Mrs Green’s “Use it up!” challenge

Filed in Blog by on June 4, 2012 27 Comments
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food-pricesHave you noticed an increase in food prices recently?

This week we bought our usual orange juice from the Co-Op. For as long as I can remember it’s cost £2.65 for two litres. This week it had gone up to £3!

That’s a huge increase and sudden jump in price.I spent over £80 this week and I don’t think I have enough food to last us a week. Whenever we pop somewhere to buy one or two things we seem to come home with £20 of stuff. I commented to Mr Green that it was becoming a crime, not only to the environment, but to our wallets, to waste food at current prices.

However, I have a freezer bursting at the seams with food, and this got me thinking about a challenge which I’d love you to participate in.

I’ve deliberately avoided the supermarkets recently because of the Jubilee celebrations. I know from past experiences, both as a checkout girl and customer, that supermarkets can be mad places to be before a Bank Holiday weekend.

People seem to stock up like we’re about to enter rationing again, shelves get stripped of food and brains get stripped of common sense. And sometimes skin gets stripped from body as the sixth person wheels their trolley into the back of your ankles.

After the bank holiday weekend we roll effortlessly into half term which means another hungry mouth to feed at lunchtime, and that’s why it’s perfect timing for my ‘Use it up!’ challenge.

I’m going to take a freezer inventory, check through the packets and tins in the cupboards and see if we can live without shopping for a while. I’ll need to top up on fresh fruit and vegetables, but apart from that I reckon we can manage for at least a week; probably much longer.

I love my freezer, but I don’t manage it very well. One of my habits is stuffing things in there; either produce harvested from the garden or ‘can’t resist’ offers. A few months later I find them with freezer burn and only fit for the bin. In a couple of months time I’ll be harvesting beans from the garden again so I plan to use up last years glut. I’ve got stewed apple in there and lots of organic chicken that I bought half price. I’m aware there will be several UFOs (unidentified frozen objects) lurking too, so it’s time to defrost them and serve them up for dinner.

My food storage is a mess. I need to go through everything and rotate it in date order. Mr Green found a case of oats recently that are already 6 months past their Best Before date – these can be made into crumble toppings for the stewed apples.

I usually spend at least £450 on food per month, so let’s see how I can slash that for June.

What about you? Would you like to take part in a ‘Use it up!” challenge this month? It will help save money AND prevent food waste. Sign up below to take the pledge!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (27)

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  1. Thanks I enjoyed that.

    It is very satisfying to use stuff up, I am always trying to use stuff up in my kitchen. It feels like you are clearing out your rubbish and leaving space for new fresh stuff.

    Do you not have farmers markets where you live?

    Tristan Titeux

  2. mieke says:

    About twice a year I do the same, take a look at the dates and stuff at the back of my storage cupboard, and ‘eat up’ all thatt is there. You sometimes get funny meals, but wasting is bad.
    Dry goods or cans that are over their use buy date I eat anyway.

    But I wouldn’t eat a can of asparagus which use date was 3 year ago
    Last year my mum asked me to clear some of my dad and her’s storage cupboard, we found a can of asparagus,( 3 years out of date), we opened it and were disgusted, we had to throw it out, The kitchen smelled for 3 days!
    We also found a bottle op 7-up, 3 months passed it’s use date, The fizz was mostly gone, but we drank it anyway. It was O.K.

    I do stick to use by dates, but sometimes you have to use your common sense and look past them.

  3. sandy says:

    well what a challange, in fact I have just done a total for fridge freezer and cupboard, now I know there is only two of use but, by my reconing, I think we can go at least a month, (we have a veg box each week) challenge on LOL x

  4. I need this very badly! I’m in. I am always amazed at what I can make out of the items in my freezer and pantry.

  5. I agree you have to use your common sense when it comes to dates, I am rarely bothered by use by dates, I will eat anything as long as it isn’t rotten, moudly and doesn’t stink! I don’t like wasting stuff either.
    It is amazing how long you can end up keeping things in a cupboard for, and then you look at the date and think my gosh, how did 2 years fly past the use by date! (I don’t usually eat things that old, but I probably would though, just people scared me off of doing so, plus not sure how much goodness would be left after such a long time, but again, depends what it is!)

  6. Jennifer says:

    Good challenge! I know I’ve got some stuff in the cupboard/freezer that is pretty darn old. I’m not good at keeping track of what’s in there, so I end up buying new stuff. I guess that would explain the four cans of garbanzos!

    I’m all stocked up for this week, but I’ll try your challenge next week.

  7. Ann says:

    Funny, that’s just what I am in the middle of, right now! I have been working through the herbal teabags, collected over what has turned out to be “many years”. I now know that Lemon Zinger tea, dated “best before June 2006” tastes fine – however, having bought the packet back in 2004 and not much liking it then, I find I still don’t like it much now, but … only one bag to go. Perhaps I should use it right now. Lesson learnt: next time I don’t like a purchase, I’ll give it away while it’s still fresh enough for someone else to enjoy!

  8. Claire says:

    Oh, I’m in! I have alot of last years fruit harvest to finish off, and various bits of things that aren’t big enough to do a whole meal, so it’s time to get imaginative.

  9. Use by dates worry me less the higher the sugar content of the food is. Basically high sugar content food can support very few things that are bad for you gut. So jam, marmalade, sweets and sugar itself can all be eaten years after the best before date.

  10. Jane says:

    I think I’ll go for the little challenge of herbal teas right now! I’ve been drinking too much caffeine recently. Then maybe a sort through of cans and jars and making my customary line along the skirting board of things to use up next. It helps focus the mind.

  11. Jane says:

    You are so right about last year’s harvest in the freezer – only it wasn’t last year’s This is why I prefer bottling some fruit. You do need to MAKE the time but it is easier to see and give away/swap. Apple always ends up on blocks of rough puree in the freezer. We don’t eat puddings much but there is a really good recipe for pork chops where after a quick grill you cover them in a layer of rough apple puree (I use a potato masher) and then a layer of slices, a sprinkling of sugar and a knob of butter and brown to finish cooking. Gary Rhodes’ recipe I think. I expect you can google it to make it perfectly. I usually use it to use up wrinkly Cox apples.

  12. OrganisedPauper says:

    I’m definitely joining you. I have £163.12 in my budget for the whole of June to buy groceries, toiletries and cleaning products for 2 adults, 1 teenager, 2 dogs and 2 cats. Shamefully I have rhubarb in the garden I haven’t used. I think some of it is now too big to be anything other than stringy.

  13. Julie Day says:

    This is a good challenge. Maybe I will do this next week. We shall have to work out a week’s menu of dinners with what we have left in the freezer etc. See how it goes. Have to talk to Mum about it, after she has been and gone to Blackpool to visit her sister.

  14. I quite often buy out of date food items from an online discount retailer. As well as jars and tins I find most dry goods keep far and away longer than their date. Also UHT items like fruit juice and soya milk keep very well too.

  15. Tristan says:

    There are two great stalls on Portobello Road that we both call the cheap stall, and it’s all stuff that is running out of date etc but you can’t get much healthy food though, but if you like chocolate, tins, jars and cheese and cured meat it’s great!

  16. Sarah says:

    I’m definately in, I have spent a huge chunk of this months budget on our jubilee celebration bbq. Just fruit and veg to be bought here 🙂

  17. Naomi says:

    Timely post! I just finished this. I buy grassfed meat in bulk through local coops and my freezer can runneth over with who knows what. I am down to bare shelves and a few meals last week were a magical mystery until I got into the kitchen. Rice with pasta sauce makes a lovely side dish in a pinch. Even the onions and garlic are all used up! I’ve always read it was good Feng Shui to have a well-stocked fridge but the truth for me is it leads to waste, spoilage, plus it’s impossible to keep up with cleaning it. It can be very hard to walk away from a “deal” but it’s no deal if it gets wasted. Plus as we now all consume far less, the grocery bill is lower if I am more realistic about how much we really need on hand.

    Other ways I am working on lowering cost: add in more lower cost items that I find a pain to prepare from scratch like beans and rice. Hopefully, this will stretch the budget. And get some stuff online. I hate to not support a local source but this economy is brutal.

  18. LJayne says:

    We are good for cupboards and things as we shop mostly online once a month and so we have stock levels, rotation etc (can you tell I used to be a supermarket manager 😉 )

    But I’m less good with my freezer so I’d be up for this too. We have a lot of frozen damsons that we thought we were going to stew but actually I think I’ll do a second batch of vodka with them lol !

    We do sometimes have ‘freezer dive’ for dinner where we all have different bits of leftovers 🙂

  19. Count me in! We routinely go through our cupboards and freezer and use what’s there … it’s a fun challenge because we try to create some new dishes with whatever we find. Needless to say that by the end of the “cleanse” our meals are “ify” at best … and rarely do we keep any of the creative recipes. LOL! My trouble area is the back of my refrigerator where bottles of this and that lurk. Things get shoved back there and then it’s “outta sight, outta mind”. So, in addition to not buying anything and using what we have, I pledge to go through the refrigerator this week and use up what I find! Thanks for the gentle push Mrs. Green!

  20. @Tristan: We have a cheap stall locally like that too. Stock does vary though, both with the online retailer I use and the cheap stall. I’ve had some really nice dry goods like organic pasta, flour, broth or soup mix that’s beans and barley, sundried tomatoes, herbs, all sorts of things. It’s worth while always checking as some things come in just once or twice.

  21. Tristan says:

    @organiser@OrganisedPauper: Yes they do get some nice organic stuff sometimes, olive oil, or tomato sauce etc, I can’t remember because I don’t live near there any more so don’t go much.

    I am constantly trying to use up stuff, the thing is I am the dustbin in the family, no one else wants to use up old stuff, usually it’s old because no one wants it. And it’s usually my fault because I like to try new things, but no one else shares my enthusiasm for food! :o( We should all organise a big festival once a year where we bring all the stuff no one wants and create amazing dishes!! o) I am glad to hear that others are like me on here.

    By the way I hear a great fact the other day, I hope I have it right, but we waste 40% of all food we create, can you imagine that!? It is criminal, specially shops to put food in the bin when there are people and animals that we could feed with it. :o)

  22. @Tristan: I am currently eating my way through packets of flavoured couscous that no-one will eat. This is on the back of a glut of cuppa soups I’ve been having for lunch. I don’t normally buy things like that, but thought it might give DH something easy to do and hot to have with his lunch at work now and again. He never go round to having them, so I have had a very boring lunch for a week or so. Now I am having a break from the cuppa soups with couscous, then it will back to cuppa soups. Never again!

  23. rewinn says:

    Thanks for the great idea; I’m slowly cleaning out my fridge/freezer as part of the Change The World Wednesday challenge and so far have found some useful food as I “Use It Up!”

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