Making Fresh Groceries Last Longer

Every Wednesday I shop for groceries, mostly produce. While I try to use all of these up in a week, I want them to last beautifully until I use them.

Certain produce simply lasts longer if stored in certain conditions.

I knew this a little, but it wasn’t until I read The Waste Free Kitchen Handbook that I learned that I needed to store things in my refrigerator right (the know on a crisper drawer does what?!?) or that tomatoes should be on the counter unless cut. I can’t recommend this book enough, and mostly for the “How to Store” section in the back.


The unloaded produce…

My new counter companions…

I put my peaches in a paper bag to soften. This is great for avocados too. Just put avocados in the fridge after they’re ripe.

Then I put garlic, onions, and sweet potatoes in the pantry. Onions make potatoes sprout, so they’re on opposite sides. I use metal magazine holders from IKEA. I saw that on Pinterest.

Then my fruit for the fridge drawer on low humidity (that slide thing means something!) with all of this, don’t wash anything until you’re ready to use it and it will last longer.

Then it’s time for the vegetables. This takes the most effort, but you can really make a “lasting” difference.

I separate radishes from their tops and placed them in a bag, actually cooking the greens in a crockpot with bacon grease for dinner. So tasty.

Lettuce gets stored in an airtight bag (the one it came in works if I squeeze out the air and tie it. It keeps longer with a paper towel on the core to keep it moist. This is all after I remove the twist tie that’s strangling the head.

Herbs can last like cut flowers on the counter, but I fail when I try this. I like the method of storing them in their bag, but keep it open and breathable. I put a dry paper towel with parsley and cilantro and wrap the roots of my green onions with a wet paper towel.

Storing my heavy things at the bottom with herbs on top, my vegetable drawer is packed to the brim, but not crushed.

There’s something so satisfying about caring for everything in your home, including the things you’ll eat soon.


Trim His Eyebrows

This is Katie.

She styled my family’s hair when we lived in Wisconsin, and she surprised my husband the first time she took scissors to his eyebrows. His initial shock became delight when he saw the results. Before we moved, Katie taught me how she did it.

Simply backcomb one eyebrow (from temple to nose) and trim with hair-cutting shears whatever hairs come past the spine of your comb.

Katie told me she once trimmed a family member’s eyebrows while camping and there was no comb, so she used a fork. (I always think of Ariel’s “dinglehopper.”) So resourceful!

Katie will always do this more capably than I do, but now every time I cut his hair, I trim my husband’s eyebrows too. Thanks for teaching me how, Katie!!!

Meat Portioning

I don’t always buy a lot of meat, especially before we’re going on vacation. But when Fresh Thyme opens a store near me and sells chicken and beef for waaay cheaper than usual, it’s worth it to stock my freezer.

I do this with all the meat I buy, so it was especially good to share when I had a lot to portion out.

All I do is separate portions with fold and seal sandwich bags, you know, the ones you buy by accident when you forget to double check if it’s a zipper top.

For chicken.. each breast and every one or two thighs are in their own fold and seal sandwich bag, then put in a freezer bag. This way I can thaw only what I need at a time.

But for ground meat, I weigh my portions. I go for 8 ounces in each sandwich bag then put them in a freezer bag. I love this scale. I zero out my meat then subtract my portions as I bag them.

Now my freezer is stocked and I can thaw what I need meal by meal.

I keep a pan in my fridge to prevent cross contamination as I thaw.

That frozen chicken’s gonna take a while.

Manageable Resolution

Seems like everyone by Valentine’s Day is either sick of their resolution(s) or at least we’ve moved on from talking about them or making them.  I’m slow.

I usually make a resolution.  Mine are typically general, vague, and mostly immeasurable, and that works for me.  Last year my resolution was to make more of an effort in putting myself together.  Mostly that meant to shower and get dressed for the day every morning.  Wear jewelry most days.  Very reachable and enjoyable.

I think the year before I made the goal to only eat what was delicious.  That was a fun goal.  I gave myself permission to not finish something if I didn’t like how it tasted.  I don’t think I stuck to that one.  I still like to clean my plate.

This year, my goal is simply put and hard to complete: be more content.

Contentment.  Satisfaction with where I am, what I have, and what I’m doing.  This isn’t lazy; this is hard work.  If I’m content, that means I’m going to take better care of what I have because I’m not giving myself permission to buy something new just because I want it.  So I’m washing my slipcovers so my furniture looks really nice even though it is all the cheap stuff from IKEA.  I’m going to dye my jeans that are fading, making them black again because a bottle of black dye is $2 and new jeans are… a lot more.   I’m not even going to price them out because I don’t need new jeans.  I’m not going to complain about the weather where I live, longing for anywhere but here, but I’m going to enjoy the seasons as they come.  I’m going to have more margin and not pack my day so full my peace spills out and over the edge of a glass too filled.

content mary poppins

There’s a lot of “being present” that seems to be a side-effect of striving to live content.

How about you?  What are your contentment killers?  What helps you feel a sense of contentment?

Putting it Off continued…

I didn’t make it to Wednesday. Running out of milk and stuff for making lunch won the day, but I only bought what I had to buy. You know, a house without chocolate chips is a house that can’t make chocolate chip pancakes. Sunday night I made a very quick Aldi run and spent less than $12 to stretch us hopefully to September first.

How is your grocery dare making it?

Putting Off ‘Til Tomorrow…

Keeping track of the grocery list as I run out of things is helpful. As soon as I use the last of the olive oil, it’s on my list. The Parchment paper, the Parmesan, the milk, the pickles (my kids can eat a jar every couple of days). Staples really.

But, today I’m putting off the list. I am daring myself to go as long as possible without going to the store. We are out of eggs, but I’ve got lots of frozen egg whites (I make frozen custard) that will do for many recipes. I bought a family size amount of ground beef that I portioned and froze in 8 oz, so we should be fine. Milk may be a problem, but we’ll see. I last went to the store on Monday, I’m trying to make it to next Wednesday or beyond.

How about you? Want to dare yourself to go as long as possible to make what you have before eating out or grocery shopping?

Being Old Mother Hubbard

I have this idea for a new Food Network show.  I like Chopped because they use weird ingredients and somehow make it all work, but I thought why not do the same thing but in a person’s kitchen using only what they have on hand.  Then bring in a chef and have them make a three course dinner for the family with whatever is in their fridge and pantry and that’s it!  I can’t come up with a good name for it.  The only thing I can think is, “Chef in my Kitchen” or “Make What You Have.”  (I’ve heard Rachel Ray does a “Fridge Raiders” segment.  I’ve not seen it.  Is it similar?)

I like this idea because it’s what I do now.  Over the years I have meal planned in different ways.  Starting out, there was no plan.  We went to the grocery store daily and got what we needed for dinner.  I ended up with a good amount of stuff that didn’t get used all the way.   Then I started planning for a month at a time… on Excel of course.  I printed out a calendar and put it on the fridge and I had lunch and dinner planned for a month.  The only problem was life happened and stuff needed to get moved around and I would end up with half the ingredients for a meal and too many leftovers in the fridge.  Waste happened with no plan and a strict plan.

IMG_2568Now my meal planning is more fluid and I hold it loosely.  I keep it on my phone in my Notes app.  I plan only one week ahead.  As soon as I know what I’m cooking today I erase and start planning next week’s meal for that day of the week.   I also keep my Calendar app open and add appointments and weekly meetings right on to the menu because we have to plan a quicker meal if we’ve got something going on.  I even write what meals we’re eating leftovers in order to use up everything.

IMG_2567I’ve got my “go-to” meals now that use stuff up.  Pasta primavera or stir fry is ideal for using up vegetables.  (Mom taught me a trick of adding a little crunchy peanut butter to stir fry to make it a little heartier tasting.  You’ve got to try it!)  A bag of cole slaw mix (cabbage and carrots) can last several meals for us.  I can do cole slaw, vegetable and bean tostadas, Bierox, egg rolls, all sorts of fun stuff with that bag.

Click Here to see my full Weekly Menu

Maintaining the car you own is cheaper than buying a new car.  Doing laundry is cheaper than buying new clothes.  What you have will save you money every time over buying something you don’t have.  Simple logic.  Now I apply this to my meals I make.  I use up everything I can before I go to the grocery store.  This works because I hold my meal plan loosely.  I can move a meal I don’t have everything for a few days later and instead make something I have everything for today.  Now I’m using food so it won’t get wasted and I’m saving time and gas by not heading to the grocery store.

IMG_2569My goal now is an empty fridge.  I want my cupboard bare before I go shopping again.  I do not stock my pantry anymore with canned goods or boxed meals; I only buy what I have planned and no more.

The fringe benefit of this is that I can clean my fridge regularly without having to empty its contents onto a counter or table.  It’s pretty sparse so I can wipe shelves to my heart’s content.

How about you?  How has your meal planning changed over time?  Do you have favorite “use it up” recipes?