Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Pantry Management



There is such potential for waste in the kitchen! I am certainly not perfect, but I really try to keep it to a minimum. Here are some of my tricks and tips:

Don’t buy in bulk except for items that you know, for sure, you and your family make good use of it. Toilet paper I buy in bulk. Paper towels (which, per Colleen’s suggestion below, I almost completely eliminated years ago), I buy one roll at a time, and I always buy the “select a size” towels, so I can pull of just a small amount.

Use substitutions in the kitchen. For reasons I won’t go into, I ended up with a cheap jar of “meat flavored” spaghetti sauce in my pantry. The likelihood of every serving this plain on pasta was almost nil. However, one day I was making my good spaghetti sauce recipe, which calls for lots of jars of tomatoes. I used the meat-flavored sauce as one of my jars, and it was perfect mixed with so many other ingredients.

Use a recipe website to find uses for lost and forgotten things in your pantry. I had hominy, used in Mexican cooking, in my pantry. I’m sure I was inspired when I purchased it last year. I went to my favorite recipe site, typed in hominy as my ingredient, and made a great soup with it. As a bonus, the recipe happened to use another orphan from my pantry – a double success!

I put badly damaged fruit or veggies in the back yard to feed the wild animals that visit. Trust me, they’re coming to my yard anyway – we call our back fence the animal highway; feeding them isn’t an invitation, but it does help me get rid of watermelon rinds and the three bites of apple that my daughter didn’t eat in her lunch.

Make stock. At all times in my freezer I have a gallon freezer bag in which I put onion peels, ends of carrots or other veggies, garlic peel and tiny cloves, apple and pear cores, and the skin and bones of a chicken. When my bag is full, I dump the frozen scraps into my biggest pot, add water, and let it simmer for an hour or two. When it’s finished, then the bones and trimmings go into the trash (not the compost pile because of the meat). I run the stock through a cheese cloth, cool it in the refrigerator so that I can skim the fat, and then it’s ready to freeze.

Don’t buy too many fresh fruits and veggies. Yes, we all want to eat more of these, but having a fresh, every-changing selection of produce is more appealing and less likely to go bad, than just buying produce once a week.

Snack foods. Yes, my house has snack foods it in, but I typically just buy one or maybe two of these treat foods a week. We don’t always have chips and other chips and three kinds of crackers and packaged cookies and chocolate-covered nuts. Just one or two is enough. Eat those and then get something different. That way, it’s truly a treat and not a pantry staple. Same with cereal. Unless you’re like my cousin who truly loves cereal and enjoys mixing several different kinds together on a daily basis, two or maybe three boxes is all you need.

Eat your leftovers! I once worked with a woman who cooked fresh every night and threw everything that was left at the end of the meal away. She and her husband refused to eat leftovers. I’m still shocked by this. When we are cleaning up after dinner, we immediately package up lunches for Dan or I to take to work. (Today – leftover grilled chicken, leftover salad, and a small handful of whole grain pretzel sticks that the kids turned their noses up at. [They are pretty twig-like.]) If needed, we have a leftover lunch on Sundays. I just pull everything out, and anybody can help themselves to anything.

What system do you have to reduce waste in your kitchen?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter disposable items from your home and your shopping list. For example ~ Cling film, aluminium foil, paper napkins, paper towel, dryer sheets, wet wipes. Utilise other items in your home that can easily take their place. The environment and your bank account will be all the healthier for it. I haven’t eliminated all of these things from my home but I use so little of the ones I do still keep (paper towel and aluminium foil) that I buy them in small quantities and only replace them when they totally run out. And before anyone tells me that these things are cheaper in large quantities, think for a minute about how easy it is to be wasteful with stuff when there is plenty on hand.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Thanks Cindy: this is something I revisited not that long ago for us: I go through phases of complete inertia in the kitchen and I then slip into wasteful habits. In my resent self-‘shake up and sort’, I downsized what I keep in store and this has helped reduce waste considerably since. I have also labelled anything that doesn’t move, lol, and this seems to help me keep on top of what we have got.
    The biggest key for me to keep down waste is to meal plan and every few days check what is in the fridge that needs to be used up.
    I store leftovers (I’m shocked at the ‘we don’t eat leftovers’ people too Cindy) in storage tubs rather than use clingfilm (though I do own clingfilm). I have a roll of kitchen towel, on a high shelf almost out of reach and it is used sparingly, but is useful when at times, handling the dishcloth causes an allergic reaction on my hands.
    I think I might set myself a challenge of not using any clingfilm between now and Christmas and see how I get on!

  2. In our house left overs are like gold, a precious commodity, I usually plan our meals around a protein and then make as many meals as I can from it, saving the bits and pieces as you do is something I need to start, for years when our three children were at home money was tight and these practises were necessary now they are habit and i would feel so wasteful to throw out left overs, but thats just my opinion, I do know some people will not eat left overs and some actually believe they are not healthy, common sense is needed in all areas of life even with left overs!

  3. Until the last year or so we planned meals for the month, made them up, put them in the freezer and ate them throughout the month. This last year we have not eaten well but have still done okay with keeping from wasting things. Our freezer died and that has really made things hard because we were used to freezing lots of things. Now we only have the freezing compartment in our side-by-side. You have listed a lot of good things to do Cindy.

  4. We have a neighbor who also refuses to eat leftovers. He told me once (his words, not mine) that “Civilized people don’t eat leftovers”. Then on the other side of the coin, a very dear friend of mine who lives in Kansas City, calls leftovers, “Mustgos”. The food must go, haha! Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  5. Hi, Cindy!! I go out of the closet about reading this wonderful blog and not commenting, but now I just couldn’t keep silent. Throwing away the food!!!! Seriously!!! When in other places people don’t have enough food! I really hope they just make enough food to be eaten and do not literally throw the money away.

  6. No leftovers wasted here whatsoever, just kitchen scraps that go on the compost, bones are burnt to limit the number of stray cats and dogs. We cook every day, the trick is in learning how to make just enough – and yes, eat it on the second day too! No doubt we would throw out anything that got moldy (happens once a year), an eastern European would look at you like you are crazy to waste such delicious leftover bites.

  7. I tend to overbuy produce. It’s especially bad in the summer when fruits already are ripe and look so good, and I think everybody will be digging into the peaches, plums, or whatever I bought. That doesn’t happen, and some goes to waste.

    I get tired of the food waste, too, and always am trying to find ways to use everything up. At the moment, I’m cooking from what’s in the pantry and on the shelves as much as possible and purchasing just what I need. I’ll try to buy for the week and make meals that will go over well, only to find out that my husband isn’t going to be home for dinner because of some work-related deadline or event. In all honesty, though, I can make all the excuses I like for why I waste food, but the fact is that I’m a terrible planner! Sometimes, too, with the kids’ schedules (they have activities Monday-Wednesday nights and my son has sports tournaments on weekends, often including Friday nights, which often require us to be out of town), I make whatever is fast so that we can be where we need to be. On late nights, I want something fast so we can get to bed at a decent time.

  8. Lots of good tips, Cindy. We try not to waste food (and we like leftovers) though I do sometimes overbuy on produce. I find soup is a great way to use up vegetables that are past their prime (e.g., carrots or celery that are a bit limp). I make crisps or pies with imperfect apples, etc. We live in a wooded area, and I also toss some old fruit and veggies outside – I call it “instant composting.” 🙂

  9. Every year at the holidays, food banks are short of food. The whole community is involved including kids and the university. We donate food that we don’t think we will use before the expiration date and things that will help to round out a holiday meal. This isn’t the most “frugal” way to do things, but I believe that when you share with others you seem to have enough for yourself. There is always a way that it works out to replace items and we have never gone without. It is also a good way to help your kids learn, at a young age, to share with others. So, before the holidays hit, think about going through your cupboards and taking an inventory and see if you have things you can share with others.

  10. I do believe in maintaining a well-stocked pantry in case of emergencies, so I wouldn’t suggest that people leave themselves bare-bones only.

    We try not to waste food here too–and we love leftovers because it means we don’t have to cook for a few days. It’s just the two of us here now, and we don’t mind eating the same thing several times in a row, so I make a big batch of something, and we eat it until it’s gone, or I freeze some for another time.

    I compost what can be composted (the raccoons love my compost bin because they know how to take the cover off it), and try to go easy on the paper products and food wraps.