EDF: Hump Day Reflections

It’s Day Four. Are you finding your way to the other end of the freezer or more lost than ever? I can see clearly now, the frost is gone….

Here at the Casa, we’re having a blast lightening up the crisper, whittling down the freezer and making space in the cupboards. Last night’s supper was a few wild salmon fillets from the freezer, seasoned with a coffee rub (1 teaspoon ground cumin
, 1 teaspoon chili powder,
 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 
1/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee, about ½ teaspoon
 salt and pepper to taste), roasted broccoli (1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon salt,
 ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika,
 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes), a loaf of bread and leftover rice from my friend Leslie’s fridge. We were eating in style!

I saved the stalks of the brocc, thinking I’d either turn them into soup with the few stray potatoes, or grated for a stir fry with lemongrass, carrots and ginger. I’ve got a pack of rice noodles in the pantry, and there’s plenty of Asian condiments to make this whole thing sing.

By now, I’m getting low on coffee beans, and the wine supply is petering out, but unlike previous weeks, I’m calm and collected about the state of the supplies. Just a few days into this experiment, and I’m feeling an emotional shift, one that allows me to step back, take a long, honest look at what I’ve got and celebrate every last morsel. Rather than cut off a big hunk of cheddar to go with a cracker for a late-afternoon snack, I decided to hold off and use that hunk instead, grated, with huevos rancheros, which I’m planning for the weekend. Before this week, I wouldn’t have given the cheese ration a blink of my time. I’m also noticing how much juicier an apple feels on my tongue knowing there’s a limited supply, and how we, as a family, are truly appreciating the meals we create rather than rushing out the door to pay someone else to feed us.

Instead of buying more flour which I needed to dust my bread dough, I borrowed a bag from Leslie, and in return, I’ve promised to make pizza dough for both households, using toppings from both fridges for a collective affair. I’ve got onions that can be caramelized, plenty of garlic that can be roasted, pickled peppers, feta, olives, tomato puree and maybe even a wee bit of Parmigiano.

By Saturday, I’m sure I’ll be craving a new supply of fresh produce, but honestly, if something kept me from making a trip to the market, I now know that we’d be just fine. No, we’d be better than fine. Even with a whittled down pantry, we’d still be eating like kings.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 11, 2009; 4:15 PM ET Eating Down the Fridge
Previous: EDF: Saving the Best for Last | Next: EDF: Pantry Par-tay


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Yesterday we had shepard's pie (or is it cottage pie when you use ground beef?)--beef and veggies from the freezer, 4 last potatoes in the pantry. Used up the rest of a bottle of wine from last year (my mom likes it but is not sweet enough for me) in the filling. Also used up leftover salad (on the side) with the last of a bottle of Italian dressing. My daughter wouldn't eat the shepard's pie but helpfully finished off an old container of ice cream!
Still not able to see the lightbulb in my freezer...this has been fun! I've played this game before, but in a more limited, happened-by-accident way.

Posted by: GirlScoutMom | March 11, 2009 5:02 PM

Isn't it odd how four days without grocery shopping change your attitude? I'm experiencing the same appreciation, more awareness, more thoughtful planning, things that I hope will stay with me after this week.

No suffering here, either. We're doing great so far. Stuffed cabbage tonight!

Posted by: tlkennon | March 11, 2009 5:33 PM

I went into a grocery store for the first time in well over a week today.

Woah. It's bright in there!

I spent time only picking up a spinach-laden salad from the salad bar (doc's orders, sorry EDFers!), but it was interesting to see note the ingredients I've been hearing about in everyone's reports -- simply things I'd never noticed before now.

Time to cook that eye of round, the dog biscuits for a fund raiser and the honey-whiskey cookies as a "spirit raiser" for a friend!

Posted by: capecodner424 | March 11, 2009 5:46 PM

I have enough food here that I am thinking about expanding this EDF week for at least another week, except for buying produce I would absolutely need and staples at the end of the weekend. It feels good to be doing this and I do not feel like I am suffering!

Posted by: dedeapfelbaum | March 11, 2009 5:48 PM

Just want to say thanks for the timing of of your focus on EDF, which has coincided with my thinking about what should be in the garden this year. I always grow pumpkins each year with dreams of that perfect pie, which I do shoot for once or twice, but not enough to justify all the frozen pulp still awaiting my attention. So now I realize I either have to find more pumpkin recipes that don't overdose on sugar or grow something I would actually use on a weekly basis. As much as I love to grow my own, my limited garden and freezer space makes me think the latter option is better.

Posted by: coloradojon | March 11, 2009 5:54 PM

I'm even further ahead here (I'm the Australian one) and I can't believe how much food my little kitchen has been stockpiling! I haven't had to make a weird meal yet, and I can imagine going on for days longer before we start scraping bottom. And yes, isn't it interesting how you start to look at things like eggs and cheese differently? I did use two precious eggs for a delicious dessert that I posted here: http://therovinglemon.blogspot.com/.

Posted by: njdmarston | March 11, 2009 5:59 PM

I'm thinking of talking to my editor about hosting the EDF on a quarterly basis, so that we can compare the experiences by season. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 11, 2009 6:04 PM

Doing this a few times a year would be great! Also, since this EDF Challenge really makes you appreciate the bounty of food in the pantry and fridge, it'd be nice to also encourage participants to donate a portion of the money saved in groceries to some place providing food to those in need who can't "eat down the fridge." Just a thought.

Posted by: laurenbeau | March 11, 2009 7:43 PM

and a beautiful thought it is, laurenbeau. I'll put together a list of food pantries and related groups , try to get that up next week in blog space. Lovely, lovely idea.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 11, 2009 7:48 PM

I feel like this week hasn't gone as well for me and the EDF challenge as I'd hoped.

After hosting a huge party on Sunday and then a lunch meeting and working very late last night, tonight is the first time I've cooked.

I did find some fresh green beans that were on their last day (the last day I'd eat them, anyway), and constructed a fresh veggie and pasta dish with lemon-wine-butter sauce around them. I happened to find the end of a container of grated parmesan in the back of the fridge to go on top.

I'm looking for a good dried lima bean recipe. Hubby loves them and I've never made anything other than frozen (yum) or canned (yuck).

Anyone have any ideas?

Posted by: earlysun | March 11, 2009 8:28 PM

Tonight is the night I tackled that unopened jar of Tikka paste. I picked up a bag of seafood mix on the weekend (shrimps, scallops, calamari) to use. So, the seafood mix was marinated with 1/4 cup of paste and 1/4 cup of yogurt. I minced one of my 4 onions and a couple stalks of celery. [Trying to stretch the onions to last the week.] Out comes my precious, LAST can of tomatoes. I'll be working without a net the rest of the week. I drained the tomatoes, diced the flesh, and strained the rest (seeds, etc.) The juice went into the marinade and I chopped the flesh.

So, I heated up a 1/4 cup of clarified butter/vegetable oil and added the onion and some dried pepper for a little kick. The celery went in after a few minutes and then the tomatoes. After all that reduced a bit, I drained the marinade into the mix, cooked it all down a bit, and finally the seafood.

The verdict is thumbs up. A late addition of mascarpone that was sitting in the fridge added the right level of richness. So, call it seafood tikka massala and another night down.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 11, 2009 9:56 PM

Day 3 (3/11/2009)

breakfast: cup of tea which used up one Twinings Spiced Indian Chai teabag

dinner: spaghetti w/ marinara made with whole wheat pasta and tomato sauce; garlic bread made with a slice of whole grain whole wheat bread and butter with salt and garlic powder

Used Up: Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Spaghetti; Trader Joe's Rustico Tomato Sauce

Posted by: LittleRed1 | March 11, 2009 10:01 PM

Earlysun - If you have some other veggies there are many unique succotash recipes you could try out. Or use this website for inspiration -

Hope that helps!

Posted by: FormerDC1 | March 12, 2009 2:44 AM

There's something paradoxical going on here. On the one hand I feel the pull of shopping every day, buying what looks fresh and going from there. On the other hand, my real world habit is to buy groceries on the weekend, pick up one or two forgotten things when necessary, and freeze sauces and soups and such for "later use."

But I've so enjoyed eating down the fridge/freezer/pantry! This was something I'd adopted at the beginning of the year as I had so much stuff in my freezer that I'd frozen for later use, including cuts of beef and bacon that became part of some delicious beef burgundy and coq au vin. Yesterday was red wine risotto with radicchio (leftover cabernet, half an onion from the crisper, and a half head of radicchio) and Rachael Ray's meatloaf braciole (used up the last 4 slices of provolone, some breadcrumbs from Monday's pasta dish, and some watercress that I used in lieu of the recommended arugula).

Amazing that a delicious homemade meal can be had by using up what's on hand! I love that!

Posted by: otabenga | March 12, 2009 8:01 AM

I found that bag of cranberries (gulp, yes) that was still *fairly* good, even after deleting ones that weren't so good. So thought I'd make something that would use up pantry AND fridge stuff. The recipe from WaPo for Cranberry Biscotti hit the mark--used up that candied ginger, some pistachios that have been in the pantry, and some of the huge amounts of flour I have. Even though the recipe called for dried cranberries, I decided to give it a try anyways, and results were pretty good!--my son loved to not only make them, but eat them, too. Last cup got ground up with an orange, apple, and pecans for a cranberry relish--good even if it isn't the holidays! I do feel better using up that bag that was just sitting there!!!

Posted by: chrishpl | March 12, 2009 8:20 AM

I've been using a lot of cans! Last night I had a chicken stew from Trader Joe's that's just been SITTING in my cabinet forever, and it was really good! I don't know why I didn't eat it earlier...
I made a shrimp curry on Tuesday night that went pretty well. I used crushed tomatoes instead of diced, and I definitely think I'll go the diced route next time.

Posted by: choirgirl04 | March 12, 2009 9:26 AM

It wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought - until I went to the doc yesterday and he told me I needed to detox from sugar & dairy. Read: no cheese, no yogurt, no milk on my cheerios, not even any fruit (for the sugar thing). If I'd thought ahead (but I was just so freakin' tired yesterday - hence the need for the detox), I would've packed up some oatmeal and pecans to nuke here in the office for breakfast. But I didn't, so I made a stop at Whole Foods. Bad EDFer, but I'm going to keep the concept going on slow burn well past this week. Before I plan something, I'm going to root through the cabinets & fridge and see what I have...which I suppose is really the whole point, isn't it?

Posted by: alisoncsmith | March 12, 2009 9:26 AM

Except for produce, we're not even making a dent - guess we don't eat enough or are extreme pack rats. We need to continue this for a few more weeks, supplementing produce and dairy, only.

Posted by: geegster | March 12, 2009 10:23 AM

Mister MA and I have pretty much had the same reaction. By the weekend, we'll be feeling need to replenish the produce, the coffee beans, yogurt, but we're doing just fine here. Last night, we had pasta carbonara (box spaghetti, 2 eggs, fresh parsley, bacon, nub of Parm, and a small handful of frozen peas, just because) and I made pumpkin bread from a can of pumpkin for our breakfast, using remaining raisins I've got farro in the pantry I'd love to cook, plus arborio rice, frozen shrimp, plenty of dried beans, and we're thinking of doing a pizza-from-the-fridge night on Friday. Maybe we should declare this Friday EDF Pizza Night??

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 12, 2009 11:02 AM

I like the pizza idea for Friday. We have some brie in the fridge and cranberries in the freezer. It's dinner AND a dessert. I'll have to hope that it's possible to make a decent yeastless pizza crust.

Not sure about tonight. It's bowling league night, so I don't get home until around 9. If Mrs. Blade holds out, I think I'll try a quick pasta sauce. Lidia's artichoke heart & sun dried tomato sauce would use up the remains of two large jars taking up space in the fridge. We have some salad greens from the weekend, so that should pair nicely with the pasta.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | March 12, 2009 11:10 AM

BB, you can def. do a gluten-free pizza, but that would require various kinds of flours, which may not work within the EDF paradigm. My suggestion: Borrow some from a neighbor or friend, and invite them to join you. That way, you're eating down 2 fridges rather than one!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | March 12, 2009 11:19 AM

Last night, the ingredients for the cheesesteaks from earlier in the week were dumped over brown rice (no bread left)- it was kind of chewy and flavorless, so not my best effort (good thing I told them to have low expectations when I first made it). My son wanted cheese, so he used up the rest of the provolone. Fresh green beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic rounded out the meal, helped by salad. My husband will take the rest of the beef/onions/peppers and rice for lunch, but I grabbed the green beans for myself to have with some leftover chicken.

Tonight, there is some rotisserie chicken, grated cheese, sour cream, 2 kinds of salsa (regular and mango), and tortillas in the fridge that should be used. I have canned black beans, frozen corn, too. Chicken quesadillas seem to be a no-brainer. I also have black olives in the fridge that no one likes but me, so I may have to make a separate quesadilla for me to use them up. I may also roast the rest of the broccoli that I didn't do before. And, of course, the ever-present salad.

Tomorrow is my birthday and the night before Weight Watcher weigh-in (I usually eat light), so we shall see what it brings.

Posted by: ldf1 | March 12, 2009 11:42 AM

Here's a website for a food pantry in Annandale, VA:


Earlysun, I recently made "Herb-Scented Lima Bean Soup from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass. I'll try to post the recipe tonight.

Posted by: janedoe5 | March 12, 2009 12:03 PM

Day 4 (3/12/2009)

Originally, I was going to do something with five eggs leftover from January but when I cracked them, the texture was all wrong.

dinner: two slices of bread with mayo and slices of tomatoes sprinkled with salt and crushed red pepper

Used Up:
- Hellman's Light Mayo
- five eggs

Posted by: LittleRed1 | March 12, 2009 10:10 PM

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