It sounds so simple: if you buy it, you must use it.

But it’s a philosophy I’ve never quite managed to master. Often I end up buying something for a new menu and either (a) I don’t like it or (b) it goes bad before I can find another recipe that uses it. Not that either of these reasons stop me from trying something new.

This week (and part of next) I’m trying recipes from the sample menu from Relish! The weekend’s meals (Saturday: Penne with Creamy Mushroom Sauce served with a classic Italian salad, and Sunday: Soy and Ginger Flank Steak served with an Asian spinach salad) were very tasty. Naturally I’ve managed to buy more than the recipe’s call for; either because the smallest bottles/jars/etc I could find are double (or more) what the recipes ask for, or because I have a devil of a time converting imperial to metric. So to use up all the food I bought, I’m also trying to prepare the dishes and freeze as many servings as I can just before cooking. It’s not quite OAMC (Once A Month Cooking), but it is similar in philosophy and hopefully this will stop me from ordering out as often as well as help me follow the new mantra.

I love to cook, but it always seems to bring out new challenges. In some cases (like where I bought two bunches of Asparagus when I needed less than one — they were on sale!), I’ll cook them up and use them for lunches. In others, like the extra spinach (the salad only used 1/2 the bag), I’ll sneak it into other salads this week (and maybe even bring salads for lunch). I hate buying bottled sauces though; unlike fresh fruit & vegetables you can’t just toss them into a meal and be certain no one will notice the difference. Mac & Cheese & tahini anyone? How about Thai red chili paste instead? OK, those actually sound kind-of yummy, but hopefully you see my point.

I still have 2+ liters of black beans to decant (they’re in my fridge in a big pot), and my fridge’s freezer has lots of chili still from two weeks ago. And yet the new menu doesn’t use black beans anywhere. I’ll freeze the beans, serve bean dip this week when friends come over, and try to use them as a staple next week.

Saturdays my fridge’s freezer is full and my fridge’s shelves are groaning (OK – the fridge is only so full you can’t see what’s in the back; which is a major cause for spoilage in my family). By Friday night, usually both are pretty much empty and all the drinks and grab-and-go stuff is usually gone by Friday morning (cheese, fresh fruit, yogurt, etc).

Next week, when the “Relish!” menu peters out, I’ll have to make a new inventory of what I have and try and figure out how little I can get away with buying to eek out a week’s worth of meals. If I’m very careful, I might be able to use up everything I have without buying many tins, sauces, and dried goods. It’s a rather work-intensive (but tasty) way of trying to recoup the added expenses from this week.

BTW – if you’re reading this (and apparently some folk are) – do leave me a comment. How successful are you at using up all of what you bought?

Minor edit: Added a couple of links to the post.