11 Recipes to Help You Clean Out Your Fridge

11 Recipes to Help You Clean Out Your Fridge
Photo: Claire Lower
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Until very recently, I lived in a small apartment with a European-made, European-sized fridge. I tried to like it. I wanted to be the type of person who embraced the tiny fridge lifestyle, but my job (and maximalist personality) made that a little challenging. I have since moved into a house with a normal-sized American fridge, and it rules.

Not only does it fit more food, but the extra space means I can see the food that’s in there. I think I’ve actually wasted less food since upgrading to a larger fridge, because — once again — I can see it. This means I’ve been using my leftovers more effectively, and taking advantage of the many leftover-focused recipes and hacks we have featured on this very site.

Fry up some fritters

Photo: A.A. Newton Photo: A.A. Newton

These vegetable pancakes are the perfect vehicle for “like, one carrot, a handful of green onions that somehow haven’t turned to ooze, a sweet potato of indeterminate age, a rapidly-softening bell pepper” and any other less than fresh veg you may have languishing in your produce drawer. Besides a collection of sad vegetables, all you need to make these crunchy fritters is water, salt, and oil. Serve it with a protein — like a piece of pork, some tofu, or a nice poached egg — and you’ve got a full meal.

How To Turn A Fridge Full Of Sad Produce Into Dinner

We’ve all stared down a sad, empty fridge at too-late-for-a-supermarket-run-o’clock on a weeknight, willing some higher power to magically replenish the shelves while our eyes are closed.

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Bake some bread

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Three-ingredient, no-knead bread is a surprisingly good for that last bit of roasted vegetables, a few pieces of bacon, or pickled or cured vegetables. Just be sure to render the fat out of any greasy meats, and cook your vegetables down to intensify their flavour and drive out moisture. As far as combinations go: I’m particularly fond of cheddar and sautéed apple.

Put Your Leftovers to Good Use With This No-Knead Bread

If you've found yourself with a bunch of leftovers, why not throw them into an easy no-knead loaf of bread that will impress your loved ones?

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Make eggs and rice

Photo: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock Photo: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

It may seem overly simplistic and obvious, but a pile of rice (topped with an egg) is the perfect home for an awkward amount of any leftover, be it takeout, poached chicken, or the inside of a soggy day-old burrito. It doesn’t matter how you prepare your rice — fresh works just as well as fried rice — but I do recommend you top the whole thing with a poached or fried egg. The runny yolk is important. It acts as a sauce, marrying all the random components into one cohesive dish. (Sprinkle on some green onions to make it feel fancy and finished.)

This Two-Ingredient Dish Helps You Clean Out Your Fridge

You know that awkward moment in your fridge, when it still has food in it, but it’s all 1/2-cup portions of various leftovers and like, one carrot? That moment is annoying, because you still have food that can and should be eaten, just nothing that fits together in a cohesive...

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Stuff some mushrooms

Photo: Alexander Prokopenko, Shutterstock Photo: Alexander Prokopenko, Shutterstock

I’ve never see “spaghetti-stuffed mushrooms” on a menu, but maybe someone should put it on one. Same goes for “leftover pot roast-stuffed mushrooms” and “cheese grit-stuffed mushrooms.” I cannot think of a savoury leftover that wouldn’t be good in a mushroom, is what I’m saying. (Pro tip: roast the mushrooms upside down for a bit before filling to drive off some moisture. This will keep your filling from getting wet and gross.)

Make Stuffed Mushrooms With Your Leftovers

If you search for “stuffed mushrooms” on this wide web of the world, you will find many recipes. That’s great for those of us who love recipes, but stuffed mushrooms are one of the easiest appetizers to make without a recipe. You just stuff things in a mushroom hollowed-out mushroom,...

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Make a fancy cheese spread

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Making a bunch of fromage fort is my favourite way to use up the contents of my cheese drawer, particularly if some of the cheeses have been hanging out for a bit too long. Besides a bunch of cheese bits, all you need is butter, garlic, and wine. Blend it all together and serve it as a cold dip or spread, or smear it on a carb and broil until it’s hot and bubbly.

Fromage Fort Is An Amazing Spread Made From Cheese Plate Scraps

There is no such thing as “leftover cheese” but, if you are a cheese collector such as myself, you probably find yourself with little nubs and ends of various dairy treasures. You could keep making increasingly tiny cheese plates, or you could make fromage fort.

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Flavour your mayo

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Wilted herbs are not pretty enough for garnishing purposes, but they still have a lot to give in terms of flavour. Blending them into some mayo not only handles the optics, it results in a super flavorful spread that’s excellent when smeared on turkey sandwiches, mashed into potatoes, or mixed with sour cream (for a chip dip).

Flavour Your Mayo With Sad, Wilted Herbs

One of my hobbies is buying too many herbs and then watching watching them wilt, dehydrate or mush out in the fridge, depending on how I’ve (incorrectly) stored them. Would placing my cilantro in a jar of water extend its life? Yes. Am I going to do that? You know...

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Make a pesto

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Basil isn’t the only leafy thing that can be blended with olive oil, parm, garlic, and nuts to make the green spread we know as “pesto.” Fluffy carrot tops, tough chard stems, wilted cilantro, and even bitter strawberry stems can be combined with fat and cheese to make something delicious. (Fat and cheese: What can’t they do?)

How To Make Pesto From Kitchen Scraps

In terms of savoury no-cook sauces, it’s hard to beat pesto. You can spread it on bread, toss it with grilled vegetables, drizzle it on fish, or use it as a pasta sauce. Though it’s usually made with fresh basil, it can actually be made with almost any green thing,...

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Stuff everything into dumplings

Photo: Marta Maziar, Shutterstock Photo: Marta Maziar, Shutterstock

This is one of our favourite leftover mitigation strategies, but there’s no reason for you to limit it to the leftovers you generate in November. All you have to do is gather your leftovers, mix ‘em all together, then add a heaped teaspoon of filling to the middle of a wonton or dumpling wrapper. Wet the edges with a finger dipped in water, fold in half, and seal tightly with your fingers or a fork, then boil or fry according to the wrapper’s package instructions. Repeat until you’re out of leftovers.

Turn Your Leftovers Into Dumplings

When you’re staring down the barrel of days-old leftovers, it’s almost impossible to summon up the creativity to do something, anything, besides shovel them into your mouth in front of an open fridge. There’s no shame in the fridge-shovel game, but breathing new life into the last dregs of yesterday’s...

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Bake some potatoes

I live for a baked potato bar and I would die for a baked potato bar. They are fun. They are delicious. They are comforting. They are a great way to get rid of your last 10 capers, your fistful of bacon bits, your half a shallot. Bake some potatoes, heat up your leftovers (if needed), grab your almost-out condiments and pickled things, and spread it all out on a table. Take the hot and fluffy potatoes out of the oven and stuff ‘em full. Repeat once a week to keep your fridge orderly and neat.

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