An Update on Operation Use-It-Up

February 16, 2013

Last January, I posted about my New Year’s Resolution to stop pretending that food storage worked like a bank vault, and to start using up food from my freezer and pantry before I had to throw any of it out. I started with the bag of three-summers-old frozen blackberries that I found on New Year’s day, and continued in a similar vein through the winter.

So, you ask, how did it go? Was I able to clean out the freezers and empty the pantry of excess food? We-e-ll… here’s the story:

With the encouragement of readers, friends, and family, I worked at it.  I posted frequently about Operation Use-it-Up until the spring, at which time I started filling the freezers again with seasonal bounty and became reluctant to admit that my food hoarding habits were getting the better of me. But still, I kept on Using-it-Up.

At some point in the early fall, when my freezers were too full to fit all the tomato sauce, I was utterly discouraged. It seemed like my push to use up my food had only driven me, like an equal and opposite reaction, to greater heights of canning, freezing, and general food storage. To deal with this, I cleverly diverted my blog readers on to a new topic, called Simple Summer Meals. Operation Use-it-Up seemed like a private failure.

But, I judged to soon.

Now, after a full year in action, I can honestly say that Operation Use-it-Up has been a success!
Ok, I do not have an empty freezer, but I do at least have a freezer that is a) only 3/4 full and b) most importantly – only holding food items from the 2012 growing season! In fact, I have actually run out of whole chickens!

You have NO idea how much of an improvement this is from previous years, when I was moving last year’s chickens to make room for this year’s, or when I regularly found old berries and quince paste that I fervently hoped weren’t ruined by years of freezer burn.

In the pantry, things are not quite so rosy. I still have a disturbing variety of specialty rice, pastas, and vinegars cluttering up the shelves, as well as that can of smoked tomatoes that I swore I would use up. But, the pantry is still looking better than in years past. With a cunning use of the food bank along with my Operation Use-it-Up strategies, I have been able to trim it back a bit. I have a higher percentage of regular-rotation foods in there and not quite so many boutique ingredients. Not a resounding success, but… well, baby steps, right?

This has given me enough encouragement to carry on. Hopefully, by this time next year, I really will have a tidy trim pantry and a freezer that continues to be only 3/4 full of recently-grown foods. Fingers crossed.

How about you? Were any of you inspired by Operation Use-it-Up? Did any of you change your food-use or food-storage patterns to improve the state of your freezer or pantry? Let me know how it went!

Comments (5)

  1. AAh Yes….I too have the hoarding food instinct, which started when we only had one car and couldn’t easily walk to a grocery store or disliked one errand car trips and sometimes guests arrived unannounced. Those habits die hard. Now the children are long gone and guests are not so frequent and I no longer have to deal with freezing our own lamb and chickens. We have lived here for over 40 years and I have been on an intermittent campaign to reduce all the things that accumulate. so easily. I still have blackberries and plums in the bottom of the freezer, but I think they are only from last summer!!! Next the pantry, i think you have inspired me to REALLY focus on eliminating the just in case I might need items. Not to mention the old barn and garage..that has never been used for a car since we have lived here. I do make use of thrift shops and the food bank and have no new inspiring ideas for you but do appreciate the nudge. Love your blog. Susan

  2. Moving really helps! Having moved last year we had to empty the freezer. Now I only have food from September 2012 forward. Having been inspired I will try over the next weeks to cook things up. Thanks for the inspiration with your report.

  3. I think the bottom of my freezer gets cleaned about as often as the outside of my windows – namely when we move. I honestly think I have fish in my freezer that’s 4 years old. I’m going to go hang my head in shame now.

  4. I find it so easy to forget everything in the freezer except the meats. I get so pleased with myself for putting fresh local fruits in the freezer, but then I can’t think of any wonderful recipes to use them in. I do hope you’ll consider either writing a section in a cookbook for ‘operation use- it-up recipes’ or maybe continuing to post them on your weblog. I find them very very useful. Also it’s fun to take rhubarb that’s local and fresh and make a dessert that also includes strawberries that I froze when they were local and fresh last summer (or the summer before), thereby bringing together lovely flavours without breaking my local food shopping policy. I will be trying the Rhubarb-Strawberry Galette very soon. Can’t wait! Thanks Heidi, for all your inspirations and for your fabulous recipes.

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