10 easy dinner ideas to clean out the fridge

November 17, 2016
10 Easy Dinner Ideas to Clean Out the Fridge, Weeknight, For Beginners, Tips, Cooking Tips, Organization, Clean Out The Fridge Dinners, Recipe, Dinner Ideas, Minimalist Cooking, Simple Cooking, Minimalism

I intended to post this last week, since I’m trying to stick to a regular bi-weekly blogging schedule, but I couldn’t bring myself to write about something as trivial as food when THAT happened. Of course, I’m not American but as a citizen of the, umm, world, let’s just say that I (along with many, many others) had a vested interest in the outcome of the US election. And so I watched, at first in anticipation, and then progressively in disbelief as the map on the live Google feed became more and more red.

No matter what side you were on, or who you would have voted for (had you had the privilege), I think we can all agree that it was a shock, the never-in-a-million-years kinda event that actually DOES comes true. And seeing as THAT happened, I can only imagine that it opens the door to other never-in-a-million-years type events. Whether it’s big things—like a women as POTUS (Michelle in 2020 perhaps?)—or small things—like Tim Hortons coming to Australia, or cauliflower dropping to less than $5 a head—a girl can dream.

But in the meantime, a girl’s gotta eat cuz that’s the funny thing about life—sure, you can take a timeout, but it’ll be right there waiting for you when you decide to come back.

And so here we are, back in the saddle, talking about my second favourite topic (after meal planning, duh): wasting food. Or more importantly, NOT wasting food. For me, minimizing our food waste on a weekly basis is almost as important as putting a healthy dinner on the table every night. Am I perfect? Of course not. Meal planning means we’re off to a good start but inevitably, we get to the place where the fridge has a few odds and ends that need a home. If you ever find yourself in the same boat, PUH-LEASE do me this one, teeny favour and don’t just automatically throw everything out. Collect your basket ingredients and see what you can do. Sure, you may not be able to save everything, but you’ll make progress. And progress is what counts.

Quick sidebar: Did you catch the reference to Chopped there, aka the Food Network tv show where contestants get a random basket of ingredients and need to turn it into something edible in 30 minutes? This is the second time it’s come up on tha blog, the first being when I said that facing a “Chopped situation” is not super fun on a Tuesday after work and a commute. And that sentiment still holds true. However, at a time where you’re trying to clean out the fridge anyway, and likely didn’t have a game plan in the first place (e.g. a Saturday lunch or night where you were going out for dinner but changed your mind), I see no issue with it. In fact, taking random things from the fridge and turning them into something unexpectedly delicious can be totally fun. It’s all about context, k?

To get you started, here are TEN dinner ideas that are perfect to clean out the fridge. You’ll notice that these aren’t recipes per se and that’s deliberate—when you clean out the fridge, you’re winging it a bit and that’s part of the adventure. Take a basic recipe that you already know and use the ingredients that you have to fill in the gaps. Two magical things will happen: 1) you’ll waste less food and 2) you’ll add some variety to yo’ dinner. How easy is that?

Ok, so here we go, in no particular order…

  1. Pizza: I totally lied when I said “no particular order” because pizza is always #1 in my books. Beautiful dough (whether store bought or homemade) is the perfect canvas for whatever random veggies, herbs, meats, CHEESES and other fridge or pantry items (think olives, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, etc.) you have laying around. If you’re still afraid of making your own pizza, know this: it will change your opinion of what pizza can be fore-evah (and wait until you make your own dough—ohmygawd).
  2. Soup: One of my second loves, and a staple in my lunchtime rotation, is the not-so-humble soup. Again, choose your base (maybe brothy, tomato-y or creamy) and throw in whatever veggies you can find. Pantry staples like rice, beans or even pasta can help to add bulk and cheese never hurts as a topping, non?
  3. Sandwich: Soup’s bff is totally sandwich, and it’s equally flexible when it comes to random fridge ingredients. Is it just me or are men, in particular, totally skilled when it comes to turning ANYTHING into a sandwich? When in doubt, ask a man to fix you up a sammy and he’ll totally sort you out.
  4. Salad: The “s” theme continues with salad. Obviously veggies and herbs are the primary targets here, buts lots of good toppings can be lurking in the fridge and pantry as well (see pizza list above).
  5. Mexican: Ok, ok, so this is an entire cuisine but I really just couldn’t choose. From tacos, to burritos, enchiladas, and even nachos, the Mexican portfolio is packed with options to help you handle your fridge situ.
  6. Stir fry: Are stir fries still cool? I dunno but I still like ’em. Take any veggies you got hanging around, add leftover protein, make a quick sauce (or just soy sauce if you’re in a rush) and serve over somefin. What’s not to love about that?
  7. Bowl food: What list would be complete without mentioning food in bowls. Not only are they super trendy, BUT also a great excuse to turn random ingredients into something delicious. Tie it with a sauce and dinner really couldn’t be any simpler.
  8. Stuffed potatoes: As a proud potato lover, stuffed potatoes, regular or sweet, are a perfect dinner to 1) indulge in my love of spuds and 2) clean out the fridge with random goodness. You can also create a more DYI situ with a “build your own potato” bar if you prefer—remember that the potato is a friend to all, whether veggies, beans, cheese, etc., so you’re in for a good time. Just remember to cut them in half lengthwise, otherwise you’re looking at 1+ hours to bake. After work, ain’t nobody got time for that.
  9. Appetizer/snack platter: As you already know, I’ll take any excuse to eat appetizer for dinner. It’s not just fun but it can be healthy if you do it right—ie. balance the veggies, meats, cheeses, carbs, dips (!), other random fridge items (again, see pizza list) and pantry items (think nuts, dried fruit). Do that and dinner is served.
  10. Frittata: If there’s one thing I’m likely most known for in my family, at least when it comes to “clean out the fridge” recipes, it’s actually the humble frittata. Without fail, every family holiday I will make a frittata to deal with the leftover situ that has inevitably taken over the fridge. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Shout out to my sister who 1) gave me the idea for this post and 2) like me, is pretty scrappy when it comes to cooking.

So…what did I miss? What are you favourite dinner ideas to clean out the fridge? Lemme know!

Ground turkey chili with butternut squash Deb’s weeknight pizza dough for busy people

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