In the days leading up to vacation, it's safe to say that mealtimes in my house can get very interesting. I shy away from grocery shopping as much as possible, picking up only the bare essentials. Instead, I focus on eating down the fridge to limit spoilage and waste. Any guesses on the foods I tackle first?
The Plan of Attack
Before diving in, take a quick survey of the fridge to get an idea of everything you're working with. Make note of perishables that are most likely to go bad, as well as staples that have a lengthy shelf life. This will help you create a solid plan of attack. And just because you're clearing the fridge doesn't mean you need to feel pressured to eat everything in there immediately. When possible, utilize the freezer as a part of your plan of attack. Here's how I like to get started.
On any given day there's a 99 percent chance you'll find leftovers in my fridge. Since I'd rather not come home to a science experiment, any leftovers need to get used up before heading out. If it was recently cooked, and has the potential to hold up, stash it in the freezer for a post-vacation meal, otherwise find a way to work leftovers into breakfast, lunch, or even another dinner.
2. Milk and Cream
Some varieties boast a lengthy shelf life, and may still be fresh depending on the length of your travels. If you won't have a chance to drink it all before you leave, dairy milks and whipped cream can both be frozen. It might not prove as tasty for drinking, but it works great for cooking and baking.
If it feels like a struggle to make your way through the entire yogurt container, remember this creamy food isn't just for breakfast. Whisk yogurt into a creamy salad dressing, stir it into a dip, and freeze it into ice pops.
Whether you soaked and cooked dried beans or have an open can of beans in the fridge, these hearty staples aren't likely to make it through your absence. Beans make a satisfying salad topper or a filling dip, and have a terrific way of working themselves into so many meals. Although, they will also last up to three months in the freezer when stored properly.
Get a Recipe: 15 Delicious Recipes with Beans
5. Rice and Grains
If you're like me and keep rice and grains as a staple in your fridge, you'll want to be sure to clear them out before vacation rolls around. If you've had your fill of grain salads, grain bowls, and fried rice, consider adding rice and grains to frittatas, omelets, and scrambled eggs; making them into a breakfast porridge; or freezing them for another time.
Get a Recipe
6. Fresh Fruit
Fresh fruit has the potential to make a sweet and refreshing travel snack. But if that doesn't quite jive with your plans, there are plenty of other ways to use up your bounty of fresh summer fruit without it going to waste. Wash it, cut it up, and freeze for later; purée it into frozen fruit cubes (my favorite!); or consider blending fruit into an icy sorbet to dive into upon your return.
Tips for Fresh Fruit
7. Vegetables and Herbs
You can only eat so many salads before fatigue sets in. Thankfully there are plenty of other useful ways to put those veggies and fresh herbs to use. Whip up a quick pesto with leafy greens and herbs, then freeze it for when you return. If you have summer veggies on hand, toss them into the slow cooker for a ratatouille, or just throw everything on a baking sheet, roast all the veggies in crisper, then freezer for later. Alternatively, consider taking cut-up veggies with you as a travel snack.