Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Eating List

As I said on the liver paté post, both Mum and I felt uneasy about the huge amounts of food and food-wastefulness around Christmas. And my take on it is, "As long as we don't throw anything away." Put stuff in tupperwares, freeze stuff, cook stuff as needed, pay attention to leftovers, make an "eating" list the way you'd usually make a "shopping" list - putting on a feast and having leftovers really doesn't have to be wasteful. And if you're exhausted, just get everything you can into the freezer, in small containers, and you'll have lots of easy meals to come. I've already frozen everything that could be frozen (here's the freezing & food-hygiene post) so now we're down to non-freezables and mustn't-refreezes.

Mom thought the Eating List was worth blogging, so if she thought so, with her amazing cooking know-how and years of experience, I figured I'd share it! It's like a shopping list, except you're shopping in your own fridge, so it's a bit quicker than going to the shops and also it's free. TL;DR: list everything in the fridge, note its use-by dates and put it on a traffic-light system, plan meals accordingly.

 First off: open the fridge, with its various bits of leftovers, and do a good reccie:

This is our fridge at the moment. A confusing muddle of unidentified things in bowls and tupperwares. Very easy (and tempting) to just ignore some of that, especially stuff in tupperware that you're not quite sure about. But we're not ignoring it - we are Taking Charge of the Situation! So we stocktake:

 That's everything that needs to be eaten up. Stuff still in its packets has its use-by dates written down as well. We have a truly unreasonable amount of cheese, because I bought in birthday cheese a month ago and then we had flu-with-nausea and couldn't eat it, so then it was good for cooking but not really cheeseboard-serving, so we bought more cheese for Christmas, and despite my most careful calculations, still had loads leftover.

The printable Shopping List is now the Eating List. Artisanally hand-modified. You can download my printable shopping lists and meal plans here. Our household is quite simple, so we use the simplest one.

Next: sit down with a nice mug of tea or coffee, your pen, and some coloured pens (red, orange, and green).

This is a very nice mug.

The traffic light system! Red: use asap (today and tomorrow). Orange: use pretty damn quick. (3-4 days). Green: can last longer than that.

A very rough (sorry, handmade and artisanal) calendar scrawled on the top of the page, so I can relate the number of days to actual dates. Today is the 2nd.

Traffic-lighting the food! Anything that doesn't have a use-by date (eg cooked food), I Googled how long it should last, and sat with my calendar working out when I cooked / defrosted it. Most things seem to be 5-7 days, but check for your ingredients. Only one thing had to get the chop: the leftover bacon stuffing from Christmas. That's 9 days old now. (If it were still good, I would've sprinkled it as an omelette filling and served the omelette with some of the greens.)

The traffic-light colours make it easy to see which ingredients need to be used in proximity. Remember to look at how much of something you have as well: we can't eat all those dips and spreads on Wednesday and Thursday!

Group them into meals. These are mine:

The 450g of mushrooms and the old cheese will go into the new lentil bake, but then I'll just cook and freeze that, because the tortilla mix is up for eating as well. Once you've cooked something, you can then freeze it, of course (providing it hasn't done a couple of food-rounds already). We've got the next two days' dinners sorted, plus a dinner into the freezer, plus some gorgeous collation-lunches, and then we've got heaps of food already in the freezer for the days after that. (Though we'll need to get in some fresh veg.)

The post on leftover cream has lots of other ideas for using-up-leftovers meals as well, so here's a quick summary list from that post:
  • soups (for leftover veg and possibly bits of leftover meat/fish)
  • omelettes (especially good for small quantities of things)
  • sauces for pasta or baked potatoes or ciabbatas / yummy breads (for leftover veg, meat, fish, etc, using cream or box tomatoes as a base) plus all of those are great for having cheese grated / melted on top. If the ingredients are a bit heavy and you want to brighten up a sauce, try the zest or juice or both of lemons / limes, fresh garlic, or fresh herbs. Or indeed, all of the above.
  • curries (obviously). All my curry recipes are shown using fresh meat, but you can use cooked very easily, and knock twenty minutes off the cooking time if you want.
  • chilli sauces for nachos, chilli con carne, or tortillas (Again, those recipes mostly use fresh meat, but you can use cooked - I turned leftover capon into a very tasty sauce for tortillas)
  • kedgeree and lentil bake will both take any raw veg (I haven't blogged the lentil bake yet, but it's from Rose Elliot's Bean Book)

As each item is assigned to its meal, you can tick it off, until everything in the list is gone and the contents of the fridge, however alarming they may look at a glance, are now Fully In Control. Hurrah! No waste! (Except that bit of stuffing. Oops. Sorry, food gods.)

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