This is not my fridge. Photo via Flickr: Susansimon

I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping this weekend, and the contents of my pantry and fridge are looking pretty meager: a bag of lentils, a jar of tomato paste, a can of chopped tomatoes, a couple eggs, a container of yogurt, scraps of cheese, a few eggplants, and some old onions and garlic. I might be able to run out later today to pick up a few items at the store, but first, I like to play a little game called Shop Your Fridge.

I talked about this a bit in a HuffPost column (“Is Wasting Food a Sin?“), but here’s the gist: I pretend I’m on Top Chef and that my challenge is to make a gourmet dinner out of what I have left in the house. Some recent winners: spring pea risotto (Arborio rice, chicken stock, and frozen peas); pasta con le sarde (linguine, sardines, and bread crumbs); and cranberry wild rice pilaf (wild rice, frozen cranberries, and toasted pecans).

Am I being overly thrifty? I don’t think so: Forty percent of all food produced in the United States winds up in landfill, where it decays and emits the powerful greenhouse gas methane).

Today’s added challenge: It’s Meatless Monday.

Luckily, there’s an amazing online resource for pantry leftovers, courtesy of the UK-based campaign called Love Food Hate Waste. You just take a look at this list, click on whatever food you have in the house, and voilĂ ! — a bunch of recipes pop up that’ll turn your odds and ends into gourmet magic. You can also search specifically for vegetarian recipes.

So what’s on my Meatless Monday menu for tonight, based on the seemingly scanty offerings I listed above? Lentil, Aubergine, and Tomato Moussaka — yum! — and all I have to pick up at the store are a couple of peppers and a container of cottage cheese.

–Jennifer Grayson

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12 Responses to “Love Food Hate Waste makes meal planning a picnic”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    What a great resource! I try to plan my meals at the beginning of the week, but I frequently wind up making something else and end up with random ingredients. Including a new tub of cottage cheese, which I wish I could teleport to you, since I’ve decided to go dairy free for a week as a sort of experiment on self while Kevin’s away.

  2. Therese Says:

    I’m SO with you on food waste. I think Iron Chef should have episodes on how to deal with left overs and other potential throw-aways! Actually I can’t even watch those shows anymore because all I can do is imagine how much food is being thrown out. Here’s an entry I did on my blog on the same topic:

    Thanks Jennifer!

  3. Therese Says:

    P.S. I’m about to clean out my refrigerator and pack an ice chest to take to Montauk where we are spending the next three days to celebrate our 10th anniversary. How’s that for a picnic? Also, don’t forget the noble frittata. Random leftover food goes great inside these eggy oven pies.

  4. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    Oh, I love Montauk! Used to go there all the time with my mom and brother. Always off-season — that’s the best time to go. Hope you had a wonderful trip.

  5. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    Great post, Therese. People always laugh at me because I reuse a tea bag about 4 times before I throw it out (a habit passed down from my great-grandmother, who came to this country at the turn of the last century from Russia).

  6. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    How’d your experiment go, Jennifer? Is the dairy-free thing for the environment or health (if you don’t mind me asking)?

  7. Jennifer Says:

    Alas, I haven’t managed to go completely dairy free. There was just too much dairy in the fridge; I hate to waste food, and dairy especially comes with such a high carbon footprint that it seems criminal to just throw it away. However, about 2/3 of my meals have been dairy-free this week — had some lovely roast vegetables crisped in olive oil, garlic and rosemary last night, mock tuna sandwiches, noodle soup, salads. The less dairy there is around, the less I’m inclined to eat it.

    While blogging earlier this week about whether the term ‘ethical meat-eater’ is an oxymoron, I was inspired to look at some of my own eating habits to see if they lived up to my morals. I’m starting to feel pretty uneasy about milk because of its relationship with the veal industry. So, to answer your question, I’m cutting back on dairy for moral rather than health or environmental reasons.

  8. Sevgi Says:

    I’m with you. I hate waste. I even incorporate leftovers into my meal planning. I grew up with a family who never forced us to eat our veggies or make sure we ate everything off of our plates. The motto was: If you can’t eat it now, save it for later:)

  9. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    That’s a great motto! In fact, I usually cook up larger portions for dinner and then automatically put some aside in the fridge for lunch or dinner the next day; that way, people don’t feel compelled to overeat.

  10. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    Thanks for the update, Jennifer. Do you ever shop at the Hollywood Farmers Market? I love the goat cheese from Soledad Goats. Grass fed, no-kill policy:

  11. Therese Says:

    When I make dinner, I make enough vegetables to have leftovers for breakfast! My husband incorporates them into frittatas or omelets, or as an accompaniment to a poached or fried egg. Great way to get in another helping of veggies and forgo the meat!

  12. Jennifer Says:

    I’m in NorCal, so going to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market would be one heck of a drive!

    By the way, I tried Green Bags and am absolutely stunned that my celery is still intact after a full two weeks. I even take them to the store with me so I don’t end up with their disposable plastic ones. Great call on that one!

    One thing I’ve found that reduces vegetable waste is to cook larger portions that use up the vegetables I have and stick a few servings in the freezer as homemade frozen dinners.

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