Spring Cleaning: Before Your Big Shop, Use Up Your Fridge

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
March 20, 2014

Photo credit: Hans Namuth / Getty Images

In case you didn’t already know it (see: adorable Google Doodle), TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING! For us, that means Saturday we’ll be cleaning our closets, and Sunday we’ll be cleaning our refrigerators. It’s time for a fresh start—those wilted scallions in the back of the crisper are definitely not looking that like drawer promises to keep them.

But we don’t support throwing things in the trash. For the clothes, we’re holding a stoop sale that friends and neighbors can get in on by bringing their own hand-me-downs. (Try it!) For the tidbits of food, we’re finding ways to work them into meals over the next week.

Spices: Charmoula is a Moroccan marinade that uses, more or less, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, tomato juice, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. So before tossing out those past-their-peak spices and random cloves of garlic heads that have sunk to the bottom of your storage bin, blitz them all together and spoon the mess onto lamb chops, chicken, fish, or even flatbreads.

Beans: Throw the last bits of your bean, pasta, or rice bags into a hearty Italian soup or springy minestrone

Grains: Oats, millet, farro—whatever you have kicking around—can all work wonders in a warm breakfast porridge. The dregs of your almond jar can be thrown in there, too. Granola is another good use of oats and nuts and dried fruit and all that other stuff in your cupboards.

Greens: Pesto can really be made from any herb. So sub in that bunch of mint for the basil and use the result for pasta or as a sandwich spread. And now is the time for that Kitchen Sink Salad. Throw what you got in there! If it’s a tougher green, or something that’s too bitter for you to eat raw, stir-fry it up.

Pickles: If there was ever a good excuse to throw a cocktail party, this is it. Host a martini party and serve whatever kind of pickled thing you got. Or have friends over for brunch and use them to garnish Bloody Marys. Don’t forget about the juice, either: it can be used in place of vinegar in a salad dressing, a potato salad, or any kind of sauce, really.

Cheese: Grate those two-inch hunks of cheese that have been mummified in plastic wrap INTO a 10-egg pancake, also known as a frittata. Also pasta + cheese. Nuff said.

Meats: The kinds of meat you have in your fridge—dried sausages, bacon, maybe a little pancetta—can be used as a garnish on pretty much any of the aforementioned savory dishes: salad, pasta, eggs, soups. And the ultimate get-rid-of-stuff meal that everyone loves: a potato bar. Bake those potatoes whose skins are just shy of wrinkled, fry those last four pieces of bacon or chorizo and crumble them, and chop that iceberg lettuce that got no love last week. Hooray for meals that make us feel twelve again.