My stomach sinks in dread at the thought of having to clear out the fridge. Whether it’s the week before a holiday or I’m in mega spring clean mode, I usually have to empty the fridge of all foodstuffs a couple of times a year. On the whole I’m quite good at using up any perishables. Most of the time I only discover masses of onion skins and kale leaves in the vegetable trays, nothing more unsavoury. My challenge is usually finding magical new uses for the jars and jars of condiments that collect in the shelves. If you thought cleaning the fridge was an exhausting task in itself, the forgotten edibles unearthed by the clear-out will leave you frustrated. How much chutney can you get through in just a few short days? Preparation is key. Here are a couple of my tips and some meal ideas for those of you embarking on a fridge clear out.
Compost what isn’t edible
Those onion skins, kale leaves and mouldy greens can go straight in the compost. Why not start your own compost bin or look into getting a wormery (find out what they are here)? Your garden plants will thank you. My local council provides us with special compost bins that get collected with the rubbish every week. This is great if you have limited garden space for a proper compost bin.
Sometimes I will come across a frozen carrot lurking in the veg tray. Many people might throw these out, but I still use them in soups and other hot meals. I wouldn’t use them in a salad, but they’re still fine to eat in my book.
All the rest of your meat and veg needs to be used up. Here’s where a good old one-pot meal comes into its own. There is a wealth of varied and healthy one pot recipes out there ranging from the lazy to the exotic. Soups, stews, and casseroles are your friend. Don’t follow the recipe to the letter, use it as a guide to get the most out of the ingredients you have. Make a big batch using up everything you need to get rid of. You can freeze the rest for another day if there are leftovers. I recommend adapting my aubergine and lentil dhal (recipe here) to use up all your vegetables and any leftover pulses.
On sweet condiments
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I don’t usually have too many sweet condiments opened in the fridge. But I’m sure that, especially in family life when everyone wants a different spread for breakfast, jams, curds, marmalades, honey and other sweet spreads can quickly stack up. My tip for using these up is to either add them to your morning porridge, or make pancakes. I find that almost anything tastes good in porridge, from strawberry jam to leftover fruit. And pancakes are great vehicles for using up any sweet condiments, especially chocolate spread. They have the added bonus of helping you use up any milk, eggs and butter that you’re desperate to get rid of.
On savoury condiments
Various open jars of chutney and savoury condiments like pestos and curry pastes always mount up in my fridge. It’s only when you decide to have a clear out you really notice how many you’ve amassed. Now’s your chance to use them. I find that almost all chutneys and relishes are good accompaniments to cheese on toast. I recently had hotdog relish (a sort of onion, gherkin and mustard chutney) that needed using up. I spread it on a slice of toast and put it under the grill with a few slices of cheese on top. It was a rather good alternative to the traditional Worcester sauce.
Stir fries are a great vehicle for any pastes or pestos. Fry up some vegetables and/or starchy side (like rice, barley, buckwheat or whatever else needs using up) and add your leftover paste instead of dried herbs and spices for a quick and easy clear-out meal.
Thsi might be unusual for some of you, but I do keep bread in the fridge. We don’t get through much, and I’ve found that it lasts longer if refridgerated so I don’t have to throw it out. I don’t usually have much leftover because of this. In my book, stale bread is a godsend for so many different dishes and I always keep a few crusts in the fridge for those sorts of meals. Make breadcrumbs with stale crusts to use in stuffing or falafel (take a look at my falafel recipe here). You can also use stale bread for bruschetta, panzanella, croutons, in crumble or bread and butter pudding. There’s no limit to what you can do.
We drink non-dairy milk in my household, but the principle remains the same. I hate wasting milk. If we’ve still got quite a bit left in the carton the night before a long trip, I like to make a hot chocolate before bed. It’s a lovely sweet treat to send you off to sleep and won’t leave you with nightmares of how much milk you have to get through in the morning. Get some hot chocolate inspiration from this Buzzfeed list.
What are your tips for clearing the fridge? Do you have any recipes for leftovers?