Waste Not, Want Lots –Or, How I Emptied the Fridge for My Spring Vacation
Bizarre child that I was, I loved clipping coupons. I’d grab the shiny inserts from the Sunday papers, cut them with my mother’s special scissors, and arrange them in neat stacks on the counter where my parents would promptly ignore them and inevitably forget about them. The frugal gene is still in me, and I admit to delighting in half-off, buy one get twelve free, and so on, but even more than buying extra socks or four boxes of cereal because some coupon dictates it, I find a special thrill in leftovers. My best friend from college was over for tea last week as I made Leftover Cereal Muffins (see below). Liz is Scottish and we lived together while we were at Oxford. Liz watched me empty the cereal crumbs into a mixing bowl. “You would have been great during World War II in Britain.” “We had leftovers all the time growing up,” my husband laments to me after I’ve made – again – the exact correct amount of baked pasta with vegetables that we have no extras for the following night’s meal. It comes with the territory of having cooked for a living – estimating how much fish or produce each meal requires so that nothing goes to waste. Poking through the fridge, though, I find lots of extra bits that can be used up. I loathe letting carrots or cucumbers become refrigerator swamp, growing mossy as each day slips by. Or the greens that get shoved to the back and forgotten about. A waste of money, of time spent buying it, of resources. So I gather the greens and start thinking. Plus, we’re leaving for Martha’s Vineyard next week, so cleaning out the fridge is a must. “Do we have to eat tuna and frozen peas for dinner?” asks Jamie, nervous as he sees the dregs of what’s left. “Hey,” I say to any kid that will listen. “Delicious dinners can be fashioned from the wilting salad greens…” “You sound like a commercial!” laughs Daniel, pointing at me accusingly. Currently housed in the crisper (ahem – they are not crisp) we have a bunch of old salad stuff, and there’s stale bread on top of the fridge. My mind starts churning. “This could be bread pudding or croutons!” Of course there are the dreaded six boxes of cereal. Sure you can use leftover cereals, mixed together, and combined with melted marshmallows for a Rice Krispie-style treat, but there are other uses for those boxes of “not enough for a whole bowl”, “I suddenly don’t like this kind anymore”, “yuck – it’s all dust and crumbs”. Breads, rolls, cookies, and bars all benefit from leftover cereals. “You’re making cereal cookies?” Daniel can’t believe his luck. Then he reconsiders. “Has there ever been a gross cookie in the history of cookies?” “Yes,” oldest sibling Jamie says, even though he has no proof. He crack sup as he looks at me. “In 1897 there was a woman named…named Evelyn Cookiehead and she…” I take the boxes from the cabinet and line them up. The cookies don’t work that well with leftover super-sugary cereals (make those into rainbow necklaces). But anything flakey, o-shaped, or shredded works well, as do any leftovers with bran content. If you eat Autumn Wheat, the remnants in those boxes are perfect. Adam hands me a challenge. “Too bad you can’t do something with this.” He hands me a glass container filled with leftover sticky oatmeal. I briefly consider using it to spackle the bathroom. “Actually, we can make flatbread or muffins with it.” Pretty soon the fridge will be empty and we’ll be able to move on to packing the car for our 3-day-getaway. There will be off-season beach walks, bike rides, morning excursions to my favorite bakery for cinnamon-sugar twists and apple fritters. There will be a giant, slobbery, fluffy puppy to take up more room in the car. There will be Jamie and his eighteen (hardcover) books he MUST lug everywhere. There will be Julia and her twelve layers of clothing looking more chic than any fashion maven. There will be Will and his parade of crappy cars (when you are the 4th kid, nothing is new) with their popped-off wheels or no-ladder fire engines. There will be Daniel and his…nothing. Daniel needs nothing but his hands and his lap, or anything in his path on which to drum. Constantly. The bad news is it really is a never-ending percussion situation. The good news is that he’s pretty good, especially for a kid that doesn’t have a drum set [note: If grandparents are reading this – yes, you may buy him a used drum set…if you keep it at YOUR house]. There will be Adam’s DJ-ing from the passenger seat as I drive the car onto the ferry, our cacophonous crew contained in the minivan. But now, there are a few more leftovers from a dinner party last week — half-used bottles of wine that will make a great marinade. My fridge is cleaned out, my wallet isn’t, my kids can get through the morning without arguing over who has to eat “the dead part of the cereal,” and my husband has leftovers to last until tomorrow. Now it’s time to walk the dog – while eating a cookie.
- Passover/Spring Recipe RoundupApr 4, 2014
- Kale Salad with Apples, Red Onion, & Sunflower Seeds & Stopping TimeDec 16, 2013
- Best Vegan Coconut Bread or Muffins & Custom RecipesDec 9, 2013
- Carrot-Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Little House on the PrairieDec 4, 2013
- Latkes (Crispy Potato Pancakes) & Wish ListsDec 2, 2013