davemarks | March 9, 2009 11:14 AM

Davemarks -- your comment makes me think about a story my aunt tells me. My aunt and uncle got married the day they graduated college. Since all of their friends were still looking for jobs, they couldn't afford big wedding gifts, so all their friends decided to stock my aunt and uncle's kitchen with canned goods -- except they removed all the labels from the cans and jars. Dinner was always a surprise since they weren't going to waste perfectly good food. They just had to figure out something to do with it.

Posted by: LaurenMcK | March 9, 2009 11:31 AM

I officially started yesterday, but did make my normal Saturday grocery run to get salad fixings, bananas, milk and yogurt. I also bought some stuff for a party that evening and have some leftovers from that. Oh, and apples at the Farmer's Market.

Breakfast/lunch on Sunday was eggs on a split English muffin. I baked the eggs in ramekins that were lined with a slice each of deli ham, a little bit of shredded reduced fat colby-jack cheese and some salsa. Dinner was out after visiting a friend.

Breakfast today is a WW mini-bar, banana and iced coffee using the last of the old milk and coffee leftover from yesterday. Lunch is split pea soup out of the freezer, salad, a mini ham & cheese sandwich, and an apple.

Dinner will be fish from the freezer cooked in green coconut curry sauce with the can of light coconut milk from the pantry and the already opened green curry paste from the fridge. Will be supplemented with brown rice and wilted spinach.

Posted by: BMore_Cat_Lover1 | March 9, 2009 12:03 PM

davemarks - Happens to me all too often. I use yogurt containers for storing sauces, stock, and frozen fruit.

If I'm on the ball, I remember to label the container when freezing. Far too often, I drop the ball. The hard thing to remember is what kind of stock as I often have chicken stock and veggie stock on hand.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 9, 2009 12:45 PM

This is so funny and so timely! Yesterday my partner and I walked to and from the Kennedy Center to see the New York City Ballet. Weather in DC was springlike and there was such energy in the air! By the time we'd strolled home, I was not in the mood to cook, but the BF likes to have a hot dinner so that we can have the leftovers for lunch the next day. So we broke out some frozen eggplant caponata from last summer, some tortellini, and some frozen shrimp. Voila! Dinner in a flash entirely from ingredients on hand and I got to empty out the freezer just a bit (to make room for the vanilla ice cream I'm currently in the midst of making). Sitting here planning my menus for the week, I'm hoping I have enough flour to make pasta from scratch for a recipe I want to make tonight and Thursday, but I guess I could go to the pantry and use some packaged strand pasta!

Posted by: otabenga | March 9, 2009 1:21 PM

@Davemarks--I now label everything with a simple post-it note on the lid. Adheres even in the freezer, cuz as important as knowing the contents is knowing WHEN it was frozen! That way when I'm pulling out some sauce or soup, I take the oldest one first!

Posted by: otabenga | March 9, 2009 1:44 PM

Kim, how do you roast kale? Does it work with any green? I've grilled escarole, but the roasted kale is too intriguing and sounds so simple! Recipe? Links?

Thanks heaps!

Posted by: otabenga | March 9, 2009 2:21 PM

DaveMarks -- I'm making pizza on Wednesday night, as long at that red stuff in the black takeout container in the freezer is tomato based. Because if it's not, I'm having ice cream and berry topping...

Posted by: capecodner424 | March 9, 2009 2:35 PM

I am glad people are interested in saving money and "eating down the fridge". This is how we have always run our kitchen.

Posted by: coconutlimeblog | March 9, 2009 4:22 PM

Day 1, I put a pork loin in the crock pot (it had been in the freezer for closer to six months). Cooked with BBQ sauce until it fell apart, served as sandwiches with leftover potatoes from the night before.

Tonight, I freed up some serious space in my tiny pantry. Two cans of Maryland Crab Soup that would have been bland if not helped... 2 cans of diced toamtoes, 1 can of corn, 2 cans of crab meat (all taking up space in the pantry). Mostly emptied my giant can of Old Bay, and when it's empty I'll get a normal size can. I did buy a loaf of garlic bread (last night's bread didn't turn out...) but otherwise, this was a pantry meal.

I told Kim I don't have enough in the freezer or pantry to go a week without shopping, but other than a few proteins and produce, I already have ideas for the rest of the week.

Posted by: ArlingtonGay | March 9, 2009 7:32 PM

NIght #2. I'm pleased with this one. I needed to whip up a sauce for gnocchi. I'm a big fan of romesco sauce and it uses up spare dried peppers and hazelnuts.

Here's the problem. I started the week with only one can of tomatoes and want to hold onto it when I'm getting desperate on Friday or Saturday. I had a small can of tomatillos that had been around for who knows how long. I think I bought them to make some Mexican dish. My thought was that I could use the tomatillos in place of plum tomatoes.

The first impression wasn't good. The tomatillo clashed with the olive oil. My thinking was that it needed some real tomato goodness. Fortunately, I have a couple of small cans of tomato paste. One good dollop of tomato paste did the trick. I was also out of sherry vinegar. so I substituted some of my reserve balsamic (the good stuff from the Italian Store). The sweetness of the balsamic helped balance out the sauce. I feel like Remy!

So, kiss good-bye to a couple of cans from the pantry and hello to a tasty sauce.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 9, 2009 8:04 PM

Well done, FairlingtonBlade! I love all the kitchen gymnastics. And yes, you should feel like Remy-- kudos.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 9, 2009 8:44 PM

This week will be great--one thing it will do is motivate me to clean out the fridge--which it badly needs!

Tonight, for my 3yr old and myself, made some turkey sausages that have been in the freezer for some time. Added 3 potatoes (cut up) that were sprouting eyes--good, got them just in time! Added the 1/2 onion left over from yesterday and chopped up celery (lots of this in the produce bin). Added the little bit of whole wheat rotini that was also left over, some rosemary, and voila! A pretty good dinner! Some cucumber and carrot strips and salad rounded it out--not too bad! With the leftovers, I'm thinking this will be good made with eggs for breakfast...

Posted by: chrishpl | March 9, 2009 11:20 PM

Day 1
breakfast: glass of milk
dinner: two quesadillas made from two Trader Joe's Habanero Lime Tortillas, Trader Joe's Fresh Mild Salsa, and cheddar cheese

Posted by: LittleRed1 | March 10, 2009 1:37 AM

Day 2: Thawed, sliced and pan-fried a pork tenderloin from the freezer. Made a sauce in the skillet from chicken broth and balsamic vinegar and a little butter. Also made macaroni and cheese with the end of some monterey jack and some cheddar, plus a side of peas from the freezer. This is going great! I already see some space opening up in the freezer.

Posted by: margaret6 | March 10, 2009 8:09 AM

Saturday - had to stock up on produce, milk, and a few sale items, but no meats or carbs. I thawed a roaster chicken for Sunday's dinner.

Sunday night - We grilled the chicken and I added sides of rice pilaf, grilled zucchini, and salad. We also grilled some boneless breasts so I can take them for lunches with salads. They're in a vaccuum sealed bag in the freezer. I took some of the leftover dinner for lunch the next day.

Monday night - Bul Gogi (A while ago, I had created my own Let's Dish-type meals, which included beef and onions marinating in bul gogi sauce from the international grocery store . We have enough for 3 meals (packaged separately). One down!!! Grilled that in a grill pan and served with hoisin (yes, not authentic, but handy) and wrapped in lettuce leaves. Sides were salad and brown rice. I packed up a grilled chicken breast with salad mix for lunch.

Tuesday - Defrosted ground beef and I will make meat sauce with canned tomatoes, garlic, onions, and fresh mushrooms that need to be used up. I will either serve roasted broccoli or fresh green beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Add in the usual salad.

I'm motivated to clean out stuff as my neighbor's freezer broke down and she's storing her stuff in one of our freezers for the week.

Posted by: ldf1 | March 10, 2009 1:09 PM

It's amazing the things you find in y our freezer - found two gardenburgers, and cooked them with some frozen broccoli. Found scappols and some TJs brown rice. Added a salad - delicious. Had an eggplant so I roasted it and made baba ganoush and served with pita chips. Used a frozen pizza dough to make pizza with frozen eggplant for my CSA with sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The only protein product I purchased was a piece of swordfish on Saturday. At this rate, who knows what I'll find!

Posted by: srobinson4 | March 10, 2009 4:06 PM

Day 2 (3/10/2009)

Breakfast: milk
Lunch: sandwich with mango spread and homemade spicy guacamole sauce; navel orange
Dinner: last habanero lime tortilla with salsa and cheddar cheese and last of guacamole; last pocketless pita to make pizza

So I used up the following: Trader Joe's Habanero Lime tortillas; pocketless pita bread

Posted by: LittleRed1 | March 11, 2009 12:14 PM


I thought that I was the only one that did that. Now I feel better! I have 2 containers in the freezer that I will defrost as part of this and use but I do not know what they are! I think that at least one of them is a tomato sauce...the other one may be soup!

Posted by: dedeapfelbaum | March 11, 2009 6:01 PM

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