Eating Down the Mountain

“Eating Down the Fridge” has a literary ring to it, kind of like that old kids book Sing Down the Moon. More importantly, it’s the name of a challenge issued by The Washington Post‘s Kim O’Donnel.

photo by Marie-II via Creative CommonsThe deal: don’t buy groceries for a week, instead living off what you have in the house.

From where I blog, this seems like a neat method for avoiding waste-in-the-waiting in our fridge, freezer and cupboards. This endeavor began on Sunday, so it’s not too late to follow along or even participate. Many folks are trading (excellent) tips and swapping stories on O’Donnel’s A Mighty Appetite blog.

She got the idea from eGullet founder Steven Shaw (aka the Fat Guy), who described the endeavor in that site’s Klatsch forum. Shaw, author of the essential Asian Dining Rules, realized that he had slowly stockpiled food, but to what end? He decided to trim his mountain of stored food, creating a nice $100 personal stimulus package in the process.

Eating Down the Fridge sounds like something we should all try at least once a year. I’ll be giving it a shot, an effort made all the easier by the stream of post-baby food donations that are still trickling in (thanks!). But I’ll involve my cupboard castaways, too.

Here are the few ground rules for the challenge, as set out by Shaw:

1 – No stockpiling. We are announcing this today because we want to get some participation and more people read the forums on weekdays. But that doesn’t mean you should go out tomorrow and buy double groceries. Please, go about your normal routine but skip your shopping day.

2 – No endangering your children. If you decide to participate in our experiment but you run out of milk for your child, please just go out and buy milk. Don’t worry about it. Nobody is going to hold it against you.

3 – No making yourself miserable. If you really need some more lettuce (or a lemon for your Sidecar) in order to make it through the week without going insane, go ahead and get provisions on an as-needed basis. We’re not trying to be totally doctrinaire about this. It’s supposed to be fun and save us all a little money at a time when we can use it. And it’s supposed to prove a point, not cause chaos, despair and profound awkwardness.

4 – If you decide to participate in this experiment, you’re making a commitment to chronicle a week’s worth of meals starting on whatever day you normally shop. If you decide not to participate directly, please limit your involvement to cooking and menu suggestions and otherwise constructive commentary. This isn’t the place to extol the virtues of shopping every day, buying only the freshest ingredients and letting seasonality and local availability guide your consumption.

5 – Have fun, and keep everyone posted on your progress!

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  1. Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    What a cool idea! While I don’t ever entirely skip a week of grocery shopping(I want to have fresh produce available), I do sometimes have a pretty lean week of grocery shopping when I plan a menu around what I already have in my pantry/freezer/fridge.

    Hopefully the people participating in this challenge will learn some good habits and skills that will help them learn to waste less in the future.

  2. SB
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    6 – Don’t participate by eating out of the fridge at your office. That’s like playing Russian Roulette.

  3. Posted March 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I did this several months ago and actually found it quite easy. I’ve actually thought about trying to go a month sometime, since my pantry is so well-stocked. I think I’d miss fresh fruits, though.

  4. Posted March 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Produce seems to be a trouble spot. Hmm…Canning?

    I’d guess Eating Down the Fridge would be easier during the summer when you might have garden produce arriving daily. Probably not really the point of the challenge, though.

  5. Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    This post is very timely for me, because for the past two months I’ve been doing this one week out of the month and saving the $80-$100 I normally spend per week. The first time my husband did have to go out and buy milk at some point, but that’s no big deal. And like Kirsten, I thought it wouldn’t work because I like to have fresh produce, but I found that as long as you regularly buy things like pears and apples, and winter squash and carrots, and onions and potatoes and garlic, you actually can find enough produce to last the extra week. After the refrigerated grapefruit is used, go to the frozen bananas for smoothies, etc. And in a pinch, you could just do a quick pick-up shop for lettuce, tomatoes, bananas, and a few veggies. It’s amazing that it works, but it does. And we’re wasting much less food.

  6. Emily
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I just returned from 12 days away from my husband and 2 girls. They did a VERY effective job of Eating Down the Fridge (and freezer, and pantry) while I was gone!

  7. Posted March 11, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    My family has always used this concept (learned from my grandparents and probably from thier grandparents). In fact, when a friend of mine comes to visit, the first thing she does is open my fridge because she is flabergasted that it looks empty! her fridge is packed full, but a lot of it has been in there for weeks or months (if you get my drift- yuk!)
    I can whip up a nutrient rich meal in no time for my family of six! We can go 2 weeks or more with only shopping for basics like milk and eggs. The bread, I can make. I make dough and add left overs to make a pizza and the kids love it!
    I don’t have room to hoard any items, nor the money.
    Combined with vermicomposting at home, I send one 16 gallon garbage can (sometimes barely full) every 2-3 weeks!
    Kudos to those who are utilizing this technique!

  8. Julius
    Posted March 12, 2009 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I do this somewhat inadvertently – my fridge never gets very full. I’m not entirely sure why, there’s not really much of a plan, but even after my weekly(ish) shopping trip my fridge is nowhere near as full as my parents’ one is permanently. And recently I’ve gone 2-3 weeks between “proper” shopping trips (out of laziness, mostly), only getting the odd item in between, plus of course what my housemate buys – we share meals/ingredients. And I get a vegetable box from a nearby farm every other week (the last one of which I’ve managed to use up by Tuesday i.e. in five days…).

  9. Posted March 12, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I do this peridocially — but less intentionally than I’d like. So that’s it — I was going shopping tomorrow, but instead I will live without the instant coffee that I make iced coffee with and use that 1/2 of regular that’s been unused on the counter! I started today.

    Tonight we had spaghetti using two different containers of leftover frozen sauce and chicken breast (also from the freezer) with pasta wagon-wheels we’ve had in the pantry for months! Hurray! Thanks for the challenge; it appeals to my Scottish “thriftiness.”

  10. faith
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I know this is a fairly old post but we do this eat down the freezer and pantry every 3 months I never intend to have that much extra food just sitting in my freezer for that long. I believe in having a 3-4 month supply in case of job loss o other personal finacial problem. But I don’t need more then that and I’ll decide to eat down the freezer this week and it just goes all month. As I like saving money.