Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

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Scott 2
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Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by Scott 2 »

Does anyone do this? Eat all the food before buying more?

I am working towards this, reducing my kitchen inventory as much as practical. The theory being I'll tie up less money and energy managing food and storage.

I'm finding it easy to empty the freezer. Other than condiments that last more than a week, the fridge isn't too bad. Finishing off the duplicate dressings and sauces took soon patience, especially the stuff I don't like.

Pantry is proving slower going. I had months of beans stockpiled, down to a couple pounds. Sadly found a number of items that were years old, in some cases more than ten.

It's much easier to get a meal together now that I'm no longer looking at a decade of accumulated ingredients I'm not really interested in eating. It's also stopping me from over buying dumb things like every variety of bean the store sells.

Tea and spices remain my worst offenders. I have several years worth of tea built up, assuming multiple cups a day. Close to a dozen different spices I've never opened or used only once.

It's been fun figuring out how to eat all those things I bought because I'd like to be the type of person that, say, makes their own pizza dough.

Extra points given for reducing the overall amount is storage space required by the food inventory. I'm down to two shelves in the pantry, started at five. Lots of incentive to avoid prepared foods, since they are bulky and limit options for the week. Flour can be almost anything. Ramen is just noodles.

JL13
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by JL13 »

I try to incorporate something old at least once per week. Unfortunately if I tried to eat all the inventory then I'd probably die of mercury poisoning because it would be all canned tuna and flax seed for a couple of weeks.

Solvent
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by Solvent »

I'm bad at this but actively strive to get better. My cupboards are often full and I try to reorganise them for more convenient access, but really the solution should be "store less stuff."
To this end I do often try to go weeks where instead of asking "What do I feel like cooking?" I ask "How can I reduce my stocks of dry foods?"

GandK
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by GandK »

It has never been my goal to empty the whole kitchen. I buy things like rice in bulk, so it wouldn't even make sense in my case. But it is usually my goal to empty the fridge of everything except condiments between grocery visits (though not the freezer). When things go bad in my kitchen, it's usually a refrigerated item, so keeping an eye on that specific thing reduces food waste for us.

chicago81
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by chicago81 »

I never worry about trying to exhaust my supply of nonperishible food items, as long as I use them prior to their expiration date.

I somewhat view it as an extra "energency fund" in a way. I like knowing that I have a bit of food on hand, in the unlikely scenario of some kind of supply chain disruption of the grocery stores in the area. Natural or man made disasters can and do happen...

polaran
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by polaran »

I generally try to do this before I move or leave for an extended period of travel. It sometimes leads to odd meals like oatmeal with frozen broccoli as a side dish.

jacob
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by jacob »

Sometimes stored food performs better than the stock market ;-) If it's non-perishable, it definitely performs better than cash given current yields.

We store beans, sugar, flour, and rice in bulk in 5 gal buckets with gamma seal lids. We even store a month's worth of water. We also buy cans and eggs (eggs last outside the fridge if you cover them in mineral oil) in bulk. Some 30-60 at a time. Things like ketchup or jars of olives are bought 2-4 at a time.

We don't have much that's not in pipeline scheduled for eating. You won't find any cake mix or half eating packages of biscuits. We do have some old spices. This is because chef DW's cooking style is somewhat different from chef jacob's. As a result we have two different spice storages. The about 10-12 or so that I use. And the 30 esoteric ones she has which I never use are put in a separate place. I did the same with the utensils.

We have an under the counter fridge. This one gets close to 1/2-2/3 empty l before shopping. It's never stuffed. This way I can keep track of leftovers and ensure that nothing goes to waste. The average age of things in the fridge is <7 days. We have a similarly sized top loading freezer. This one is almost fully stuffed with garden produce and meat from sales. The average age of things in the freezer is harder to guess. I'd say 6 months or so.

Shopping trips are mostly for produce and meat and the one bulk item that ran out or was on sale.

The only times where we eat down all the food is when we relocate. If we go on vacation, we eat down the fridge. I always find it a hassle to restart a kitchen getting oil, salt, pasta, ... so I can't imagine eating everything unless I lived on a diet of sandwiches, peas, and steaks. In other words, we don't do the backpacking/multi day trail hiking solution. I guess point being, it could be done with a change of diet but we use enough different ingredients in each meal that it would be a logistic nightmare to figure out how to run them all down.

However, our food storage is pretty far from looking like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyHS_-Umv4E ... we don't have five different half eaten jars of pickles, three kinds of shredded cheese, 8 kinds or dressing, etc. in the back of the fridge.

George the original one
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by George the original one »

GandK wrote:It has never been my goal to empty the whole kitchen. I buy things like rice in bulk, so it wouldn't even make sense in my case. But it is usually my goal to empty the fridge of everything except condiments between grocery visits (though not the freezer). When things go bad in my kitchen, it's usually a refrigerated item, so keeping an eye on that specific thing reduces food waste for us.
chicago81 wrote:I never worry about trying to exhaust my supply of nonperishible food items, as long as I use them prior to their expiration date.

I somewhat view it as an extra "energency fund" in a way. I like knowing that I have a bit of food on hand, in the unlikely scenario of some kind of supply chain disruption of the grocery stores in the area. Natural or man made disasters can and do happen...
Pretty much the same here. Grocery trips are "fresh veg & fruit & milk" plus any sale items plus any restocking of the bulk items. Nearest grocery store is about 12 miles away, so minimal trips desired and usually combined with another reason for going into town.

thrifty++
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by thrifty++ »

Hmm not so much my focus. My focus is more on not wasting anything or throwing anything away which I am 99.9% successful at. My food costs are still high because I eat healthy food and I eat too much. But I generally end up emptying most of my cupboards and fridge before shopping because I usually only buy what I will eat that week. Come shopping day though I always try and go then as I have no car and very little time to make the shopping trip if I miss out my day.

Scott 2
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by Scott 2 »

I like the idea of needing less to make life easier. I too found myself regularly reorganizing the fridge and pantry because there was too much stock. It's so easy to establish the need for more options, just because there's space. I'm a sucker for variety - If I decide it's time for smoothies, I want to buy one of every type of frozen fruit in the store.

Admittedly, I'm not going to finish the salt before I buy lettuce. There's a point of diminishing returns to the approach. But I'm coming to terms with the idea that is OK to have no sugar for a week. Or that if I have coconut oil and olive oil, I don't need to also stock canola oil and butter. It's all fat, after all. This encourages me to be more flexible with my diet and my recipes.

A 5 gallon bucket holds a LOT of food. That's like forty pounds of beans - quite a commitment to one variety. I guess I don't see a major disruption to the food or water supply as a serious risk.

Is the bulk savings on staples really that high? I shopped aldi vs Costco years ago, price seemed similar. Costco gave a more upscale experience, but at the trade off of massive quantities. There's something freeing about just throwing the bag of beans on a shelf, knowing it'll be gone before it gets old.

jacob
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by jacob »

@Scott 2 - Different beans in different buckets ;-) ... lesser used varieties just go in tupperware containers. I'm definitely not a sucker for variety, something that's confirmed from my legendary lentil exploits. I tolerate uniformity quite well.

As for bulk savings on staples ... what happens is the following. There will be a sale on flour. If we're down to 3 inches in the bucket, we'll buy 20 pounds and fill up the bucket.

Otherwise, we follow a loss-leader approach. Cooking from staples and storing stuff makes this approach flexible. We pretty much ONLY eat things that were on sale when we bought them. Our expansive system just means that the particular ingredient didn't have to be on sale THAT week. To be more flexible and equally cheap, your approach would require more cooking skill. I can make about 5 different dishes better [for me] than any restaurant I'd care to eat in but no more. I'm a specialist cook. Not a generalist/real cook.

Food budget for 2 adults in Chicago: $150/month. This is less than a quarter of the "standard BLS American" adjusted for cost of living.

Scott 2
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by Scott 2 »

That's cheap. Remaining on sale takes discipline, I'm impressed you keep with it.

I stopped tracking our food spending - triple yours wouldn't surprise me. Much of that is my weakness for gilded foods. I'll pay for pistachios or colored peppers. I won't even look at the prices. It's a big part of why I favor aldi - much harder to rack up a $200+ cart.

Did
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by Did »

When we lived on the road for 8 months we definitely emptied the kitchen before shopping. We had no fridge. Having said that, we had spices, salt and fat and naturally we didn't eat those.

We now move from kitchen to kitchen housesitting. We bring essentials, beans and dahl stuff with us. We tend to have more vegetables in the fridge than we should, but shop for meat and fish as needed.

I tend not to freeze. I know it is smarter in terms of spend, but for me I guess shopping (marketing) and cooking is one of my hobbies/pleasures and I don't want to be some sort of machine that just eats the cheapest food possible from the freezer.

vexed87
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by vexed87 »

Last year I started to commute to work by bicycle. Getting large amounts of food home in a backpack doesn't work well and I'm too lazy to make special trips with a trailer so, I make about 4 trips to Costco a year and buy everything apart from perishables in bulk. I then pick up the veggies I need from a local farm shop on weekly basis one day on they way home from work.

Because of this strategy I have a very busy/cluttered pantry, but it's way more convenient than frequent trips to the shops. My vegetable drawer is usually rammed with perishables and little gets wasted, I try plan my meals around what's in season now, it's not necessarily cheaper as veggies never go on sale in the UK, particularly in an independent farm shop, but its bound to reduce my impacts on the environment and encourage me to start growing more at home (to get down costs!)

Scott 2
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Re: Empty the Kitchen Before Shopping

Post by Scott 2 »

I'm still paring the inventory down, but this thread did convince me to start throwing a 24 pack of water in the basement once in awhile. I figure 4 or 5 of them sitting down there is cheap insurance. Looked at "better" solutions, like a 55 gallon drum, what a hassle.

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