Challenge: Use What's Already in the Fridge

A blogger challenges her readers not to buy any new food for a week.


Kim O'Donnel, one of my favorite food bloggers, is hosting an "Eating Down the Fridge Challenge," which basically means using up all the food that's already in your kitchen instead of buying more. Since we waste so much food already, that seems like a pretty good idea. I E-mailed O'Donnel about how she makes meals from existing ingredients:

What's your favorite meal to make from ingredients you already have?

I tend to have cold rice in the fridge to either pair up with soup, curries or leftover chicken, but what I most enjoy doing is an improv fried rice. Cold rice reacts really well to a hot skillet and some oil and plays nicely with any quick-cooking veg already in the crisper -- carrots, bok choy, spinach, asparagus tips, frozen peas, onions, garlic. A little soy sauce, a smidge of sesame oil and the heat of a chile brings it all together. Sometimes I add a fried egg to the mix. Always feel nourished by this dish.

Say you get home and you see some cheese, a few wilting greens, and eggs in your fridge. Assuming you also have access to standard pantry ingredients, such as pasta or rice, what would you make?

Just made something from those three ingredients last night! Whipped up a quickie thin omelet with two eggs, a few pieces of cheddar and a shriveled up shallot in the fridge. Placed a handful of salad greens that needed using on the plate, sprinkled a little salt and squeezed half a lemon (but would have happily used a grapefruit or orange), making an impromptu dressing. Toasted a piece of bread, turned omelet out of pan onto plate and poured myself a glass of wine. Lovely.

Are there certain ingredients that people should always have on hand to make these kind of last-minute meals easier to pull together?

Flour and yeast to make pizza dough -- so gratifying! Red or green lentils, which take about a half-hour to cook, a can of chickpeas to throw in with pasta, rice, couscous or quinoa, and that reminds me -- rice is a big staple at my house. A few onions and a few heads of garlic for seasoning. A carton of eggs for that omelet. Last but not least, an open mind and a sense of adventure!

  • For more on O'Donnel's money-saving ideas, read "6 Ways to Eat Better for Less."