Thursday, October 29, 2015

There's money in your refrigerator...

 
There's money in your refrigerator.
 
No, really.
 
Go on, have a look.
 
Can't see it yet? Look closer.
 
No, it's not $100 dollar bills. Or even $10 ones.
 
It's food.
 
See that half full punnet of strawberries with the mouldy ones growing hair on one side? And the tin of condensed milk you opened to make that slice that only needed half a tin, but that you popped in the fridge still in the tin, convinced you'd make another slice tomorrow...and that was a week ago? And what about that onion you halved and wrapped in cling wrap, then forgot about and cut up another onion the next day? The asparagus spears that you bought and then didn't use because you decided on chicken risotto instead of asparagus and parmesan fettucine, they're there at the back of the crisper going wrinkled. The celery's limp because it's shoved up the back of the crisper with leaves and all, and you can't even see it. Half a lime drying out all by itself. Surely that's gotta go.
 
Yep.
 
All of that....money...down the drain.
 
A while back, I started this little routine, where before I menu planned prior to the weekly grocery shop (a huge money saver in itself), I'd clean out the refrigerator and pantry. This was mainly to ensure I hadn't missed a meal or two in the making. I'd line up all the stuff I was about to toss, on the bench, and do a mental tally of how much money I'd spent on those items. To my abject horror, some weeks I was throwing anything up to $50 in the bin, through poor storage, forgetfulness, change of heart or just plain laziness. That's $2500 a year or a decent holiday! No more.
 
I looked in my refrigerator this morning and saw the aforementioned limp celery, 3 baby cucumbers gone soft at one end, the asparagus and onion half also mentioned above, about a teaspoonful of grated parmesan, 1 tiny green spring onion, a scant 1/4 of a bottle of lactose free cream, and the last of a punnet of fresh coriander. Now upon a time, I would have just ditched all of that.
 
In the pantry I found a handful of gluten free spiral pasta, certainly not enough for a meal, a packet of Italian Soup Mix bought when it was still Winter around here, and the last of a packet of pickling spices. I could have tossed that too...BUT....
 
Immediately I saw possibilities. With practice, so can you. There are many ways to use up those little bits of almost nothing hiding in your refrigerator, turning them into delectable morsels for eating or gifting. Let me share a few.
 
It's unseasonably chilly and wet here today. So stock made with limp celery leaves, halved onions, a couple of chicken necks, and Italian Soup Mix mean delicious Tuscan inspired soup for dinner tonight, complete with gluten free toast drizzled with real Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil, carefully nursed home from our recent trip.
 
Good Basic Stock recipe...To a large saucepan of water, add the celery ends and leaves, 1/2-1 onion quartered, 2-4 cloves garlic, 12 peppercorns, 6-10 chicken necks or 1-2 chicken carcasses, a teaspoon of stock powder or 1-2 stock cubes, and any other sad looking vegetables in the crisper, peeled and chopped into large chunks. Let this simmer for up to 3 hours. I usually then drain the liquid into a large bowl (I once accidentally drained it down the sink...waaaah!), squishing the vegetables to extract as much goodness from then as possible. The stock then becomes a soup base or the cooking liquid for a risotto, and I use the cooked and now almost pureed veges to add to my doggies' healthy food base.
 
Healthy Dog Food Recipe...For his food, I steam a huge batch of brown rice using the absorption method, add the veges mashed well, allow it to cool, then in goes three eggs, a good swig of olive oil, some lecithin granules, some Brewers Yeast, and a raw dog food/bone meal pattie. That all gets mixed and divided into 2 cup serves in ziplock bags. To each ziplock bag, I then add a Weet-Bix or a half a cup of rolled oats and two tablespoons of powdered milk. To serve it to doggie, I tip it into the bowl and add half a cup of hot water to soften the oats or Weet-Bix, and mix well. He LOVES it and after a snack later in the day on raw chicken necks, he's pretty darned happy.
 
End of the Week Soup Recipe...To the stock, for our dinner, I'll add more vegetables, diced finely this time, some herbs and spices (bay leaves, spring onion, basil, thyme), and a diced chicken breast or two which will only need simmering in the stock for about 5 minutes to cook through and remain succulent. Yum. I'll have soaked the Italian Soup Mix for several hours, adding a teaspoon of Baking Soda to keep the colour of the pulses vibrant, before rinsing well in a colander till they stop frothing. They then go into the soup for around 45 minutes or so. Ready.
 

Limp celery sticks were easily rescued by a bath in iced water, followed by a pat dry, a paper towel blanket, and a snug bed-down in a ziplock bag. Even the root end of the celery is going to be reinvented as a stamp for home made gift wrap...that's if the Pinterest pins saying you end up with an image that looks like a rose are to be believed!
 
 
 
Pasta Recipe...Little bits of pre cooked pasta, parmesan, the cream, the spring onion, and an egg, stirred over a low heat until thick, like an old fashioned custard, made me a delicious authentic Pasta Carbonara for my lunch.
 
 
Really Easy Pickle  Anything recipe... Refrigerator pickles are not difficult and you can add anything you like to them. The baby cucumber, I sliced thinly,  and the almost-almost-done-for asparagus was halved lengthwise, and blanched quickly. To recycled jars, I added a sprinkle of pickling spices, the half a lime sliced and divided equally between the jars, then the blanched asparagus and baby cucumbers slices, and a pinch of chilli flakes, with the remaining whole sprigs of fresh coriander (cilantro) winding decoratively around inside the jar. I added a teaspoon of coarse salt to each, and covered the contents in white vinegar and rested them in the fridge for a few hours and, presto.... I had Thai inspired refrigerator pickles. These are unbelievably good with chicken or fish or cold meat. Try. You will like, I promise. Gift in a hamper to the men in your family...they will love you forever!
 
 
Further inspection of the depths of the crisper, yielded two punnets of strawberries, both opened and half the berries missing...grrrr to the Husband and Daughter....hulled, halved, simmered with sugar and lemon peel, and with Vanilla Galliano added...presto two little jars of gorgeous jam to gift.

Any Fruit Jam recipe...You can make small batches of jam you know. It's just equal parts by weight of any fruit and sugar, stirred together till the sugar dissolves, and simmered with a lemon peel or some commercial pectin like Jamsetta, until a teaspoon of it on a cold saucer wrinkles when pushed with a finger. That's usually about 10-20 minutes. Check it often and give it a stir pretty regularly too. Spoon the cooked jam into cleaned and sterilised recycled jars, seal, and tip the jars upside down on the bench until they cool. Set them upright when cooled, and the little popup button in the middle of the lid, should suck in, vacuum sealing your jam. That's it! Again, play with flavours, add liqueurs or essences like Vanilla or Coconut or Rum, and have fun coming up with your own specialities!
 
 
How much did I save or generate in value, by my efforts today?
 
Hmmmm...I reckon about $10 in ingredients were rescued, and anything up to $80 on gourmet deli purchases for eating or gifting were manufactured, and of course there was one very tasty lunch for me!
 
I'll call it an even $100 at least, I think. And that's from food items I would once have thrown away. Shame on me!
 
See? There really IS money in your refrigerator!
 
How much did you find in yours?
 
Tell me about it...warts, mould and all.
 
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Life Loving

20 comments:

  1. Great idea to look at what you throw out as a dollar value and even better to come up with divine sounding dishes that will make wonderful gifts.

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    1. Thankyou Barb. It's a good budgeting exercise, to see what you can make a meal from, when you think the fridge is empty. And whipping up a gift out of thin air is a pretty good feeling too. Mimi xxx

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  2. Love this! Waste not want not, a penny saved is a penny earned and so forth! So very true and you seem to be a marvelous cook! My mouth is watering as I type this Mimi :)

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    1. What a lovely comment Jes. Thankyou :) Mimi xxx

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  3. This is so true. About a year ago I got much better at not wasting food. Mainly by having a better organised fridge and one a week going through everything to see what I needed to use up, what I already and and didn't need to buy etc. Just a bit of time to have a review.
    The other thing is... I now write on lids what day I opened something. I used to think Mmm how long has this been open? And then get creaped out and in a better safe than sorry exercise I would ditch things. Now I know exactly how long it's been open and I throw out much less. Mainly I use it in time.
    We also have at least one use it up leftovers type meal a week. And I make Stock too which is a great user upper.
    This is a huge money saver. Food is too expensive to be throwing it out.
    Loved this Mimi! xxx

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    1. Dear Annabel, the key is organising as you say. I'll be posting more on this tomorrow. It's also a truth that having an organised home addresses many other life issues that we don't connect to being organised. Things like time management, relationships, teaching children about budgeting and meal planning and helping out, and even depression. It's really interesting actually. More on this later. I love that you make stock as well. Even that is a bit of lost art! Mimi xxx

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  4. Amazing and all look delicious with no extra expense. I did not realise you could make jam in small quantities as all recipes are for kilo or more of fruit.

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    1. Ruth you can make jam with equal parts by weight of any combination of fruit and sugar, and a little pectin either in the form of citrus peel or by using a commercial packet thing like Jamsetta :) That's all it is! Mimi xxx

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  5. Hi Mimi,

    So many people waste so much food and forget about fruit and veggies and other food. I try to keep a clean and organized refrigerator.
    I love your tips for food that is starting to go bad. Thanks for sharing.
    I hope you are having a nice week and wishing you a Happy Halloween.

    Julie

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    1. Hi Julie. This is so true. I hate waste, and even if you don't need to worry about money, it's a good feeling to not be throwing food in the bin. It doesn't have to be about frugality. Mimi xxx

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  6. Oh, SO very true, Mimi! We actually had just cleaned out our fridge today and oh my! Things just seem to be forgotten in there...well done on using what you had and saving those pennies!
    Wishing you a blessed and beautiful Thursday further...hugs!
    Kelly-Anne

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    1. Thankyou Kelly-Anne. It's a real lesson isn't it! Mimi xxx

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  7. Life has been so busy the last few years and I have rather gotten away from doing so many things like this- save money and taste yummy! I am really trying to get back to it as my husband is retiring soon.
    Thank you for the great reminder.
    I noticed a few weeks ago that there were quite a few bits and bobs in our freezer so I have been trying to use them instead of cooking something new. So far, we've have tasty meals and I have not spent much at the grocery store,

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    1. Ronda, you've touched on another idea. Even freezing things like fruit and veg past their best, can mean fruit for smoothies and veges for soup and casseroles. It's still better than tossing food in the bin. Mimi xxx

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  8. This is a good reminder. I personally have always been conscious of this; I think my Momma taught me well. I cringe when I see a friend or relatives refrigerator that is ALWAYS packed full, especially when they tell me that they have to go food shopping! They are also the ones that dread cleaning out their fridge. If you keep up with things and don't let them sit to go bad in the fridge it's not hard to clean out the fridge! Stepping off my soapbox now...LOL Best wishes to you!

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    1. Hi Jendi. It's so nice to meet you. I know what you mean about refrigerators packed full and people still going shopping. Crazy! I don't know why it ceases to be 'food' because someone changed their mind or didn't use the leftovers in a timely fashion. It breaks my heart because I see so many families in financial crisis, with a refrigerator just like that. Thanks for your excellent comment. Mimi xxx

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  9. I'm so with you on this one. We do a meal planner so we hardly ever waste anything. I always have one meal per week that will be made up completely of leftovers. That way I have to use what's left in the fridge first. Great minds eh!

    Sally @ Life Loving
    #LifeLovingLinkie

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    1. Hi Sally. Thanks for your encouragement. I agree, that leftovers can be a meal too. Some people just don't see that! Yep. Great minds think alike! Mimi xxx

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  10. Some really great ideas that I will be trying out ....Thanks!

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    1. I'm thrilled you found it useful :)

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx