Saturday, May 4, 2013

Challenge: Refrigerator Cleanout-6 Steps to save you $151/month

How many times a week do we walk to the fridge, open the door and think, 'What am I going to make for dinner?'  While scanning the fridge over and over again-do you find yourself overlooking things that may have been sitting in there for awhile?  Condiments, rice paper, bloody mary mix (can you tell I'm personalizing this a bit?), a jar of orange marmalade.  

While reading, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Kathleen Flinn discusses a challenge a friend suggested-skip going to the grocery store for a week and use what you have.  By doing this, you force yourself to reinvent dishes and eliminate items from your refrigerator and pantry you may otherwise never get to and throw out.  This idea left me intrigued.

Now, I dont find myself to be the 'condiment queen' by any means, but after this exercise-I realized how much random stuff I had in my fridge!  The door lined with dressings and various types of mustards and sauces actually overflowed onto the shelves!  Those items on the shelves, were hidden behind the milk and the bloody mary mix (ie: the land that Carmen forgot).  So I started to think about where to begin.

  1. Check expiration dates first: this is the easiest way to eliminate items without committing them to memory as potential ingredients.  Go through the freezer too!  Recycle and compost what you can and pitch the rest!
  2. What goes together?: Start mentally grouping things from the freezer, fridge and pantry into meals.  Ok, orange marmalade is random, but what if I mix in a little cayenne and put it over chicken?  Pair it with rice and that 1/2 bag of frozen broccoli and we're in business!  Do that with 3-5 meals (this will encourage you to cook at home for the week).
  3. Evaluate your week (aka meal plan): Whats going on this week?  How many days can you commit to cooking and which days are the days you know you need something quick (btw: quick doesnt mean unhealthy!)?  Start plugging the meals into the days that correlate with the time you think you will need to prepare it.  Also, keep it simple-start with what you have and build on it with seasonings you already have.  If you're not sure with where to go with some items try the website: Supercook that has you list ingredients you have and uses them to suggest recipes! 
  4. Pull the ingredients from the freezer to thaw: When I want to make meatloaf, I never have the meat thawed out and often have to opt to do something else.  Having it ready to go when you're ready to cook makes cooking significantly easier.  Plus, having everything pulled and thawed will: force you to cook it AND allow for last minute adjustments.  My life is no different than anyone else's-something is bound to come up that changes your schedule from 'have time' to 'no time'.  Its nice to be able to have everything ready so you can make a last minute adjustment to your menu.
  5. Watch your refrigerator clear: Americans waste 40% of the food they buy.  So having an emptier refrigerator is a GOOD thing!  Kathleen Flinn's friend suggests taping a photo to the back of the fridge so you are always motivated to use the contents and not throw them away.   
  6. Be realistic with your goals as a shopper: some people only shop organic, some people feel its best to buy in bulk, some people shop for super-savings.  These are fine ways to shop, but if you are an average American who throws away 40% of the food you buy, why are you buying in bulk?  You're literally throwing away your money.  If you shop organically and are throwing away the food into the garbage-switch to decreasing what you buy and begin composting
In addition to these steps, skipping a week of shopping will also save you money.  The average American spends $151 a week on food according to a Gallup poll in 2012.  This poll also shows there has not been an increase in the amount of people eating out vs at home since the poll was last done in 1987.  Some quick math for you: $151x4= $604x.4=$241.60 the amount of money the average American is throwing away each month.  By skipping the grocery store once a month, you can decrease your waste by as much as 35% and be $151 richer!

Ok, now go out and try it for yourselves!  And please, share your results and what you have found!

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