Overwhelmed by Leftovers

by Anne Maxfield on December 2, 2019


This is probably the worst time of year to decide that I’ve fallen out of love with them.

I used to think leftovers were great—what’s not to like? Good food with little or no cooking and no food waste.

And it was fun to think of new ways to repurpose food.

But now I’m overwhelmed. It just seems that they just keep coming and never get finished or if they do, something else comes to take their place.

And it’s not like I feel like I’ve been cooking up a storm—no need there’s leftovers from____.

My frustration might come from not having a big freezer anymore. It was great for (burying) leftovers, you could just freeze them and pull them out when you didn’t feel like cooking. Now, limited to a tiny freezer, there’s no place for much except the essentials.

It comes from a new Thursday night “off the menu” place where we can request Greek favorites. The food is good—home cooking which comes in huge portions that are easily enough for a couple of meals.

Some of it comes from just not eating as much as we used to, which is probably a good thing.

Besides the meals, there are bits and pieces of dinners prepared–marscapone from the spinach ravioli, crema from some Mexican dish–you get the picture.

But it’s frustrating. I’m so hard-wired to take food home, that except for French fries, any leftovers come home. Most of them get repackaged and put front and center in the fridge so they will get seen and eaten.

Then they’re like a giant roadblock. Gotta eat them before you can move on to the next thing on the want to cook list.

Right now there’s leftover duck from Thanksgiving, some roast chicken, a few lamb chops and potatoes from our anniversary dinner, and pasta from last night—at least 5 potential dinners for 2 disinterested diners.

So, what to do? Can’t leave food or toss it, there’s too much food waste anyway and despite my efforts we end up tossing more than I’d like.  Got any great ideas? And how do I become a leftover lover again?





Shopping My Freezer: 8 Weeks and 23 Meals

by Anne Maxfield on May 2, 2016

Accidental Locavore Freezer InsideYou know that moment when you open the freezer and the last thing that was shoved into it drops on your foot. You howl in pain and vow to clean it out—pronto! That was the state of the Accidental Locavore’s freezer. As a challenge, I thought I’d see how long we could go eating what we already have, buying vegetables and perishables only.

The unofficial start was March 12th – with a grape leaf “pie” from Ottolenghi’s Nopi cookbook (delicious!) made with ground beef and a marrowbone from the freezer – and is still going on as we reach the end of April. We have eaten out several times, and I haven’t really counted the nights we ate leftovers, but so far it’s been over 20 meals created from what we had on hand.

Accidental Locavore Grapeleaf PieI have bought fish three times, some (extraordinarily tough) chicken thighs and a couple of pork tenderloins, but that’s it for the meat and seafood section of the market in eight weeks. Needless to say, our grocery bill was significantly lower too.

So what does a month of shopping the freezer look like?

  1. The aforementioned grape leaf pie
  2. Albondigas I made for Frank before I left for France and an avocado with dressing.
  3. Lunch of salad with feta (homemade), and leftover steak
  4. Indian chicken, basmati rice and roasted broccoli
  5. Guests for dinner of pulled pork and mac and cheese
  6. Pasta Puttanesca with Italian sausage (from the pig class)
  7. Moroccan lamb shanks with artichokes, butternut squash (from freezer), dried chickpeas (balance now in freezer) and couscous
  8. Leftover grape leaf pie
  9. Chicken with cilantro chutney
  10. Meringue cookies with chocolate from freezer, cornflakes from cupboard, egg whites from hollandaise sauceAccidental Locavore Freezer Door
  11. Broccoli soup with stock from freezer
  12. Lamb stew with spinach and basmati rice
  13. Lasagna, sauce and Italian sausage from freezer
  14. Pork roast with hoisin sauce
  15. Cod wrapped in banana leaves (from freezer) with cilantro chutney
  16. Amazing Tartine Bakery bread for toast
  17. Lamb-stuffed grapeleaves
  18. French onion soup
  19. Another batch of pasta Puttanesca with Italian sausage and a couple of meatballs
  20. Lasagna with the leftover Puttanesca
  21. Chocolate salted-caramel mousse with chocolate from the freezer (and some tuiles I whipped up
  22. Rao’s meatballs with ground beef we were going to make burgers from
  23. BBQ spare ribs

Accidental Locavore Sealded FoodMy verdict: Without my FoodSaver (sealer) almost all of this would have suffered from freezer burn–it is worth the money! All the pork, lamb and beef we got locally was either sealed or well wrapped in butcher paper. Even with all these great meals, the freezer is still pretty packed. We could/can go at least another month and let me tell you, shopping from my freezer is a whole lot easier than running out to the market every other day! Besides, I like the challenge of working with what I’ve got. How long do you think you could go shopping your freezer?




Accidental Locavore Freezer Before

Desperation, coupled with the prospect of a new year and the expectation of resolutions, can be a powerful motivator. With all that in mind, the Accidental Locavore decided to tackle the black-hole of forgotten food, otherwise known as the freezer. The goals were simple, open the door, see what was in there, decide if it was still edible/worth saving and try (desperately) to make order out of frozen chaos.

Because of recent Charcutepalooza challenges requiring the use of large areas in a small freezer, I’ve spent the past few months rearranging the deck chairs, so to speak, but have not tackled the larger issues. The recent addition of a gift of three containers of puff pastry, while welcome, also presented its own set of challenges (note to self: two of them could happily go upstate, where there’s not a holiday big enough to get me to clear out that freezer).

Accidental Locavore Freezer ContentsWhat I found:

  • 3 frozen pizzas
  • 2 Indian dinners
  • Banana leaves
  • 3 containers of pine nuts
  • Duck rilettes
  • Fois gras
  • 3 containers of puff pastry
  • Mushroom risotto hors d’oeuvres
  • 3 kinds of ravioli
  • Gnocchi
  • Cod fillet
  • Part of a small bottle of sake
  • 2 bags Chinese pork dumplings
  • Banana bread
  • Baguette
  • 3 Bagels
  • 3 kinds of bacon
  • Pork skin
  • 2 kinds of Italian sausage
  • 2 batches of pesto
  • Coq au vin (tossed)
  • Corn
  • 2 bags artichoke hearts
  • Rice
  • Ground pork
  • Duck
  • Duck leg confit
  • Pork sausage
  • Duck livers
  • 2 types cooking chocolate
  • Kafir lime leaves
  • The ginger I was looking for yesterday…
  • Thai chiles
  • Hangar steak (tossed)
  • 8 ice packs
  • Bag of chimichurri rice
  • 2 small containers of split pea soup
  • Bag of meatless meatballs

Accidental Locavore Freezer AfterThe verdict: took an hour. Not sure if it looks any better, however I do know what’s in there (lots of duck & pork) and (vaguely) where it is. Have shelves for meat, veggies, pasta, puff pastry, bread etc. Put the small stuff and ice packs in the door, added the pesto to the shelf with the pasta. Took some of the bacon and the ground pork out to thaw to make albondigas for Frank for dinner tonight. Heated the mushroom risotto hors d’oeuvres and brought them to Zhu Zhu’s amazing New Year’s Eve dinner.

What’s in your freezer?