Saving & Using Food

If Vince is in the kitchen when I’m cleaning up after a meal, he wants to save everything!  I truly do not save everything . . I only save the things I know we will eat.  If we have leftover mashed potatoes and it’s enough that I can fry up some potato cakes for another meal, I’ll save them.  If there’s 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes left, I don’t save it.  Throwing food out aggravates the heck out of me but what I hate even worse is putting leftovers in either a ziplock bag or a container and then having to throw out the food and the ziplock bag or wash the container for food we never used.

Another thing I’ve started doing recently . . I used to cook enough for a second meal and then put the leftovers away but all of us will sit at the table and pick as long as there’s food in front of us so now I put half the food away and put half the food on the table.  We eat what’s there and don’t eat into what should have been another meal.

No matter how organized I plan to be, I forget about stuff in the back of the fridge so I’ve started keeping Post-It notes on the fridge and if I put leftovers in, I write it on the Post-It note, along with the date.  Then I scratch it off when we use it.  I see those notes every time I walk up to the fridge and knowing what’s in there really helps me use the food we save.

Another thing I do is keep a spreadsheet of all the food that goes into the freezer.

Everything that goes into the freezer is labeled with the corresponding line number from the spreadsheet and the date it went into the freezer.

I went into great detail about how this all works for me in this post if you care to read more.  I like using the Google spreadsheets because no matter which computer I’m on (upstairs or downstairs), I can access my files . . since Vince has never networked my computers.  Bad Vince!

Almost everything I cook, I make enough for us to have more than one meal. Some things freeze better than others and I try to judge what will freeze well and what won’t so we aren’t surprised by a meal that was yummy once but after being frozen, it’s nasty.

Food is expensive, preparing it costs some amount in utilities and time we can save in the kitchen is time we can spend quilting or working in our flower/veggie gardens now that spring is here (for some of us!).  With just a little effort and planning and record keeping, I try to maximize my food dollars and my time spent preparing meals.  This may all sound kind of overwhelming (spreadsheets are scary to some . . I love them!) but why don’t you give it a try and see how simple it really is.


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    I tend to put small amounts of left-over veggies into a single container which is always near the front of the fridge, and when it’s filled, we have soup! If there was a little left-over meat, that goes in the soup pot too! We eat a lot of soup because, with only the two of us, most meals do have small amounts of leftovers…

    But sometimes times do get shoved to the back and forgotten, only to be come unknown science experiments! So I really like that post-ti note idea.

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    Julie H. says

    We are “empy nesters” lately and I’ve found a few things that are helpful. When we have leftovers, I make up a “plate” (actually a divided dish with a freezer tight lid) to put in the freezer. Then when I’m not home or he’s not home, we can heat up an instant meal for one. Secondly, keep a large freezer container that you add leftover veggies, broth, and meat to. It can then be made into something we call free soup.

    I love the spreadsheet idea. I was at an estate sale at a very old farm house. I learned a lot from the late farmwife. She had three freezers, each with a clip board attatched to the side listing it’s contents. A category might have started out with an entry like “47 freezer quarts of corn” then she would, in baseball tally form, mark off what she used. She didn’t have to open the freezer to see what was there. I’ll bet she didn’t waste much of anything.

    Have a great day!

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    Lots of good ideas from everyone. Judy, I have awarded you the Sisterhood Award on my blog because of your good attitude–stop laughing. It will be a few post down now.

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    I love to make meals for the freezer, but I have not found myself keeping very good track of them… even thought I have been doing this for years.
    I am going to make an extreme effort to make myself some sort of inventory list to make sure I keep better track of them. I have been finding things that have been in the freezer for over a year…..
    I am going to look into the spreadsheet you mentioned…..
    And it – meals in the freezer – is a huge time saver. All you have to do is heat and eat!! All the prep was done months ago!! Drop it into the crock pot, put it in a dish and bake – if your away, leave a note for the kids to put it into the oven at what-ever time and dinner is done when you are ready for it!! When you are doing a sew-along or a personal retreat – it is the best thing ever!!!! I love having meals waiting for me to pull them out.
    Right now, I am thinking I need to spend a weekend making things for the BBQ!!! Even thought we have more snow than the other day – it will melt – and we can be outside! Haveing burgers and chicken ready to pop on the grill is one of the very best things, because not only is it good for when you need a meal ready, it’s great to take camping. Freezer meals are wounderful, and thanks for the ideas on how to keep track of them.

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    we aren’t surprised by a meal that was yummy once but after being frozen, it’s nasty.

    I thought that only happened to me… I am convinced that potatoes should not be frozen….

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    I love spreadsheets too! At my last job I ws considered the Excel guru! I even made a seating chart for my wedding using Excel. I could add and take people away from a list and it would automatically update the little tables on the sheet. So, I think it’s time to open an new worksheet and use your idea. Right now I have the freezer inventory written on notes on the freezer. I like the spreadsheet idea better, it’s more organized! Thanks for “waking up” my joy of spreadsheets again! Oh, and I have a recipe you might want to try that’s really simple and super yummy! I’ll send it to you in email.

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    I get SO tired of cooking. Maybe I should try cooking larger amounts & freezing part. I used to do that in the summer when the kids were home from school. I’d double or triple something I knew they liked & freeze it in single servings. I’d do that 3-4 days in a row at lunch time & have a bunch of meals for them. They could pick what they wanted ea. day. I still couldn’t feed them for lunch for the price of school lunches during the school year.

    The hardest part of spreadsheets is setting up the template the way you want it. After that it’s a breeze.

    Networking your computers isn’t that hard. A Linksys (my personal favorite) wireless router, a short length of Cat 5 cable and a few minutes of time and BINGO, it’s done. A wonderful convenience too. And, Judy, you’re a smart woman, you could do it yourself easily. No need to bother poor Vince about it.

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    Do you have a compost heap? You could throw the extra mashed potato into the compost, and it wouldn’t end up in the dump, so you’re still getting some good out of it. I keep an ice cream bucket with a lid on my counter, so I just throw small leftovers in it, or egg shells, coffee grounds, etc., then dump it (daily is best, but doesn’t always happen!).

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    Pam says

    You must have known that I was getting ready to reorganize the big freezer. Husband keeping saying I should make a list!


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    Yeah, me and frozen potatoes don’t work well either. Does anyone have any suggetions? I usually make baked or roasted, not sure I’ve ever made mashed, or it’s been years if I have. I bought a masher not too long ago tho. 😉

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    We always have leftovers too — some are put in the fridge for later in the week and some freeze well….Keith’s always happy to find some soup or spaghetti sauce in the freezer when I’m out of town.

    I tend to save everything and yes, we do end up throwing stuff away but a lot of times that small amount is just what I want for lunch or a little snack for Keith.

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    I have recently begun taking the “second meal” away and putting it in the fridge or freezer before we sit at the table. Hubby wasn’t happy with that at first, but he would often continue to eat as long as there was food on the table (as you said) and neither of us needs to do that. The food budget has been stretched by doing this. I, too, save bits of veggies and meats in the freezer and use them for soup when the bag is nearly full. I like your post-it note idea for the leftovers, though. And…I have to see where to find this spread sheet on Google. I used to keep a list by the freezer but haven’t lately. I have friends who teased me about having too much time on my hands when I did that, but I don’t care….I bet my food budget goes more smoothly than theirs!!! LOL

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    I always cook plenty, we love leftovers, but most often I cook for four (there’s two of us) and that way the dogs get to enjoy a good meal as well instead of plain dogfood… just like they used to do before dogfood was invented.

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    I don’t do much cooking anymore but when I do I make enough for at least one more meal and sometimes two or three. I also save leftovers from when we eat out. I like your idea of post it notes for what is in the frige and may try to set up a spread sheet for the freezer since I do, sometimes, forget what is in there. How does one access Google spreadsheets?