Maximizing Food, Minimizing Spoilage

Stop food waste

With our income reduced, we're trying very hard not to let anything in the kitchen go to waste. This takes some organization, and I'm not famous for that. So I'm researching home kitchen management techniques.

I've always prided myself on stocking a pantry properly. I learned this from my mom. It makes pulling a meal together, especially an impromptu one, a lot easier when your shelves are well-stocked. The Reluctant Gourmet's list is a good one, though our shelves also always have coconut oil, coconut milk, good curry powder, and aseptic pack pureed soups. In the basement, we always have jasmine rice, short grain white rice, short grain brown rice and masa harina, which we use like some people use flour for dredging. We keep a variety of non-wheat flours for thickening and baking, since we really shouldn't eat wheat. And my two flavoring blends I always have on hand--my "cheaters"--are herbes de provence and pickling spice, which I keep in a pepper grinder.

My food storage is pretty well organized--I know what is where, and how much I have--except for what's in the refrigerators and freezer. That's where my system falls down. When I know what I have, I'm pretty handy with leftovers, and like my mom I'm famous for making tasty meals appear out of thin air (it's all in the pantry). But in the chill chests, I don't always know what I have.

So how to conquer the cold boxes? I have a goal of throwing out as little as possible this coming month, and that means getting the refrigerator, mini fridge and freezer organized. One organizer says give items a home: Make sure the same items are always kept in the same area of the fridge. That's a good idea. Right now we have some "set" homes for things. For instance, the little fridge is where we keep any canned or bottled drink--fizzy water and N/A beer for us.

Linda Larson suggests a white board on the fridge. This is also a good idea, but I am betting that a particular little girl (*cough*Louisa*cough*) will think it's a terrific place for drawing.

One thing everyone seems to agree on is once a week purging, as well as doing a little vegetable and fruit prep the day you shop. We get our produce once a week from Organics to You, and so as we unpack the box we wash lettuce, trim carrot tops and so on to get them ready to eat, and also to keep them fresher.

I'm going to try keeping a list on the fridge of what we have fresh that needs eaten. We'll see how long I can keep up with it, and whether it helps avoid wasting food.

Update, 2 months later: We now have a white board on the fridge. Lou has left it alone! It really helps me see what I have--when I remember to use it. We also have a section for writing down what we need at the store. So far, big help.

Lynn Siprelle is the editor of TNH.