Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Monsters in the Fridge

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  I'm embarrassed to reveal this. This my
fridge on a good day. On a bad day, things will fall out and break your toes. Seriously. So as I was trying to squeeze in yet a few more things after a trip to the supermarket, it occurred to me to wonder if other people are guilty of over-stuffing.

There are some excuses here. Most of the things in here are healthy. That's part of the problem. Many good cooking oils need to be kept cold. Whole grains have to be refrigerated. As do whole grain breads without preservatives.  I cook, so I accumulate condiments. And salad dressings. I buy lemons and limes at CostCo (as you can see,) and I love clementines, which only come in big bags. AND I share an organic produce share with my daughter, but last week she was out of town so I got the bulk of it.

Not to mention the fact that my aspirations are usually greater than my cooking energy. (Will I really cook the butternut squash recipe I've been looking at for the last week?) And I try to plan at least five days of meals--otherwise we end up eating out, and I try not to do that during the week.

But all that aside, I wonder if I'm unconsciously emulating my mother and grandmother. They lived through the Depression, and food in the refrigerator and the pantry meant security. 




So I did an impromptu survey.  This immaculate fridge belongs to my friend Candy, who is single. She does cook, but she is gluten and dairy free. (That cuts out the cheese, the yogurt, the milk, the bread, the flour, etc., in my fridge...)



And this one, which I'd designate halfway between Candy and me, belongs to my friend Kathleen. She and her husband Matt both cook, and they seldom eat out. I think they're wonderfully organized.

So how about you, REDS and readers? I know we have a lot of foodies out there. Do you shop everyday? (I do fine in London with a fridge a quarter of the size, but I shop almost every day, and I don't cook much.) Do you use everything you buy?

Brag, or confess!!!

(And maybe someone will come cook my butternut squash...)

37 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

Well, my refrigerator could be a companion to yours. I don't shop every day so there ends up being a lot of things that need a home inside the fridge.
We do eat out occasionally but I enjoy cooking and although I cook almost every day I'm a sucker for a good sale so I always seem to end up with a full refrigerator [and a full freezer] . . . no chance of anyone going hungry around here . . . .

Edith Maxwell said...

I cook, and almost nothing goes to waste except the occasional leftover that somebody forgot. My 25-year old farmer son was living with us from May to November and he's a master at remembering leftovers, but since he's been gone, a chicken bean soup already got forgotten for just one day too long.

What I'm guilty of stuffing is the freezer. That extra container of, say, soup that would be perfect for another dinner might get forgotten in the freezer for a long time. And the piece of ginger I didn't want to spoil. Frozen lemonade in case we need it. You know.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

RIght now my fridge is...sparse. I think you should look at yours and be happy, you know?

The funniest thing is how Jonathan can be looking for something in the fridge, and not see it. It's by the milk, I say. Where? he says. To the left of the milk, second shelf. Where? he says.

Guess where it is?

Grandma Cootie said...

Even when I shop every day I buy too much - something for that recipe I have to try, and yes the Costco size things plus the specialty foods that have to be in the refrigerator. Same with the freezer. And pantry. It looked huge when we bought the house but it's always jam-packed. I think maybe it's a combination of inheriting that Depression gene from my mother and grandmother and also never learning to cook for less than a large family of hungry teenagers. Every once in a while I decree (to myself) that I won't buy anything except perishables until I use up what I have. Makes me improvise and not be wasteful so it's usually fun.

Hallie Ephron said...

Hank, I call that husband thing "butter blindness." As in: "Where's the butter?" "In the butter bin." "Where's the butter been?"(my husband: the comedian)

My fridge swings wildly from one extreme to the other. Right now: sparse. (I don't put my tomatoes, potatoes, fruit, oil, onions etc. in the fridge.) But with my kids and grandbaby coming home for Xmas (YAY!) it's about to take a turn for the crowded-er.

Deb Romano said...

I had to get a new refrigerator a year ago July. I tended to keep things for too long in the old one. It was a big one and it was SO easy for me to just shove more and more things into it. The new one is much smaller than the old one - I had to get something that would fit in the "refrigerator alcove", and appliance manufacturers apparently don't make them the way they used to. A refrigerator with the capacity of my old one would be way too big to fit into the space occupied by the old one. (My old one was thirty-nine years old!) So these days I don't keep much in the refrigerator or the freezer. I still cook five or more dinners at a time and eat lots of leftovers. It's been necessary for me to learn how to stack things differently. Fortunately, the produce drawer can hold quite a few items, which is good, as my grocery money mostly goes to fresh fruits and vegetables. If I didn't have so many different kinds of icepacks in my freezer, I could probably put more food there. (Of course, I make sure there is ALWAYS room for ice cream.)

Margaret Turkevich said...

I've already cleared a shelf in the garage for bulk items over Christmas: loaves of bread, bags of potatoes, apples, and clemmies. Depending upon nighttime temperatures, beer and wine can be stored out there too.

Mary Sutton said...

Like Hallie, mine swings. We shop once a week, on Sunday. Might run out for something in the middle of the week. Okay, usually run out for something. I don't have the counter space to keep veggies out, so I don't buy many.

The fridge is in dire need of emptying and washing, but again, it'll probably wait until spring when I can lay all the shelves on the grass and hit them with a hose.

But I also have a 12-year old son, so the fridge goes from full to sparse pretty quick. My husband always saves leftovers and rarely eats them. Drives me crazy.

Right now the freezer is jammed, but we did a run to Sam's so there is a ton of frozen fish in giant boxes/bags.

However, I have rice and pasta for the next 10 years in my pantry. If the apocalypse comes, we will have rice and pasta.

Julia said...

I shudder at the thought of anyone seeing my fridge. Not only are leftovers stored in ugly, mismatched plastic gimcrack containers that would make a Tupperware (R) Lady faint, but there are ALWAYS mystery liquids that have spilled/oozed/melted and stuck onto the glass shelves.

"Who is responsible for this?" I will demand, in a vain attempt to find out which of my family members knocked over the cranberry chutney and didn't even wipe it up with a G-D paper towel how difficult is that! (You can hear my voice rising in this rant.)

Also, due to the space limitation of a kitchen that was constructed around 1900, we can only fit the most basic, single door, top-freezer fridge in. And at that, it's in the hallway leading from the kitchen to the family room!

So, Deb, I say your refrigerator looks magnificent. And f you want a recipe for that butternut squash, it's right here on Jungle Red Writers:

http://www.jungleredwriters.com/2012/11/easy-soup-for-trying-times.html

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Somehow I fall into the philosophy of "if you ignore left overs in the fridge they somehow magically disappear." Funnily enough, they don't. Then one day I decide to clean the fridge and throw out a bunch of stuff.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

PK, that's really funny.

My fridge is mostly OK (Kiddo's a growing boy and so nothing hangs around too long), but I think that some things in the bottom drawer may have developed currency....

Honestly, I'm afraid to look!

Kathy Reel said...

Oh, refrigerators. Mine is a mirror image of yours, Debs, with an irritating exception. When we purchased a new refrigerator about 8 years ago,my dear husband convinced me that the smaller size one would be fine and fit in the space well. I have yet to forgive him for that decision, and I'm rather put out with myself for listening to him. I have so little freezer space that I can barely fit in that essential ice cream, Deb Romano. When the kids and grandkids visit, I always overbuy at the grocery, and I have become somewhat of a master at wedging items in. However, there is just not enough room for leftovers, which I love, and make-ahead dishes and so forth. I have to severely limit those. Did I mention that I haven't yet forgiven my husband? Julia, at least your smaller refrigerator was a matter of space necessity. I had space left over for a larger one. Arghhhhhhhhhh!

One thing you would see in my refrigerator right now more than at other times is a selection of cheeses. I love to buy different cheeses for the holidays and have them as appetizers. I always take several different cheeses to the party, this year Christmas at my daughter's house. I imagine people saying such things as, "what a lovely goat cheese with cranberry coating," or "Oh, Irish cheddar, how delightful." Of course, what I get is people just stuffing their faces with it, which is, of course, a compliment in itself.

Now, I have to look in my refrigerator and make room for the eight pounds of country ham that's on its way.

Deborah Crombie said...

Oh, my gosh. I realized when I went to bed last night that I hadn't mentioned the dreaded leftovers! Even though I try to cook mostly recipes for two, there is almost always something left. I don't want to just throw it away, so I stick it in the fridge for a week and THEN throw it away...

Or that I keep a fridge well stocked for entertaining. I don't mean the fancy sort of entertaining, but for friends (and my daughter and son-in-law) dropping in for tea or wine with cheese and crackers or dips. Another inherited trait--my mom was always prepared for a mini-party, and that's a tradition I don't mind keeping.

But watch out--I'm thinking I may ask everyone to show what they keep on the OUTSIDE of the fridge!

Rhys Bowen said...

Oh yes--I have a husband with the "where's the butter" syndrome.
He also is known for saving strange leftovers in unlabeled jars, some of which remain unnoticed for months--eek and yuck.

Deborah Crombie said...

Kathy Reel, cheeses (along with the citrus...) are one of my weaknesses, too. Do you have Trader Joe's? They have a goat cheese with truffles, Trader Joe's Truffle Chevre, that is to die for!

Mark Baker said...

My freezer will be full and my frig will be embarrassingly empty. I don't cook, but I do nuke TV dinners and enjoy ice cream. If I don't have roommates, there's hardly anything in the frig. But when I do, I actually have a decently stocked frig.

Mark Baker said...

I should point out that not all the food in the frig is mine when I have roommates (which is most of the time). It's usually theirs.

Pat Marinelli said...

My fridge is empty right now. Daughter is bring us groceries later today. After I put the groceries away it will be filled but organized. We have a bottom freezer on the fridge and a full freezer in the basement. They all both filled to capacity.

Hubby used to shop about every other week or so, but now he can’t do that so I know things will be changing here as far as groceries go.

We order in occassionaly, but I have food allergies. I can deal with the shellfish allergy but the garlic is a nightmate, thus I cook all our meals. I do freeze homemade soups, leftover roast chicken and turkey and I’ve been known to freeze leftover vegetables. This makes some nights easier meals, just defroze, heat, and eat.

Hank and Hallie, I laughed because my husband is as bad as yours. He has everything blindness regarding the fridge. Even when I tell him exactly where something is, I have to get up and get it for him. He can’t find something that is right in front of him. He also never, ever puts anything where it belongs in the fridge or cabinets. Drives me crazy.

Pat Marinelli said...

NOTE: Oh, and after thought. I put paper towels in my fruit and vegetable bins. I do this so things are easier to clean. Well, recently I found out that doing this makes your food last longer.

Karen in Ohio said...

One of the bonuses of having my husband home for lunch nearly every day is that he eats leftovers. In fact, he LOVES leftovers. His mother used to say how she enjoyed having Steve visit because he would walk in the back door and immediately open the fridge next to it and start pulling out little dribs and drabs to munch on.

I try really hard not to pack the refrigerator too full of stuff, but those darn condiments have lives of their own. It would not surprise me at all to know they were procreating in there. Today is the day it gets cleaned out, though, getting ready for all the holiday food coming up, and for a big pot of vegetable soup that we'll need to carry us through quickie meals.

And yes, I cook, nearly every night. We just bought a new upright freezer to replace the 30-year old (detested) chest freezer, and I'm thrilled to open it and see all the hard work that went into filling it: processed venison (two deer this year), wild turkey, venison jerky, eight pounds of wild blackberries, homemade breads and soups, and tons of tomatoes and other produce from my summer garden. Also, my husband buys steelcut oats in bulk, so we have several bags of those, and pecans from a friend's tree in Louisiana.

Karen in Ohio said...

Julia, thanks for the link to the butternut squash soup! I still have several left from my garden, and this will be a great addition to my freezer stash of soups to use them up.

Gigi Pandian said...

Once I began doing serious cooking, I had to take apart the fridge shelves and put them back together in a way to accommodate all the fresh veggies I was buying. For a while there, we wasted a lot (it was awful), but now we have a good labeling system that works for us -- post-it notes :)

Ellen Kozak said...

I fall into the Kathleen category. Too much in my fridge, but all lined up (a little OCD?) in glass containers, neatly stacked. I am trying to use up all the odd and duplicate condiments. (I have learned that I can't put anything but beer-- and the occasional platter en route to elsewhere-- in the basement fridge or I will forget it is there.

Pat, doesn't everyone put paper towels in the bottom of the bins? You mean we're not the norm?

One of my cousins, in one of their houses, once had side-by-side full size fridges (with freezers on top, although I prefer them on the bottom). Can one have "fridge envy"?

Deborah Crombie said...

Yummy, Julia, thanks for the soup reminder. I have peanut butter, and chicken stock, and coconut milk!

Mary Sutton said...

Julia, you sound like me. "Okay, which one of you spilled X and didn't even bother to clean it up?" Nobody ever answers. Those imps, Not Me and Ida Know, visit my house a lot, I guess.

We also don't have space for anything other than the basic single door/top-freezer fridge. I shudder to think of what we're going to do when it dies because those things are getting hard to find.

Ann in Rochester said...

We eat what we buy, rarely to never eat out, and I cook every night except when we are having leftovers. I can't bear to waste food, is sinful. Be that as it may, stuff can get lost, particularly condiments that keep forever but are rarely used. Deb darling, I never ever keep whole grain flour in the fridge, nor bread. I do freeze the odd half loaf, to be brought out when we run out of bread. Most important though is the list of freezer contents kept on the door. It is a little erasable white board, and it is kept up-to-date period. Try this. You will be forever grateful, and you will never forget the chicken soup. Also, we have a Food-saver apparatus, for vacuum packing leftovers for the freezer, keeps them fresh for decades. Well, for months anyway.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

A swinger here too! the fridge is pretty empty now, but we're going to do our holiday ingredients shop this afternoon--so look out! I've seen Hallie's refrig many times--usually stuffed with yummy things!

Julia, we've missed you. I can absolutely hear your voice today!

And this is the thing to remember: Leftovers absolutely never improve with age. So either eat them up or throw them out:)

Deb Romano said...

Pat and Ellen:

I've been doing the paper towel thing for many years. I can't remember when I first heard about it; it does work!

Oh, and I do freeze leftovers, but it's a challenge trying to fit things in around the icepacks. When I have lots of food to freeze, I take out an icepack or two, temporarily, to make room for more food. (And thanks Mom and Dad, especially Dad, for passing on the genes for orthopedic issues!) I cook a new meal once a week and freeze single-size servings. Before I go to bed, I take something out of the freezer, put it in the fridge for the next night's meal. At dinner time I nuke the leftovers and make a fresh salad to go with it. I used to have a couple of weeks worth of leftovers in the freezer but with this smaller one, the most I can put in is maybe 7 or 8 servings.

Connie Hambley said...

Ha! Like Hallie, my fridge goes through periods of feast and famine. With the holidays upon us and college boys home, I'm wondering if I can outpace the onslaught of locusts who will pick it down to dust. The only things safe from total disappearance are some salad dressings and roll of Kodak film that was unearthed during their summer foraging. I'm sure Susan can attest it's the hungry boys and their friends that help with the leftovers. Secretly, I love hungry people around as it gives me more opportunities to cook.

Karen in Ohio said...

Connie, my husband is a professional photographer, and he still has numerous rolls of film in the freezer at his studio.

Kait said...

I have to raise my hand and admit that in a two person house we have THREE refrigerators. My husband is the condiment king. He uses at least three hot sauces at every meal and must have at least four jars of various pickles. That's all one fridge. Food overflows in another, and the third is for sodas and bottled beer for guests (we have a keg refrigerator for my husband's tap beer and a wine fridge for my wines) oh, dear. That's FIVE fridges for two people. Yes,we cook but we also eat lots of fresh foods and they tend to take up space.

Reine said...

Hi Debs,

I won't mention any names, because he's sitting right here. But some people in this family never bring the shopping list with them. Shhh… you know—him. So while we have plenty of Australian licorice, Norwegian sardines, sweet potato crispy chips, all the fixings for poutine, canned corned beef hash, and cheese straws we have no bread, apples, milk, meat, fish, eggs, or fresh vegetables. Our fridge is full, but I have nothing to cook for supper. While he who shall remain nameless does lots and lots of shopping, I am on the phone ordering groceries from a delivery service. But I do love him know. :-)

Deborah Crombie said...

Kait, I didn't mention that I have a wine fridge. Thank goodness. It has wine and hubby's Shiner Bock and ginger beer, etc. And anything that can't be stuffed in the big fridge. I'm sure it wasn't designed for that...

Deborah Crombie said...

Deb Romano, you are so organized. Sigh...

Karen in Ohio said...

A couple years ago I wrote an article on trends in kitchens and baths for Cincinnati HOME Magazine. One of the bath trends was to have a huge en suite space, and to include a beverage drawer, which is basically a refrigerator. In your bathroom.

Beverage drawers are more common in the kitchen, though, and save the big fridge from getting warm when the kids (small or big) are constantly opening the door for a cold one. But they are SO pricey: up to $3,000 for a drawer to keep your beer cold.

Kathy Reel said...

Deb Romano, Pat, and Ellen, it's quite nice to know that I'm not the only one that puts paper towel in the veggie and fruit drawers. I started doing it for the "easier to clean" reason, but it's good to know that it actually serves the purpose of preservation, too.

Debs, we do not have a Trader Joe's here, and I so wish we did. When I visit my friend in Virginia Beach, it's her go-to place, and I envy her and you. I'm waiting for a city nearby to get one, keeping fingers crossed, and then I will go cheese wild. Hahaha! Oh, I think I get my cheese passion from my father. Whenever we would go to Cincinnati when I was a child, we would always stop at a deli where my father loved their cheeses and bring some home. I think it was near Shillito's, a name that perhaps the Cincinnati residents here know. That store used to have the best Christmas window displays and a Christmas shop inside just for kids to shop in.

Karen in Ohio said...

Kathy, I used to work right around the corner from Shillito's for several years. And I worked for them in the early 70's, part-time, then later I worked in their sales audit department one Christmas season, after my day job. It was such a great store. Did you know that building has been turned into loft apartments? They're pretty nice, too.

I don't know what deli that would be, but I wonder if it was in Findlay Market, one of the oldest continuing markets in the US. It's not far from the old Shillito's downtown store. Shillito's is now Macy's, in case you didn't know.