Earlier this summer, the inside of my refrigerator reached The Danger Zone. No longer functioning as an efficient storage place for cold foods, my fridge had become home to partially-used jars, uneaten leftovers, and god-knows-what lurking in the far corners.
Something had to give!
I spent a couple of summer afternoons pulling everything out of the fridge, assessing, dumping, recycling, cleaning, and reorganizing. (It's a shame I took no photos, because the task was Herculean - and would have looked very impressive.)
In the end, I dumped a whole lot of uneaten, wasted food. Much of it came in partially-used jars. Things I bought to make a specific recipe. You know how it goes . . . you need half a jar of some exotic ingredient and a couple of teaspoons of some specialty mustard and almost - but not quite - a whole jar of some sort of marinara sauce. Anyway. Being frugal, I always save the leftover stuff -- because I'll just use it next time I make the recipe!
What always happens, though? Well ... by the time I make that recipe again, I forget I have the stuff in the back of the fridge. Or it's been in there so long it's now a Petri dish. Or I remember I have it . . . but don't have enough, so start the cycle all over again!
So. There was a lot of wasted food in jars.
There were also quite a few leftovers of uncertain origin squirrelled away in the depths of my refrigerator. Now, Tom and I have gotten much better at regularly building leftovers into our weekly dinner menus, so this situation has improved quite a bit over the last year or so. But, still. Leftover waste -- and plenty of it!
I'm happy to report that my refrigerator is clean, organized, and functional once again!
I remain disgusted by my own food waste -- and I am all the more determined to buy only what we need, use everything I buy, and eat leftovers!
One thing I've stopped doing is weekly grocery shopping. I used to have a system where I planned out all of our meals for the week in advance (based on what our schedule looked like for the week). I made a big list based on that meal plan, and I shopped on Sunday afternoon. Filled the pantry and the fridge every week. This system worked quite well when the kids lived at home because our schedules were busy and predictable. Back then, I was working and needed to be super organized. (Besides . . . I had growing kids always looking for more to eat.)
When it became just Tom and I at home, though, everything changed! Our schedules were much more apt to include spontaneous dinners out. We had more leftovers. We tried more exotic recipes that required more exotic ingredients. Our lives and eating habits had changed -- but my old system of weekly shopping excursions had not!
To discourage food waste here at home, we changed two things: First, I let go of the weekly shopping and now make several quick runs to the grocery store to just pick up what we need for dinner. Second, we've made a commitment to eating our leftovers.
It's been working . . . but there is still food waste. Mostly from partially-unused jars of ingredients -- so that's my next target! I'm trying to be more discriminating about recipes I make -- really considering if I need to make something that requires me to buy several exotic ingredients that I wouldn't normally store in my pantry. This is harder than expected -- because I really like trying new recipes, and the "exotic" always appeals to me. But I'm working on it.
I decided to try one of the online healthy meal delivery services, too. (Here's a quick run-down of some of the services out there.) After doing some research, I signed up with Blue Apron. Three meals per week. Fresh ingredients. Original recipes. Perfectly proportioned meals -- so no waste.
Our first box arrived last week.
I was totally impressed to find . . . real, fresh ingredients packed into my box of three-meals-for-two-people. Everything was pre-measured and packed (when packed) in recyclable materials . . . right down to a single farm-fresh egg!
The recipes are clear and easy to read, and include photos, cook prep/timing details, and step-by-step instructions. Because everything is pre-measured and included in your box, all you need to do is . . . cook. (The only things I've needed to grab from my own cupboards are olive oil, salt, and pepper.)
So far, I've prepared two of the three meals - steak and fish, each with a fresh vegetable side dish and some sort of potato. Both have been excellent -- really tasty.
But. I would also say that both meals have been a bit more . . . fussy and involved. . . than I would normally prepare for a weeknight meal. Lots of pots and pans and bowls. Lots of overlapping steps. Prepping one thing while cooking another. Yes . . . everything was THERE and available -- but there was still prep and staging and managing to be done.
I actually found it to be a bit stressful -- and I'm an experienced cook! (I was considering giving a Blue Apron subscription to Erin and Keith -- but decided against it because it would just be too overwhelming for them at this stage of their cooking lives.)
I'm going to give it another try -- now that I know I need to plan my own prep-steps -- because the quality was great. The ingredients were fresh, the recipes were interesting, and the meals were really good. I also really like having just enough to prepare a meal for Tom and I. We have plenty to eat -- and no leftovers. It really is perfectly proportioned. And . . . it's super convenient to know exactly what you're going to cook for dinner --AND that you have everything you need to cook it.
How about you? Have you ever tried one of the meal delivery services? Do you have any suggestions for avoiding food waste?
Because I want to keep my refrigerator looking like that.