keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh).

October 11, 2018

keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leavesThis post is sponsored by Pyrex and features the Pyrex Simply Store glass storage containers.

Whither the way to a low-waste kitchen? Is it meal planning? Eating your carrot tops and cooking your corn cobs? Convincing your four-year-old that she adored chili at three and so surely she can muster the same enthusiasm for it at four? 

Easier said than done, I concede. Despite lots of good intentions, veggies get forgotten in the bottom the crisper. Leftovers promised attention look unappetizing by the time anyone remembers them. The last tortilla gets moldy before it gets eaten. 

I’m still a believer in changing habits, and for me, the two most important habits to hone for curbing food waste, are keeping the fridge tidy and the food in it fresh. Helpful in our efforts to curb food waste? A set of Pyrex Simply Store glass containers. We use them to organize our fridge, stash prepped veggies and leftover portions, and keep foods fresher, longer. keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leaves

But what does tidiness have to do with food waste? For me, a tidy fridge is a fridge that I can scan and get a quick visual on what’s inside it. And, if I know what food I have, I’m simply more likely to eat it. keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leaves

In the fridge, we organize our glass containers by general food group and approximate date. Eggs, cheese and other dairy always go on the same shelf. Leftovers go on another. If something’s been around awhile, it sits up near the front. If it’s brand-new, it gets tucked in the back.keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leaves

When we buy something that comes wrapped in a bag or plastic wrap, we shift it directly into one of our Pyrex glass containers. Rehousing things like store-bought tortillas, cheddar cheese, or tofu, means less visual clutter in the fridge (tidy!) and a much longer shelf-life (fresh!).keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leaves

If I buy produce like carrots or cauliflower, that I know need some amount of prep before they’re ready to be eaten, I try to do this in a quiet moment on the weekend or after the kids are asleep, so that everything is ready to go during a more harried one. The barrier to entry on getting carrots caramelized in the oven is far lower if they’re scrubbed and ready to be quickly chopped on a weeknight. And if the week goes by and the carrots don’t get eaten? As long as they’re kept under cover in an airtight container, they’ll still be fresh enough to enjoy later.keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leaves

During the week, we try to make sure we’re stocked with easy basics like cooked beans, lentils, and rice. Like prepping veggies, these things require a bit of advanced planning. So if I take the time to make a large pot of beans, it’s helpful to know I can freeze half and refrigerate the other for two weeks of beans to include in lunches and dinners. (As a bonus, it’s very helpful that Pyrex containers can go from freezer to fridge to pre-heated oven and back again without incident.) Maybe most important, when hanger strikes, there’s something quick and easy that I’m able to put to immediate use.keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leaves

Which brings me to timing: Our children are generally ready to eat dinner at the hour when most adult humans are still enjoying their late afternoon snack. At the point in the day where I might have previously been eating the last crumbs of cookie and finishing a cup of hot tea, I now find myself somewhat more urgently trying to pull together components of a balanced meal. Lots of nights we all sit down together for an early bird special, but on other nights, my husband and I know that the only way to combat a full family meltdown is with easy, colorful plates of assorted finger foods to be scarfed by kids before bath time. In both scenarios, having options that are easy to grab and still fresh and tasty means that the food we have actually gets eaten.The end result? Fewer foods that get tossed into the compost at the end of the week and a fridge that’s nice to look at in the meantime.keeping the fridge tidy (and the food fresh). | reading my tea leaves

And I’m curious: Do you have brilliant tips for curbing food waste that you put into practice in your own homes?

This post was sponsored by Pyrex. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Reading My Tea Leaves.

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38 Comments

  • Reply olga October 11, 2018 at 10:26 am

    I keep a container of vegetable peels/scraps in the freezer. When it gets substantial, I use carcasses from roasted chickens to make chicken stock. Or just veg stock. Parm rinds get tossed into simmering pots with beans or soups. Orange/citrus rinds get dried and added to drawers with sweaters for freshening up the smell/moth repellent (old trick i learned from my russian grandmother). There are more, but my brain is a little foggy from not enough coffee.

  • Reply C October 11, 2018 at 11:01 am

    are those concord grapes? I’ve been looking for them but haven’t seen them anywhere in NYC yet.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 11, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Yes! We’ve had them at our local greenmarket (borough hall) for a few weeks now! So delicious!

  • Reply Kaelie October 11, 2018 at 11:04 am

    These dishes are awesome. I’ve been using them for the past 10 years and everytime someone gets married, they get a set because I think they are so useful! I like to use the 2 cup round ones to portion extra soups or leftovers right out of the pot and into the freezer. No need to thaw, just pop them in while the ove prheats and around 40 mintures later you have your own home cooked dinner to eat again.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 11, 2018 at 11:14 am

      Yes! They’re so refreshingly versatile.

    • Reply Jay October 11, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      Just a word of caution: always pre-heat your oven before you pop in your pyrex. They have been known to shatter otherwise.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 11, 2018 at 1:40 pm

        yup! preheat!

      • Reply kaelie October 12, 2018 at 10:16 am

        I’ve never had that problem, I ususally preheat the frozen food in the oven while it’s preheating. I’ve been doing it with the same dishes since I first got them.

  • Reply MissEm October 11, 2018 at 11:53 am

    We also do the glass container in the freezer for onion, celery, garlic, carrot and other veg scraps for broth. Lately I’ve been saving the ends of lemons to mix with a bit of salt for scrubbing my wooden cutting board every couple days. I’ve also just started prepping foods ahead of time and storing them in glass (chopped cabbage and kale, sliced veg with a homemade dip, etc) and it’s been fantastic. It looks so pretty and saves me from distracted, harried prep time in the moments when we most need peace and connection.

  • Reply Nancy October 11, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Nothing revolutionary but if I have odd bits here and there that are still good to eat but not enough to make a meal out of, I just chop it up and throw it in something else. A couple of weeks ago, I had some green peppers and leftover chicken, so I chopped up the chicken, mixed in salsa and spooned into green pepper sections, then melted cheese over the top. Turned out the kids love it and they call them pachos (pepper + nachos) and I’ve made them several times since then, on purpose! Also, I throw stuff in the freezer when I realize I won’t be able to use it before it goes bad. Otherwise, here in CA, we have municipal composting so I chuck everything in there.

  • Reply kimmagee October 11, 2018 at 11:57 am

    I appreciate that they are plastic (we resue ours many, many times) and kinda hideous but Debbie Meyer Green bags really work. We bring them to the farmers’ market, stock up and veggies (especially delicate greens) stay fresh for way longer. I don’t love that they are plastic and eventually we need to dipose of the ratty ones, but our food waste has gone way down. Very good option for once-a-week shoppers like us https://www.debbiemeyer.com/

  • Reply Jess October 11, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Learning better storage practices for produce has been huge for us in cutting down what gets tossed in the compost bin. We add a little water to containers with raw root vegetables (if chopped) or place them (whole) in a tightly wrapped grocery bag with a pretty damp kitchen towel, and they last WAY longer than when we would just toss them in the drawer (we’ve tried just wrapping with a damp towel but reusing a plastic bag always works way better :/) . And we store bunches of greens like kale/collards/chard in mason jars of water on the door of the fridge — as long as you swap the water out every couple days and trim the stems like you would flowers, they’ll keep well over a week, if you haven’t managed to use them by then.

  • Reply Mary Kate October 11, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Love Pyrex. I use them for everything — except bringing leftovers to work because they’re so heavy, but what you gonna do.
    As for food waste, I tend to throw leftover veggies into either omelettes or pasta dishes. Everything goes with eggs and cheese! Same with pasta and olive oil.!

  • Reply Sam October 11, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    I get a CSA and wash and prep (strip stems from greens, etc.) all the veggies when I pick them up. I store in cloth bags, Pyrex, our salad spinner and big jars. Cooked leftovers stored in jars and Pyrex, but I often do freeze things in gallon ziplocs bc I just don’t have enough freezer space to fill with jars. I cook almost all our meals ahead of time bc my toddler has same early evening hanger drama and she’s honestly impossible to cook with so I can’t get it done while she helps (lol) or entertains herself (also lol). The whole process is super dependent on a well-stocked freezer so I’m curious if anyone who has the same needs has found a way to avoid plastic ziplocs.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 11, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      We use our Pyrex in the freezer! It’s very tiny and we have our compost in there, too, but I love the 3-cup rectangular containers for stacking in there!

  • Reply Rachel October 11, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    I love this post. I am trying so hard to reduce food waste and to properly store food. I am a big fan of the NY Times author Sarah Wilson. She is big on minimalism and reducing waste. She just released a cookbook called Simplicious Flow, wherein the book provides recipes and shopping lists, and each recipe uses up every bit of your shop. It was just released in Australia, and not yet available in the US, but I can’t wait to get my mitts on it as soon as the book is available here in the States.

  • Reply Jay October 11, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    When I read the title of your post, I was hoping to get a peek inside your fridge!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 11, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      Ha! So hard to photograph in a kitchen without a window!

      • Reply Jay October 11, 2018 at 2:23 pm

        Always love the pics you post!

        I noticed these lids have the capacity/measurements on them. We’ve had our pyrex containers forever and use them daily for heating up oatmeal, work lunches, freezing batches of soup, etc. Oh, and for storing chocolate! My favorite pyrex container to open 🙂

  • Reply Kim October 11, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    I’m so excited to see this partnership! I love Pyrex, especially that they are durable & clear, and that it is possible to purchase replacements for just the plastic lids if they crack. I only keep around separate snap-lock glass storage containers for commuting with soup (to avoid spills)—would love a Pyrex option for that too 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 11, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      So glad! Me, too! (They make locking lids, too!)

    • Reply Lynda November 16, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Hello Kim – Can you share your source for the replacement lids?

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE November 16, 2018 at 9:42 am

        Hi Lynda! They’re available directly through Pyrex online!

  • Reply Pat S October 11, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Mason jars with the plastic reusable lids are my go to for most food storage. I do have a fair amount of pyrex, too, but I didn’t realize you could go from fridge or freezer to the oven. Do you know why the oven needs to be preheated? It would seem to be the opposite to me.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 11, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      I hear you! I would have thought the same, too. Not positive what the science is here, but Pyrex definitely advises that the oven be preheated before inserting glassware.

  • Reply Jennifer Odle October 11, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Loving these comments! The single biggest determining factor for our food waste is shopping more frequently but limiting myself to one single basket each trip. I’ve also found my kids to be much more patient with these quick 5-minute trips than the once weekly long hauls we used to do. Plus, the fridge, freezer or pantry never get too full! Every time we go away for a little weekend at my in-laws cottage we completely empty out the refrigerator in the days beforehand. This is easy to do when you start with so little, and it feels so nice coming home to a fresh start.

  • Reply Mel October 11, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Pyrex are great. I take my lunch in one to work and put a thick rubber band (leftover from holding my kale) around the lid for extra security. I wrap it up in a teatowel for a bit of padding, which allows me to wash it at work and not use the disposable paper towels in the kitchen. I don’t find them too heavy 🙂

  • Reply Meredith October 11, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Food waste is a big struggle for me. My biggest downfall , I think, is that I tend to go to the grocery store with a fantasy version of the time and motivation I’ll have to cook in my head.

    For example, I’ll plan to have yogurt for breakfast and a sandwich with roasted sweet potato and black bean spread for lunch. Then I’ll get to the store and decide to make yogurt instead of buying (thinking “I can cut out the plastic of all those tiny containers, plus I’ve always wanted to try making rhubarb compote”), and bread instead of buying (why do they always have to wrap the bread in plastic?), and I’ll throw in an avocado (because I feel obliged to put avocado on anything texmex inspired, even though I don’t really enjoy eating it) and oh the grapes look so good I’ll get those, but I want apples too…. and all of a sudden I’ll have a fridge full of stuff that I can only use if I complete a long and time -consuming list of cooking tasks, and way more fruit than I will realistically eat.

    So I’ve recently instituted a rule that in order to buy food I have to make sure that I have allotted time to make the food. This, in part, involves making sure I get out the door early enough on Sunday morning to do the shopping, so that I’ll have the time and the motivation to cook afterwards. It also involves being a bit more realistic about what foods I plan to eat (if the yogurt containers bother me that much, I can buy bulk oats instead, and I should probably only buy the grapes because I won’t eat all of the grapes and the apples before they go bad). Finally, it sometimes involves allowing myself a bit of grace when it comes to things like buying bread (in a plastic bag).

  • Reply SarahN October 11, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    HUGE fan of these pyrex – bought a lot when I started out on my own. Have since gifted to three couples as engagement or house warming gifts. It’s a higher up front cost, but it’s totally worth it to be largely plastic free, and so versatile. It’s like my zero waste/plastic free ways are infiltrating others, by stealth and gifts! I buy 10+, usually 5 of the rectangles, and 5 of the circles. From an outlet cause… I’m frugal like that!

  • Reply Steph October 11, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Jars are lifesavers and I buy less produce at once. My bf once exploded a pyrex by transferring it from the oven to the sink so hot to cold is probably not okay but cold to hot is good to go?
    I just started a little blog that’s been put off for years and I hope you like-minded readers can check it out. its about letting go of things and ideas to make room for more (travel, sustainability, etc).

  • Reply Mims October 11, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    I use wide mouth mason jars for soup, stews, beans and grains. I make pancake batter, smoothies, dressings, sauces directly in them too…just buzz them up with immersion blender. Then place top and ring and store in fridge. No blender to wash out, no waste from the bits that stick to blenders side. See through. So versatile.

    I also do a quick inventory every morning of the fridge contents to see what needs using up and plan my dinner around that. I also am ruthless about labeling and freezing anything that could go bad before it does and most importantly using it up at a later time. My favorite way to incorporate leftovers: hash, veggie fried rice, enchiladas, kitchen sink casseroles, soups. Salsa, peanut sauce, or ranch dressing makes things tastier. Though not all three together.

  • Reply Awfulknitter October 12, 2018 at 6:57 am

    Ha, so much love for Pyrex here! I like mine too. I mainly use them for make-ahead-freeze meals. It sounds like I shouldn’t do what I do, though. I often pop a tuna pasta bake from the freezer in the oven in the evening, and put the timer on so that it’s cooked when we come home the next day. It defrosts overnight and cooks through nicely.

    The thing that really helps us cut down on food waste, though, is planning ahead. Every Tuesday I make a meal plan for evening meals for the week, and then Wednesday is shopping day. If we don’t need it, we don’t buy it, and we can’t throw it away! But planning helps with other things too. If I don’t write ‘chocolate biscuits’ on the shopping list, I don’t walk down that aisle and that really cuts down on the temptation there is hanging around the house. I also think we eat better, because I plan a greater range of foods. If I made meal decisions on the day, we’d have pasta five times a week and pizza on the other two days! (I do love pasta…)

  • Reply Kelly Libby October 15, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Amazon fresh. I seriously find online grocery delivery life changing!!!

    I have ordered my last 3 grocery shopping “trips” online and they are delivered right to my door in paper bags (which i reuse over and over again). I find myself shopping and adding items to my cart far more thoughtfully than when I actually wander the store where there are so many impulse items — hello, fancy cheese and olive section.

    I’m not stressed, i’m not hangry, i’m not wandering aimlessly, i’m not over spending, i’m not buying too much and i’m cutting down on food waste because I only order what I think i’ll use. I can sit at my computer, or phone and add away. And, next time I can just add the whole previous order to my cart (or just add on a few).

    I still desire to shop local and at farmer’s markets but i’m learning that progress is far better than perfection that can never be achieved. I buy organic and fair trade, even online when possible.

  • Reply Heidi October 15, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Hi Erin, what sizes are you using here?!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 16, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Let’s see: The largest circle is 7 cups. The largest rectangle is 6 cups. Then I have two 4-cup circles, 2 3-cup rectangles, 2 2-cup circles, and 1 1-cup! I think that’s it!

  • Reply Lindsey October 16, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    I use all of These Pyrex containers as well. They are great, besides the lids are made much cheaper than they used to be. I have a set from my wedding six years ago that have not cracked, but unfortunately the newer ones are all cracked. While I appreciate their customer service sending me replacements, that doesn’t do much to prevent the cracked ones from going to a landfill. Since you have a partnernship maybe you could offer this up. On a side note, I’ve been a reader of the blog for a few years now and have always loved your aesthetic and writing.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 17, 2018 at 8:48 am

      Thanks Lindsey! Sorry to hear you’ve had trouble with your lids!

  • Reply Haley November 15, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I keep everything in bowls that way everything stays fresh and the fridge looks organized.

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