Category Archives: Storage

Searching for More Ideas to Waste Less

well, I did … and didn’t!

I have a favorite resource: Waste Less, Save Money! 2018, it’s a Meredith Special publication. Because of the times and the title’s date, I was hoping they’d done a 2019 issue. If they did, I can’t find it. I did find some other publications which are new to me, but since I only have titles, I can’t say whether they’ll be good resources, or not.

I use my original publication (pictured below) a lot. Our fave roasted veggie recipe, Garlicy Roasted Vegetables, is there. As are recipes for herb vinegarette , veggie stock, chicken stock, etc. I had many recipes for those things before but they were scattered through a range of books, notes, and printouts. It’s handy having them in one place.

Here’s the Table of Contents:

      • Food Waste Strategies
      • Swap This for That
      • Crop Wrangler (in-season veggies)
      • Rethink your Beans!
      • What to do with Cheese
      • Saving Scraps & Seconds
      • What to do with Herbs
      • See & Toss Salads
      • Use it Up!
      • One-Pan Dinners
      • What to do with Crackers
      • You Choose! Skillet Suppers
      • Meat Smarts
      • Max out your Freezer!
      • Tasty Freezer Stashes
      • What to do with Bananas
      • Baker’s Pantry
      • Everyday Bakes
      • Scrappy Dog Treats
      • Use-It-Up Ingredients Index
      • Recipe Index
      • Superstar Vinegar

One thing I love about this publication is the changeable/zipper recipes, for example, skillet suppers. It’s a stir fry, you pick 1) A denser vegetable, 2) A less-dense vegetable, 3) A sauce, 4) A topper, and 5) A splash-on.

I almost always have a combination of the listed veggies. Right now: sweet potatoes and celery from #1, asparagus and bell pepper from #2, I’d have to make their citrus sauce:  OJ, marmalade, soy sauce, and grated ginger. Also chopped almonds (I’d have to toast them) from #4, and soy sauce or sriracha from #5 (I’d put them on the table).

Given the oriental feel of this, I’d probably cook rice to go with. Add leafy green salad and jarred salad? There’s dinner!

So I just constructed our dinner menu, took what 5 minutes? Oriental veggies skillet, rice, green salad, jarred salad.

To do: prep veggies, cook pot of rice, make citrus sauce, and toast almonds. Since it’s about 7:40 a.m. as I type this, that should be easy.

You can see why this is one of my favorite cookbooks! I don’t need to buy anything, make substitutions or replacements, I can look at a recipe and use what I already have. I wish they’d do another volume! Yes, it was a $9.99 “magazine,” but in the 2 years I’ve had it, it has saved us how much? Likely more than its original cost.

Many years ago, when Marie Callender’s was only a SoCal restaurant, and fairly new, they had a steamed veggie plate we both loved. It was a highlight of getting to the big city and not cheap for college students like us. DH loved it. He thinks the roasted veggie recipe from this publication is better. Whether that’s genuine, flattery or a faulty memory, as it was long ago?

I’ll take it! 

magazine cover001

The roasted veggie recipe is denser veggies (potatoes, carrots, or parsnips*) onion, oil, acid (lemon juice or vinegar), garlic, salt, pepper, and softer veg (zucchini, summer squash, peppers, grape tomatoes, etc.) . There’s a note about adding fresh herbs, either woodier ones (thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.) or tender ones (parsley, basil, cilantro, etc.)  I have enough of any of that to make up a pan of this most of the time. Right now: potatoes, carrots, lemon, onion, garlic, peppers, sage or dill and parsley. (I’d probably make it with dill and parsley, as those are fresh AND fragile — the sage is struggling along in the garden, and will keep.)

*I usually add celery.

If you can find a copy of this, I absolutely recommend it!


More Waste Avoidance

It occurred to me that I do one thing to avoid food waste you may not? I set up specific locations for foods I should use first. This works best if the contents are reviewed regularly. This also limits the size of the area I have to look in for old, dead food when I’m doing a clean out.

  • I have a “left over” shelf in the fridge. All the leftovers, hopefully labelled, go there. When we’re looking for lunch or fast meals, we check to see what we’ve got? This doesn’t mean we never toss food, just that we toss a lot less than when the container of soup was hiding behind the other food, because it had been put wherever there was room in the fridge. It also makes cleaning the fridge much easier. All the old, cooked food is in one place.
  • When I process in the produce from the farm, it goes on one shelf, the one below the cheese drawer. Before I put anything new on that shelf, all the produce on it is moved down one shelf. Why? I dry the older stuff and try and use the freshest stuff, while it’s fresh.
  • When I use part of a carrot, an onion, celery, etc. The remaining pieces go into one large zip lock bag at the front of the “older produce” shelf. When I need 1 stalk of celery, a little onion, or ? I reach for it. There were parts of 2 bell peppers there this morning, so I decided I’d add bell pepper to my dinner soup, for example.
  • I have a small basket in a cabinet, this holds the onion, potato, shallot, and garlic head which should be used before I go looking for others. Same idea as the bag above, but this is for produce which isn’t refrigerated.
  • I have a box with small jars in it at the back of my cutting board. This is the absolute last bits of beans, dried peas, herbs, or grains. Like the basket and bag in the fridge, the idea is to use these before I go to larger containers of shelf-stable pantry items.

I’ve trained myself to go to these “use this first” locations before I dig into the pantry, root cellar box, or into the freshest produce. It works.

Does this mean we don’t toss food? No. It just means that we toss much less than we used to.

btw: when I went looking for more content to add to this post? I did a google search on “avoiding food waste” and got 410,000,000+ hits. And here I am, making one more!

Links Round Up: Jan – Mar

I went back through my posts since the beginning of the year. It seems I’m doing a lot of research and including links in my posts. All of the blog posts or links I’ve pinged back or linked to are given below.

January: None.




Stuck at Home? Ideas to Pass the Time and Baking Ingredient/Substitutions List

I live with an anxiety disorder, PTSD. One thing I’ve learned in dealing with anxiety my entire life (well, since I was 3) is that the easiest way to cope is to keep busy! So, here’s a few ideas to help you.

  1.  Read! I’m a book person, right? I want to get at least one book off my “to be read” pile. Even if you only have 5 minutes here or there because you’re not commuting to work, it’s “found” time!
  2. Cook (to reduce waste)! I have the end of a package of mushrooms which will become slime soon and onions which have started to sprout… And butter, yes, I have some butter, it’s in the freezer. (Hopefully, I can buy more.) Make something basic that can be used in future meals and also reduces your food waste: sauteed onions and duxelles are in my plans today, for just that very reason.
  3. Improve! Work on a home-improvement project if you have all the pieces, or have the pieces to start. We planned, after DH broke his leg, to be really conservative this year on home projects. Possible retirement was also a factor. So, we decided that we’d make use of the supplies and materials on hand rather than starting any new projects. One of those projects is painting the living room’s baseboards. I started that yesterday!
  4. Inventory! Do an inventory. Do you have 19 cans of chili and 2 of fruit cocktail? When availability/resources are limited, knowing exactly what you have (and don’t) enables you to shop for and store only the necessary, keeps down expenditures, and keeps products you could have overbought available for others.
  5. Cook (basics)! Don’t cook from scratch? Try. Fry an egg, make toast. The next time, add some sauteed onion or mushrooms, bell peppers, or what have you? Or, try boiling an egg instead. Or make biscuits from a can or . . . push your cooking towards the next level.
  6. Explore alternatives! Find and use alternatives if you can. Especially with baking there seem to be a lot:
    • Baking powder can be made up from cream of tartar and baking soda, here.
    • Brown sugar can be made up as needed from white sugar and molasses, here.
    • Applesauce can be used to substitute for fats in baking, here.
    • Soy flour can be substituted for eggs, here.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies, part 2

Given what I know about supplies, how do I determine how much space is needed?

These factors affect supply storage: use rate, back stock needs, available space.

Once I know the use rate, I can determine reasonable back stock. For example, we use about 3/4 of a roll of paper towels a week, mostly to deal with pan grease. Having a 2 week supply seems reasonable. That means I need a back stock of 1 roll. But my usual source for these sells them in 4 roll (or bigger) packages.  I need to decide if having 3 rolls in storage makes sense? If it does, then the back stock amount/space for 1 roll won’t work, obviously.

It seems I need TWO types of back stock storage: immediate and a supply closet or shelf. Immediate storage near where the product is used, an extra bar of soap under the sink, for example. But if I buy a 6 bar bundle, most of those should go somewhere else, like a supply closet.

I don’t have a supply closet right now… soon! One planned summer improvement is for DH to build a broom closet. When he does, the wardrobe that’s our current broom closet will be empty. 

There’s space available elsewhere, I’ll use that until the wardrobe is empty.

My minimum for the shelf-stable supplies we use the most often? One complete refresh. I have that. It isn’t what I’d like because it isn’t the most frugal option, but given that I have nowhere to store a large back stock? It makes sense.

“When you keep an account of your stores, and the dates when they are bought, you can know exactly how fast they are used…”

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, 3rd ed.,1856

The Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies

For me, there are two types of things stored in my home: durable goods & supplies.

  • Durable goods – anything made to be used and reused repeatedly: clothing, furniture, rugs, buildings, automobiles, linens, dishes, pots & pans, etc.
  • Supplies – anything made to be used once and used up or changed in some way where it can’t be reused: paint, food, firewood, cleaning products, etc.

Figuring out how much is enough or too much with durable goods is less complicated than trying to determine the same for supplies.

For one thing, most supplies require specialized storage. And some, like frozen foods, requires VERY specialized storage. Others don’t require anything so specific: cat litter for one. But supplies do need storage which prevents them from becoming unusable.

Considerations: Storage Needed

The question is, is the supply .  .  .

highly flammable? fuels, firewood, firestarters, matches, kindling, waxes, polishes, etc.

heat sensitive? frozen foods, foods needing refrigeration, seeds, wax candles, etc.

light sensitive? photography supplies, some fabrics, etc.


Should it be in a waterproof/water resistant environment? This covers many of the remaining supplies: soaps, fabrics, toilet paper, thread, etc.

Considerations: Supply Form

Is it dry, semi-dry, or a liquid? 

  • Dry supplies are usually the most stable: dried spices, cat litter, toilet paper, powdered soaps, etc.
  • Semi-dry supplies usually things which require a bit more care than dry supplies. Items like paste shoe polish, some waxes, bar soaps, vegetable shortening, demiglace, etc.
  • Liquid supplies require a waterproof container. Many are cold sensitive, if they freeze their bottle will burst. These include: shampoos, liquid laundry soaps, olive oil and other cooking oils, vinegars, etc.
  • Food supplies obviously require storage which will help keep them fresh, if possible. This is true whether the food is dry, semi-dry or a liquid.

Considerations: Designated Use

Supplies are normally made to be used for a specific purpose. Food is made to eat, thread to use on fabric, compost on the garden, etc. The easiest way to divide this again is to separate it by locale: inside, outside, or for a car?

Supplies are complicated: there are many factors to consider when determining where and how much to store!




Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? a/k/a The Goldilocks Dilemma

If you’ve followed along here for any period of time, you’d notice that I keep trying to find “rules.” That is, I keep trying to find set answers to recurring problems.

  • Can I cook in such a way that the kitchen cleans itself while I’m doing it? (See self-cleaning tab above.)
  • The three ways to save $ is another.

Here’s my latest:

I’m trying to figure out exactly what to keep, toss, or buy, and have been for a long time. I decided to try and “formalize” the decision-making process because I keep revisiting the issue.

I posed the problem in a forum where I participate. The answers I got and my reactions to them got me to create a spreadsheet.

From an hour’s worth of work, I came to these conclusions: storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was a potential issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)

I discovered that I need to treat supplies differently than durable goods. Supplies tend to be things that are not used all at once. And they are things which are meant to be consumed entirely. So, for a bag of cat litter, space allocation needs to be big enough to hold the full bag, even when it isn’t.

So, this can be approached in two ways, from either the amount desired or the space needed.

  • How much of a given supply do I want to have on hand at the most? — How much space would it need?
  • Or, How much space do I have to allocate for this supply? — How much of the supply can be stored in the available space?

Some supplies require specialized storage, which of course makes it even more complicated.