Raise your hand if you've got some mystery foods hidden in the dark corners of your refrigerator or freezer. Perhaps the stuff hides under tin foil. Stuff hides in the back of the fridge, that due to no ones fault, gets lost in the regular food rotation. Food that you had every intention of eating (it certainly looked good in the grocery store or at the farmers market) and enjoying, but just didn't. Maybe a friend or family member did a porch drop-off and you just didn't get around to eating it. And if you're getting a food subscription, CSA or Instacart food deliveries, you may be receiving more food than you can reasonably prepare or getting foods that you aren't familiar with cooking.
Produce bins are an especially vulnerable place in the fridge. And, despite your best efforts to remember what's in there, you still overbuy foods that invariably live on past their prime. Wasting food is something I don't take for granted and I'm fortunate to be able to afford foods that my family eats and enjoys. Those limp veggies that could be tossed get roasted for soup stock for the freezer. Fruits get pureed and stored in ice cube trays for smoothies or sauces. And the bits and bites of leftovers make their way onto our plates someway or another.
Last year I took serious stock of what I had on hand in my fridge, freezer and pantry. Took everything out of each spot and cleaned the shelves thoroughly. I was ashamed to admit I had expired foods in my pantry. Vowed to not let this happen again and would organize my food in a more efficient way.
It helps to start with an open clean space. Lined the bottom of each produce bin with an absorbent cushioned mat to trap any liquids that veggies may expel. One bin is for fruit, the other for vegetables. I can see clearly what we have and is available to use.
I also store food in clear glass (preferable) or plastic containers whenever possible. My Mom used glass refrigerator dishes, of which I still have one. They aren't airtight, however, they are beautiful and are good for an overnight or two stay in the fridge. The plastic containers are used for foods which I share with neighbors or friends. I label the tops of the containers so I know what's in them.
My fridge. It doesn't always look this neat. :)
Mason jars are another way to store food---you can even freeze them if you leave enough headspace in the top for the food to expand. I like them for mason jar meals and used them extensively for packed lunches.
The mason jar lunches are a great and inexpensive way to use up bits and bites of foods that aren't enough for a full meal. Spoon a few teaspoons of dressing in the bottom of the jar, and pack the veggies first, topping with salad greens last. Shake the jar before eating to distribute the dressing. Here's some tips on how to pack a mason jar lunch.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food company. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:
Troubadour Coffee Roasters www.troubadourcoffeeroasters.com
Sports and Spine Physical Therapy www.sportspine.com
Local Flavors Shoppe www.localflavors.net
Rittman Orchards and Farm Market www.rittmanorchards.com
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport www.clevelandairport.com
Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Market Wagon Northeast Ohio www.marketwagon.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Mister Brisket www.misterbrisket.com