16 October 2014

What Does Your Fridge Say About You?

If you had sneaked a peak in my fridge before I became a Cheapskate you would probably have thought it was pretty normal.

The top shelf would have held eggs and butter, jams, mayo, bottled sauces and a variety of different cheeses. Perhaps there would have been a container of hummus and maybe a tub of sour cream. Some of it would have been well past it's Best Before date, nudging it's safe use-by time.

On the second shelf you would see some dairy meats, a few sealed containers with anonymous contents. There may have been a plastic covered plate or two holding leftovers.

Shelf number three would show up bottles of soft drink, some coffee beans and other miscellaneous foods.

The crispers should have been labelled with a warning "Open at own risk".

Without any fridge organization, we were throwing away most of what we bought, either because we bought more than we needed and could use, or because the fridge was such a mess we didn't know it was there to be used.

These days the fridge is very different.

When you open the door you'll find lots of jars, recycled and full of homemade jams, marmalades, sauces, salad dressings and marinades and jars of semi-dried tomatoes (home-grown and dried of course). There will be eggs and butter on the top shelf, along with containers of beetroot, pineapple rings and asparagus. If you're lucky you'll find a jar of homemade bread and butter cucumbers, delightfully crisp and tangy and just waiting to be added to a salad sandwich.

On the second shelf you'll find the baby bath. Well that's what we call it, it was what the Tupperware lady called it when she sold it to me and the name just stuck. This container holds cooked meat - roasts or silverside, sausages, rissoles, meatloaf, steak and chops to be used for other meals or lunches. Next to the baby bath you may see a container of stewed fruit or potato salad. Or you may find a bowl of leftover mashed potato or container of stock waiting to me made into soup.

Third shelf, left-hand side is a square container. In it you'll find tubs of margarine, blocks of butter and tasty cheese, tubs of sour cream and cottage cheese. Next to it is a container of chopped vegetables, ready to be used. It might hold carrots, parsnips, celery, broccoli and cauliflower - whatever was cheap or in the garden at the time - ready to be cooked or added to a recipe. The small green container holds mushrooms or spring onions. The round canister next to the vegetable box holds the shake-n-bake, all ready to be used. In front of it is the meat thawing for tonight's dinner.

The most exciting part of this fridge exploration is the vegetable crispers. What a treasure trove, although you'll have to look hard to find what they hold. I use Gel Bags to keep the vegetables in the drawers fresh until they are used. There is always a bag of lettuce and one of tomatoes. If broccoli or cauliflowers have been particularly cheap or the garden is doing its job there will be bags of chopped vegetables. And there is always a bag for cabbage, a much maligned, but very useful and tasty vegetable. You'll also see zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkin, capsicums, eggplant and squash in the crisper drawers. We eat lots of vegetables all the time.

What you won't find are bought jams, sauces and dressings. You won't find bought dips or spreads either. Pre-packaged deli meats will be a no-show too. As will packaged salad greens or bought pre-made salads.

Today our fridge is full to overflowing and yet the contents have cost a fraction of what it used to hold. I can open the fridge and put together a meal in minutes, without panic or having to dial a pizza.

Don't get me wrong. There are still bought things in there, just far fewer than there used to be. And with each bought item I replace with a homemade or home-grown item, we are one step closer to a healthier and less processed, fake, diet.

Learning to cook from scratch was a big thing for me. Yes, I could grill a steak or cook a roast, but I didn't know how to bake bread. I'd never made mayonnaise or jams. The only things in the freezer were frozen foods I'd bought.

The impact this fridge full of fresh food, ingredients really, has made on our budget is almost immeasurable. Each time I open the fridge and see its contents, I feel pride that I can feed my family and various ring-ins at times, without putting any additional strain on our grocery budget.

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