Time to empty the freezer? Turning a kitchen’s forgotten food into meals takes improvising

I normally cook dinner a pleasant meal from scratch each night time, even when it’s solely my husband and me for dinner. Our weekly menu would possibly embrace fish, rooster, pasta, and a few time-intensive dishes like eggplant moussaka, jap chae or chili.

Leftovers, and there are lots, go into the freezer — the place they’re usually forgotten, tucked behind ice-cube trays, half-eaten cartons of ice cream, and baggage of soup dumplings and frozen peas.

So when my husband went away for every week, I made a decision to filter that freezer — together with the fridge and pantry — and save myself from actual cooking for a couple of days. I wouldn’t even go grocery procuring; I’d save on the meals invoice and improvise on recipes.

I preferred the concept of decluttering with out tossing mysterious containers of wasted meals into the trash. I’d eat no matter I moderately might. There have been some odds and ends within the vegetable drawer — cherry tomatoes, carrots and celery on their final legs, some fruit and a cabbage (extra on that later) — so I wouldn’t be utterly disadvantaged of produce.

The outcomes have been generally good, sometimes nice, usually meh. I posted photos of my experiment on social media, and the reactions from buddies ranged from enthusiasm to downright hostility.

Some supplied recipes for the cabbage, which I couldn’t appear to make use of up. A number of messaged to say how a lot they cherished my nightly installments. “These posts are bringing me plenty of pleasure,” stated one good friend. “Meals content material I didn’t know I wanted,” stated one other.

However, when one in every of my meals didn’t look so nice, folks threatened to have pizza delivered to my home to save lots of me from myself.

On the brilliant facet, after I ran out of milk, I began placing vanilla ice cream in my espresso, and I could by no means return.

Right here’s a day-by-day account of my week of scrounging:


Issues began off brilliantly. Leftover chicken-feta-pasta salad defrosted from the freezer; a corn tortilla with Muenster cheese and smashed avocado; and a salad with carrots, celery, parsley, pink pepper, pomegranate seeds, olives. Numerous cheers on social media.


This was the one day I consumed exterior meals: Associates took me out for brunch and I used to be nonetheless stuffed by suppertime. So I made a simple bowl of soup for dinner utilizing chicken-cilantro dumplings from the freezer with numerous veggies thrown in, together with (notice for future reference) cabbage.


I dug some months-old pierogies out of the freezer, fried them with mushrooms and onions, and made a facet dish of cabbage (what else!) sauteed with a random half-apple, a little bit onion and pink wine vinegar. I like bitter cream on pierogies however I didn’t have any, so I used Greek yogurt, nevertheless it wasn’t nearly as good.

Lunches, by the best way, have been leftovers from the dinner leftovers.


This was the place issues went south. I dumped a little bit an excessive amount of pink sauce from an open jar on a half-cup of leftover macaroni; including a defrosted sliced rooster sausage didn’t assist. Placing mozzarella and contemporary basil leaves from my windowbox on a mushy sliced tomato additionally didn’t magically make a stunning caprese salad. “That doesn’t look superb,” commented one good friend.

This was the night time folks began threatening to ship takeout supply to my home. Two cousins stated our moms would have been pleased with me; their mothers and mine grew up poor and hungry in rural Maine in the course of the Despair and so they by no means let meals go to waste. One other good friend put it this fashion: “You’ve received grit.”


The simplest night time: ready-made microwaveable Asian-style noodles with veggies, from Costco, to which I added a little bit of rooster. (I hold small containers of cooked rooster meat within the freezer, leftover from rotisserie chickens that we will’t end.)


One other sad-sack day: Boca burger, kosher hotdog and buns from the freezer; microwaved potato (final potato in the home) with butter; and an emptied-out bag of frozen peas. I meant to have carrots with the peas, however I forgot that I put the carrots on the range and the water boiled away. They have been principally burned black.


Used up the final tortilla, melted the final two items of Muenster on it, and topped it off with a warmed-up mixture of frozen corn (used up the bag), the final little bit of rooster in the home, a half-can of black beans, extra cherry tomatoes from a seemingly bottomless container, cumin, salt, lime and, in fact, chopped cabbage. It was … OK.

I had hoped so as to add the opposite half of the avocado from earlier within the week, nevertheless it was past redemption, even by my low requirements.

By now, each my viewers and I have been sick of the darn cabbage. A number of folks recommended making a salad or stir-fry out of it utilizing Asian seasoning; one particular person urged me to simply toss it.


For breakfasts, I’d been ending up yogurt, cereal, fruit and bread, and on this, my remaining full day, I ate the final frozen half-bagel from my freezer. There was solely a dot of cream cheese left, so I needed to complement it with butter — sacrilege to New Yorkers. There have been renewed calls from my critics to surrender, buy groceries. However I couldn’t stop but: I had plans for that different half-can of black beans.

The recipe I had in thoughts for dinner known as for cucumber and corn, however I did not have these. So I substituted the final stick of celery in the home and — you guessed it — extra cabbage. Then I added scallions, cilantro (I had some rising in a windowbox), feta cheese, cherry tomatoes from the still-bottomless field, lime juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt.

I additionally stir-fried the cabbage, as buddies had advisable, with ginger, garlic and the final mushroom in my now practically empty vegetable bin, including Asian flavors — sesame oil, soy sauce, mirin, sesame seeds and a drop of chili garlic sauce. Each the black bean and cabbage dishes have been good.

I nonetheless had one breakfast to go earlier than my husband returned and grocery procuring would resume. No downside: I had eggs, scallions and feta cheese readily available for an omelet. (Positive, I might have been consuming eggs each night time, however the place was the problem in that?)


Just a few takeaways from my week of scrounging:

I generated little or no rubbish as a result of I hardly opened any packaging and I had no meals waste. (All my freezer leftovers have been in recycled plastic containers.)

I nonetheless have a hunk of cabbage within the fridge.

And I misplaced 5 kilos.

“It was all that cabbage you ate,” a good friend stated. “It simply melts the kilos away!”

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