EDF: Lessons Learned

On the blog watch, the EDF is officially over, but the eating-down party is far from a done deal. EDFers have taken their fridges and pantries by storm, and can’t seem to get enough of the frugal vibrations. Among some of you, there’s talk of continuing the challenge for a second or even a third week, requesting permission to stock up on perishables, such as produce, eggs and dairy. There’s enough of a groundswell that I’m considering a quarterly EDF, next one to be held in June, then in September and so on, so we can experience the challenge during different seasons.

Here’s a sampler of what you’ve been saying;

From the EDF Facebook Group Page:

I can see the back of my freezer. -- Kathy, Cincinnati

I find I'm being more thoughtful about what I'm eating and serving. It seems decadent to eat chicken on its own instead of mixing it with other things to stretch out a couple of meals. Making breakfast quiche to stretch the eggs a little further.
–-- Tammy, Outer Banks, N.C.

I love that this exercise is encouraging me to use up my leftovers in new meals instead of letting them go bad. -- Kari, DC

And from the blog space:

I think challenges like this are so wonderful because they challenge our imagination as well as our skills. -- esleigh

We also cooked more breakfasts than we normally would have, as we had run out of cereal early. I made crepes, pancakes and biscuits more often than I would normally have. A good habit to keep! I also learned that I need to monitor our flour quantities better (we are now quite low! No pizza for us tonight), and monitor the produce pantry better - I lost a few winter squashes because I did not check on them, and found a box of sweet potatoes (from the garden) that I forgot we had! Definitively need to better manage the food storage. It certainly was interesting to read everybody's experience! -- rowandk

I am exhausted from all this cooking, as I realize that I just do not cook so much normally, but it has been gratifying to see just how well we can eat just based on what we have on hand. I have to admit that I sort of miss the grocery store - unlike other posters, I actually love going food shopping as it is something I try and do alone (without the kiddies). But I have certainly figured out which pantry items I replenish because I use them all the time, and which are there from lack of use/interest. Those I've had fun trying to use up, but don't feel the need to replace. My pantry in particular has had a real cleanse. It feels great! -- holdenfoodie

I think we're going to keep with some aspects of the challenge. Make more meals focusing on the contents of the larder and less "ooh, that looks nice" impulse buying at the store. ---Fairlington Blade

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? -- njdmarston

Some of you, such as earlysun and B’More Cat, expressed frustration about sticking to the program for the full seven days, but hey, that’s what next time is for. Don’t beat yourself up; anybody who gave the EDF a try is a winner in my book. And really, the point of this whole thing, in my opinion, is to observe. When do we ever give ourselves the opportunity to take note of our surroundings simply for the sake of learning and enlightenment? Last week, we gave ourselves the time and space to watch -- how we spend our money, how we cook and eat and how we appreciate what we have in our collective midst. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.

Mister MA and I caved Friday night and ducked into a corner pub for some beers and chow, but we were back on track Saturday night, when we got together with friends and made pizza. All of the evening’s ingredients (except for the wine) were from three different larders. The collective bounty was inspiring, the pizza delicious, the collaboration heart warming. On this night, pizza really tasted like pizza.

Talk to me about EDF or anything else on your mind today at 1ET for the Swan Song edition of What’s Cooking. After 10 years, my weekly chat will be going dark.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 16, 2009; 8:30 AM ET Eating Down the Fridge
Previous: Meatless Monday: BBQ Tempeh | Next: Chat Leftovers: Walk Down What's Cooking Lane


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The upside of the challenge is that it brings about a change in thinking. Last night, instead of stopping at the store on the way home to pick up egg noodles, I baked some potatoes that I already had in the pantry. A little thing, but I saved the cost of the noodles plus whatever else I would have bought, plus the time to stop at the store, plus I used up some potatoes that would have been past their prime in a few more days.

My husband even commented last night that he could see more light in the refrigerator. So I hope to continue on with the "use what we have" theme for a while longer. Except for milk, eggs and fresh produce, I could go probably go on for a month.

Posted by: margaret6 | March 17, 2009 9:47 AM

Thanks so much for this idea. While we had more than enough food to not even sweat the challenge, I realized how long some of it had been in the freezer and seriously needed to be used up. I had made some Let's Dish-type meals for us - marinated meats (bulgogi and jerk chicken), bolognese sauce, etc.) that I have been saving for a rainy day, so I decided it was finally raining. I have decided to continue this in a modified way - I bought produce and dairy (first making sure we really needed it, as opposed to, "I don't know what we have in there, so I'll just get it anyway."), but very little meat. The goal is to get more realistic about what we will eat and what we won't, instead of just buying more stuff as Fairlington Blade so perfectly said it, under the "Ooh, that looks nice" category. I need to figure out what I will do with an ingredient first, as opposed to buying it and figuring it out later, which I rarely seem to do because I'm too busy. For instance, I bought some stirfry beef and I don't know why. I make a lousy stirfry and my kids hate it. I will now have to figure out something else to do with it.

Posted by: ldf1 | March 17, 2009 10:01 AM


That sounds like a good idea. The way I shop is that I first look at what is available in my house, plan meals around that, and buy what is needed in order to do that. Then when I go to the grocery store, I look at what is on sale and maybe buy something that I don't have an immediate plan for, but is on sale. Then I can either change my week's plans (save the spaghetti and tomato sauce for next week, it'll keep) or throw it in the freezer for next week (and plan around it then). Or some combination. So I had a pork picnic shoulder last week--some got cut up for other meals and frozen (used some two days ago in bean soup, more is still frozen), cooked some (was tacos last week and will be barbecue tonight, now that I have purchased the rest of tonight's meal). Last night chicken was on sale for .79/lb. I'll cut the breast off for one meal, throw the rest in the pressure cooker (to use the cooked meat in chicken curry and soup). I don't always know all of how I will use something I buy, but I at least have some idea--and, knowing my larder better, I have a better sense of when I shouldn't buy that sale item (have a lot of it, freezer is kind of full, have enough items already that need to be used up, etc.), so I waste less food.

Posted by: janedoe5 | March 17, 2009 10:53 AM

I made a number of tasty meals out of things already in my fridge, freezer or pantry: turky chili (with ground turkey in the freezer from a sale, cans of crushed tomatoes and beans in the pantry, and a container of chili powder in the spice rack); stir fry (with chicken breast tenders in the freezer, a can of straw mushrooms and a can of pineapple chunks in the pantry, frozen brocoli, and some stir fry sauce in the fridge, atop some brown rice); spaghetti with clam sauce (can of clams in the pantry, garlic, evoo, and parsley from the fridge); salmon marinated in teriyaki sauce I found on the fridge door and broiled...tonight I need to do something with a can of coconut milk, some peanuts and some chicken...don't know what yet!

Posted by: AmandaLA | March 17, 2009 12:38 PM

A bit late, but here it is anyway - my experience with EDF (am from India).
Day - 1: Dal Bukhara, vegetable cutlets, carrot and coconut curry (Dal Bukhara is a lentil dish from the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan), roti and rice.
Day - 2: Potato and Peas curry, roti and rice.
Day - 3 : Leftovers :-)
Day - 4: Capsicum and Potatoes, rice.
Day - 5: Frozen Pizza - storebought, that had been lying around.
Day - 6: lentil crepes for brunch, sauteed potatoes and mango lentils for dinner.
Day - 7: Leftovers.
Day - 8: (YeSS!!) scallions with tomatoes and yellow lentils.
Day - 9: (Today) Chickpea curry, rotis and rice.

Full Disclosure - bought milk and eggs over the weekend. Also bought 3 vegetables - but my husband and I definitely plan to stretch this as long as possible -at least 14 days, or until I HAVE to use up said veggies.

Lessons learnt- My goal was to make a dent in my pantry, hence the liberal use of lentils. I learnt 3 new recipes the past 8 days - that alone is priceless!

Posted by: OpinionatedLiving | March 17, 2009 2:06 PM

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