Saturday, June 09, 2012

Cooperative Fridging: Key to a Use-It-Up week!

I intended to continue The Use It Up Challenge today, but most of the day  I was stocking books at the thrift store. This evening I was reminded of a key fact in any project using a shared resource such as a fridge: you have to work with the other people involved!
Right now we have four adults sharing this fridge (me, my wife, a brother, a mother-in-law) while housing situations shuffle around. Each has dietary preferences and in some cases these are almost medical mandates. The upshot is that although I used up some stuff from the fridge, other stuff got added so the net is about the same ... although since the new stuff was going to be added anyway, we're really better off for having used up stuff.
Let's see how it looks and ponder any lessons.
In the Freezer:
Freezer/Fridge June 9, 2012
  • In the upper left, in the door, is a bag of spelt flour I discovered in the back of the freezer. The label says it should be kept in the freezer but I doubt that it meant that it should be forgotten for a year. Keeping it in the door may help me to remember to use it up!    
  • In the middle of the door's top shelf are two consolidated bags that we may call "tired fruits" and "tired tomatoes". I like to buy in bulk, but sometimes the last peach or tomato starts going soft before I get to it; in that case, I toss it into the freezer for later use in a fruit pie or a tomato soup. Previously I'd just stuck them anywhere and they were often lost for a long time;  by putting it all together I see I have plenty enough to make a pie soon.
  • On the right side of the freezer are 3 soda bottles of water. This is a convenient way to make ice packs for picnics; as the ice melts it turns into drinking water. And the bottles in the freezer help with freezer efficiency by displacing air that otherwise would rush out each time the door opens
  • On the right lower shelf of the freezer are a couple of new containers of chopped chard from our garden. They are producing nicely and we can use it up only so fast!
Moving to the fridge:
  • For dinner, we used tortillas that in the previous days' photos were hidden by other stuff, plus some greens from the crisper. We also finished off yesterday's salad. That's progress!
  • We added to the fridge several items some new salad and groceries for my brother's lunches. At least we have more space for these, having used-up stuff yesterday. 
Perhaps the big lesson here is that food management is a process that never ends, at least so long as you continue eating. We have to work together with those in our lives to have solutions that work well for everyone. Using up what we've got is always helpful, and makes room to accommodate the needs of others.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Use-It-Up Salad! - or - The Vegetable Crisper Peril.

Use-It-Up Salad!
Continuing the The Use It Up Challenge, I turned my attention to the vegetable crisper - two drawers at the bottom, traditional sources of zombie material.
Sadly, the outcome was no different today than from any time I had ventured into crisperland. The level boss was a cucumber so old it appeared to have deflated accompanied by a fleet of radishes grown wooley; they were dispatched with the aid of the garden house and now reside comfortably in the compost.
Fortunately, everything else could be saved and most of it went promptly into a salad. I also threw in a few odds-and-ends from the main body of the fridge, such as a packet of salsa and the last quarter-cup of crumbled blue cheese. To balance out the blue cheese, I added some blueberries - that may sound odd, but try it; berries and cheese play well together!
From the pantry I included a can of chickpeas or garbanzos; they're one of our favorite additives, providing a little protein and a gentle flavor. While the can went into the recycling, I've started peeling the paper because when I take the kitchen recycling bin outside, I separate out the cans to take to a local scrapyard. We keep running across sources of scrap metal, so I've deditated the former yard waste bin (...whose function was supplanted by the compost pile ...) to accumulating metals. It may take a couple of months to accumulate a load worth the trip, but it's not as if the metal is going to do much else than wait patiently!
The result was a pretty decent salad which, with a microwaved potato from the crisper, made a nice Friday at-home supper!
Cleaning out the crisper, I was struck again with how often the plastic bags used for purchasing veggies become, in the fridge, a source of moisture and then rot. I think it's better to remove them from the plastic when they go into the fridge; what is your experience?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Use-It-Up Marinade!

Leftover condiments
Made Into Marinade!
Inspired by The Use It Up Challenge, I scanned our fridge door for packets of condiments and nearly-empty bottles of stuff. Mixing it all together made a decent marinade that I drenched on some chicken for tomorrow. To help empty some bottles, I experimented with adding a little vinegar or oil and shaking well.
Marinades usually improve the taste of anything you cook, adding flavor to the bland. This is a more unpredictable marinade than most, but it seemed to have the essential ingredients; if it had seemed unbalanced or lacking in something, there'd be no problem adding from our regular stores, but that didn't seem necessary this time.
This procedure cleared out a little bit of fridge shelf space' it's temporarily offset by the marinading chicken but once we've used that, we'll have just that much more space - and the good feeling that comes from not having wasted!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Use It Up Challenge! from Change The World Wednesday

This week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge:
This week, join Mrs. Green's Use It Up challenge by going through your cupboards, freezer, refrigerator, etc. and using what you find rather than buying anything new. The idea, here, is to use what you have on hand, hopefully before it's gone "bad", and eliminate waste. Of course ... we want to hear all about your efforts.
This is truly an awesome challenge! It is
  • Something anyone CAN do
  • Something anyone SHOULD do
  • Economical (...saves me money!)
  • Green (...helps save our planet for our next generation)
  • Fun!

Now in the past, I've looked at these challenges, and posted only after I'd either done something to meet them, or remembered something I'd already done, and then wrote about it. The problem with this system is that, more often than not, a week would go by and I hadn't written anything. I need some system for cuing up the action!
This week, I'll try a different method. Here is our pantry today:
Pantry June 6, 2012

And here is our freezer/fridge:
Fridge, June 6, 2012

See how much good chow we have in there? Too often, it grows old and joins the compost heap. For this Challenge, I will try to take their picture every day for the next week and see if this helps me use stuff up instead of buying. Do I want to publicly embarrass myself by posting pictures of things getting worse instead of better? No sir!
Am I using social pressure to help me meet the challenge? Yes, yes I am!
We all have our weaknesses; the trick is to use our weaknesses to make us strong ;-)
Actions taken today to live off our fridge:
  • Pass on frozen orange juice (purchased for a party punch that turned out not to need it) to Mother-In-Law, who drinks the stuff regularly
  • Emptied last night's two container of leftover lasagna and salad - it was late brekfast
  • Add two leftover containers from tonight's dinner - so the leftovers situation is sorta steady
  • Finished off a nearly empty bottle of wine
  • Made Use-It-Up Marinade from bottles and jars of stuff usually left in the fridge door for years untl thoroughly dried out..
As a result, our fridge now looks like this - not huge change, but change in the right direction:
Fridge Thursday June 7, 2012
Friday June 8, 2012
Today we cleaned out the veggie crisper and made a Use-It-Up Salad. This really did draw together some foods in danger of being wasted, but the net impact on the fridge may be hard to see, since our salad bowl is large enough to take up the space otherwise saved by the used-up items in the body of the fridge (e.g. blue cheese). However I think we can see noticeable empty space in the crispers (at the bottom).
the freezer actually lost a little ground, since I brought my wife one of her favorites, a salted caramel ice cream shake from Full Tilt. This set me back in my fridge reform, but put me ahead in other ways that are important strategically ;-)
Cleaning out the crisper, I was struck again with how often the plastic bags used for purchasing veggies become, in the fridge, a source of moisture and then rot. I think it's better to remove them from the plastic when they go into the fridge; what is your experience?

Freezer/Fridge June 9, 2012
Most of the day I was working, and when I looked at the fridge this evening, I was reminded of a key fact in any project using a shared resource: you have to work with the other people involved!
There are some new items in the photo, and an important learning is that previous use-it-up efforts made it easier to accommodate news demands on the fridge. AND we did use up a couple of things in there
The result we may call Cooperative Fridging: Key to a Use-It-Up week.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Teddy Roosevelt
"...Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living--a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age."

August 6, 1912