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Thread: need tips on how to keep up with dishes and left over ingredients

  1. #1

    Unhappy need tips on how to keep up with dishes and left over ingredients

    I've only recently converted from junk food and frozen dinners to trying to cook healthy meals. I can't seem to keep up with the dirty pots and pans, and seem to have the refrigerator full of left over ingredients like plain yogurt,cottage cheese,other cheeses,mushrooms etc. which end up going bad. I start preparing my meal as soon as I get home from work, but by the time it is ready, I only seem to have enough time to eat and then it is bed time. I could really use some organizing tips.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Marietta, Ga
    Hi newcook.

    Planning helps. You could take a quick look in the fridge and see what needs to be used up before you go to the grocery store, then find something to make with it.

    Other details just come with experience. Sometimes I try to wash the prep dishes before I start cooking. That leaves less to clean up after dinner.

    I try to use only one cutting board and knife. I just make sure I cut up any meat last.

    If you've got the CL you could try some of the Dinner Tonight recipes. They are generally very quick to prepare. I've gotten better about preparing more than one recipe. A good way to learn is to make a one dish recipe or do a main dish recipe and simple sides. Just steamed veggies with a little butter and salt. Maybe some rice or pasta with jarred sauce, or mashed (or baked potatoes.

    Then again, I currently have 5 open jars of mustard in the fridge. To my credit I do have 4 different types of mustard.

    "Mommy, Can we Please, Please, Please have spinach for dinner?" DD2(age 6)

  3. #3
    I never thought of washing as I go, that is a really good idea. I think you are right about starting with simpler recipes, but I couldn't help being tempted by some more involved recipes. And in the end I only end up making 1/3 of the recipes I'd planned on. Way too much waste! I think I'd better plan on only 3 meals per week for now until I pick up a little speed at the chopping and measuring stage.
    Thanks for replying to me. I have to say I am really starting to enjoy cooking

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Arlington, VA
    Cleaning as you go is critical. One tip I haven't tried but might is to fill up the sink with soapy water when you start the prep. As you dirty things up give them a swish in the sudsy water. Then all you need to do is wipe them off and put them in the dishwasher!

    Planning is important too. I make a meal plan for the week, trying to include nights of leftovers, and ONLY buy what I need at the store. I am really bad about dairy products, so I only buy milk, yogurt, cheese, etc if I have a specific plan on how to use it. Same with veggies.

    Try to plan for meals that will produce at least one night of leftovers. Or make twice as much of a side dish so you can have that for two nights. Now that the weather and produce are better I'll make a huge salad on Sunday night and put it all in a big tupperware (no dressing of course). That serves for a few nights' dinners before it starts to look wilted. It helps to keep "wet" veggies out - like I seed my cucumbers before putting them in.

    Also only plan one or two more complicated meals for a week - otherwise you'll burn yourself out. Keep it simple the other nights!

    Good luck and enjoy the journey!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Oswego NY USA
    I don't know if you shop at a big grocery store, but be on the lookout for smaller size ingredients. The big push in marketing is larger sizes, I know- containers with gallons of mayo, pounds of seeds- but I find that I have less waste and actually spend less money if I buy what I need. I live in a small city so I can get to a store any time, which helps if I'm looking for a certain ingredient I don't have, or if I want to see what produce is fresh for the day. But sure, sometimes I end up throwing out a quarter container of plain yogurt or something. I just chalk that up to the price of eating something homemade. This might be blasphemous but DH and I don't really eat leftovers. So,my meal plans take that into account. We make what we eat and eat what we make. Again, that's just our way- not the right way- as you get into more cooking you'll find out what you like to do!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    San Ramon, CA
    Another way to use up leftovers is to try and plan meals that use the same ingredients. If you are making something with an ingredient that you don't use that often you can check a website like that will let you search by ingredient. This board is another great resource ... you can post that you have something and you want ideas what to make with it.

    I also have no problem with throwing bad food out...I figure the waste is still less money than going out to eat or buying prepared meals.

    Good does come easier with time....

    Democrats are Sexy. Who has ever heard of a good piece of elephant?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Santa Monica, CA
    There are some cookbooks out there (I think one of them is a Pampered Chef cookbook) that will give you a recipe for dinner one night..with the plan that some of the leftovers from that meal go into making the next night's meal. The second night's meal is usually simpler, too.

    I don't have one of those cookbooks, but have started doing some of that on my own. For instance...greens for a tossed salad always go to waste in our house, so now if I plan a salad with dinner on Monday, I buy the stuff for a taco salad dinner on Tues., to use the lettuce up. Often when I make homemade salad dressing for a salad, I will use the extra to marinate chicken or beef in the following night. And searching by ingredient in a cookbook or website really IS a great way to use up what you have in the fridge.

    As far as doing the dishes...that can get old fast. DH and I have a deal..I cook, he cleans. If you don't have a DH, perhaps you could find a friend who likes to eat for exchange for a little help with the cleanup?

  8. #8
    I will definitely try the all recipes search by ingredient to use up the left over ingredients. I will also definitely have to search for a DH, Ha,ha!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Overland Park, KS
    I always check the expiration dates on the dairy products, and look at the ones in the back of the row, cause they usually have a later date on them, and will last you longer that way.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Brit living in TO

    Do you have a spare hour (or even 30 minutes) in the morning before school/work? If so, perhaps you could prep your ingredients for dinner later in the evening. I do this all the time.

    Or, perhaps set aside your Sunday afternoon and prep up a few things. Chop a bunch of salad produce, put together a few marinades for meats a few days later, chop some vegetables for stir frys.

    Or, why not make a few freezable dishes? That way, commit yourself to cooking let's say, 3 dishes a week, then use the frozen dinners for the rest. Some good contenders are lasagne, chili (although it's getting a little warm for that) and ... mmm ... I don't make frozen dinners so perhaps others will have a better idea.

    Also, you should, if you're not already, assign more complicted meals for the weekend when you have more time. On weeknights, just stick to things that are good to go within 30 minutes.

    Another idea is to invest in a slow cooker. That way, you can set if off in the morning, and come home to dinner already done.

    Hope that helps.

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