It's Time for Another "Buy No Food Challenge"

by Katy on June 28, 2009 · 26 comments


Last August I declared a Buy No Food Challenge after a week long visit with relatives left me with a refrigerator bulging with an embarrassment of food riches.

Enough, said I!

I was not going to buy any more food until I got my family to eat down what we already had. And we did. I think we went an entire week before having to step foot into a grocery store again. Thus minimizing our food waste while saving a bit of money.

Ten months have passed since this original challenge, and it’s time to re-issue it.

This time the impetus was a weeklong hosting of a British soccer coach coupled with my bronchitis, which meant my husband was in full charge of meal preparation. There were Costco trips, Trader Joe trips, at least one Safeway trip and yes, one more Costco trip. The result of which is that the fridge is once again filled with every type of food imaginable. And to make matters worse, we’re going up to Seattle on Wednesday, and will be gone for a week.

I am going to work my darndest to not let this food go to waste. I will serve it, eat it and when push comes to shove  — I will freeze it.

As Frigidaire as my witness, I will never have too much food again!

Are your cupboards and refrigerator overly full of food? Is your tea shelf bulging at the seams? Please join my challenge to eat what’s already there before buying new.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

P.S. Thank you to my husband Dale for picking up the slack while I lay in bed coughing and compulsively watching the entire library DVD set of “Freaks and Geeks.”

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris June 28, 2009 at 1:34 am

Well, I wish I had that kind of problem. 🙂
On the bright side I waste virtually nothing of the little food I buy.


Kat June 28, 2009 at 9:57 am

We don’t have a car, which means we often eat up what we have to avoid going to the store, as it can be a bit of a production. The opposite of that is, when we have access to a car, we often do a large grocery shopping trip. We waste ALOT less food since we gave up our vehicle.

Freaks and Geeks is a good show. I think I should watch it again 🙂


Kari June 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

I’m with you! Since I signed up for a CSA, I am overflowing with food. The last two weeks I decided I would not go to the grocery until I ate the food I already have. I had plenty of staples, too, to prepare the fruits and veggies. I’m going on vacation this coming week, and I’m proud to say most of the food will not go wasted. 🙂


Elizabeth B June 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Kat, that’s a really cool way of both reducing your environmental footprint and reducing your food waste. Sadly, my husband and I have to have a car because our mass transit is not nearly accessible enough by bus. But it’s a great idea; I could *imagine* I don’t have a car and see if that helps. 😉


Alea June 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I do this a couple times a year. Usually after company or parties. It isn’t hard to do, because the food that is leftover is usually very good. It is also items that we wouldn’t normally have on hand, so my kids actually think of it as a good deal for them.


A. Marie June 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

A domestic emergency here has compelled me to take up Katy’s challenge (not that I would need extra encouragement anyway): Our 16-year-old freezer–inherited from my husband’s parents–died this morning. I discovered this when I reached in to extract a pound of hamburger and realized that a good many things were in the process of thawing. Rather than play salmonella roulette with the chicken, we discarded one locally raised whole bird (sob!) and a package of boneless thighs. Ten pounds of locally raised hamburger were also about half-thawed (all the steaks and roasts were still solidly frozen, thank goodness; we buy a quarter of a cow per year from a friend who raises his own). We’ve given away three pounds thus far to neighbors, and plan to give another four to a very needy friend with a large family tomorrow. I transformed the remaining three, plus a quart bag of frozen tomato sauce made by another friend, into emergency meat loaf. Use it up, wear it out, etc.!

The vegetarians in the crowd, of course, will be noting that we wouldn’t have had this problem if we hadn’t had all this frozen meat. Nolo contendere. But we’re not yet prepared to give up eating meat, and are also into the locally raised ethos.


Karen June 28, 2009 at 6:19 pm

I was re-doing my pantry shelves and re-organizing things and found 4 different boxes of crackers (bought for parties I think) that had expired months ago. I felt guilty, but put them out for the birds and squirrels. I vowed not to buy more than one box of crackers or one box of cereal at a time and eat it up before buying another kind. Thanks for the challenge, Katy.


Non Consumer Girl June 28, 2009 at 8:59 pm

This week, I have been organised and planned my meals for the week, so hopefully we will not have to buy any extra food or make any unplanned trips to the store.
This will help us in our attempt to not have any wasted food this week.


Sandy June 28, 2009 at 9:45 pm

My men left town and I will subsist on what there is until they return in a few days. It will be difficult because they are my leftover vaccuum cleaners usually, so I will have to be creative in that department. How will I not have leftovers? I know, I just won’t cook! I’m a bachelorette!


Kristin @ klingtocash June 29, 2009 at 12:07 am

I’m actually doing this as well this week. I’m trying to get my frozen stock down so I can get everything into the upstairs freezer and defrost the big freezer in the basement. I’m not going to go grocery shopping and I’ve got a ton of stuff thawing in the fridge for this week. Should be interesting to see how this turns out. There is some stuff in the basement freezer that is unidentifiable. I think I’m going to have some freezer waste this week.


Jeanne June 29, 2009 at 4:13 am

I had to laugh – we waste nothing! My husband (a former economist and natural frugal person) taught me how to manage the pantry monster. We…

1. have a huge standing freezer and pantry
2. only buy on sale – and I mean ONLY except for staples like milk
3. get at least 2 meals out of major roasts
4. have a list of favorite recipes on the fridge; these use up what we have

We rarely throw out anything. Once in a great while, a bit of leftover goes bad. We put it out for the wildlife.

Fussy eaters? You won’t last in this house. Waste not want not!


Jenn Baron June 29, 2009 at 7:09 am

It is painful to throw food away and I am more of a “let’s have leftovers or let’s use X up” than my partner but she’s coming around and getting better all the time. It feels like a creative game to see how we can use what we already have instead of buying more. I enjoy it and I feel really good when I don’t waste food!

Keep up the great work everyone! 🙂


Jinger June 29, 2009 at 7:16 am

i am laid up with a wrist fracture and a friend helped me shop, cook and freeze this weekend. we will be eating from the freezer and pantry for the next 4 weeks and i don’t anticipate any waste.


Judy C. June 29, 2009 at 8:18 am

I am the self-proclaimed “Queen of Leftovers”! I’m not even sure what to do with “first-run” comestibles! 😉

My husband, who secretly admires my frugality and recycling ways, always proclaims before partaking of a meal, “Why THROW it out…when we can EAT it!” Ha…ha.

P.S. My husband’s infamous for once having taken one of his wife-made lunches to work in a recycled Victoria Secret’s bag!


Judy C. June 29, 2009 at 8:21 am

Oh…BTW, those stale crackers would have become chicken coating or meatball filling in my house. I’ve never purchased breadcrumbs; I make ’em myself.

Oh, and when I mention the use of “crumbs”, my husband, the comedian, always asks facetiously if this means that the “in-laws” are coming over! 😉


WilliamB June 29, 2009 at 9:01 am

I’m doing this at my place also. Sorta. First there’s the usual “Uh-oh, too much food has accumulated, time to really focus on what I have.” Second is the irregular push to clear out the pantry, which I’ve been doing for the past month.

In both cases I’m fine with buying something else if that lets me use up something I have. As long as that thing doesn’t itself become a permanent resident, that is! Some ground pork or cilantro is fine, a bottle of some obscure sauce is not.


Angela June 29, 2009 at 10:25 am

I love the idea of sending your husband to work with a Victoria’s Secret lunch bag.

I’ve been doing this once a month for the past 4 months or so to save money and waste less food, and it works! I usually do it during a week when I’m working away from home a lot and have a lot of leftovers in the refrigerator. Sometimes my husband just needs to buy some milk and bananas, maybe some lettuce, and that’s about it.


camelama June 29, 2009 at 10:31 am

Heh – I will not be doing this challenge. The entire contents of my refrigerator are:

-3 beers
-can of cranberry jelly
-jar of boullion
-jar of maple syrup

My pantry is in even worse state! So I will actually be buying lots of stuff this week – but focusing on staples, veggies, grains, etc. No fast-make foods, no snacks. (Even if Pirate Booty does call loudly to me from the chips aisle!!!)


thenonconsumeradvocate June 29, 2009 at 10:45 am

Okay — confession time.

Yesterday I bought:

– A gallon of milk (which I knew I would be buying)

– A big tub of nice natural yogurt which will be for my husband’s work lunches, plus I’m on antibiotics so I need the “probiotics.”

– An apple pie. It had been “dessert night” Saturday night and we had done nothing. The pie was day-old and half-off.

– A half-gallon of store brand vanilla ice cream, because, well . . . what’s apple pie without the a’ la mode?

However, we’ve eaten up:

– A small container of leftover “oven fries,” which got chopped up and put in scrambled eggs.

– The last of a container of grapes, many of which were no longer attached and therefore not as appealing.

– The last few strawberries in a packet that were starting to look a little withered. I had to cut the rotten bit off one of them. These I ate in the yogurt.

– The last 1/4 of an avocado.

– Hamburger buns, which were magically transformed into french toast.

I made a batch of black bean burgers for dinner last night, which is perfect as the extra burgers always get thrown into the freezer for healthy last minute lunches.

I refuse to leave a full refrigerator while I am on vacation!

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate

P.S. I am fully aware that this challenge comes from a place of privilege.


thenonconsumeradvocate June 30, 2009 at 1:31 am

Okay — another update.

Today I made pizza and a big green salad for dinner. Pizza toppings were a chopped up meatball from dinner a few nights ago, (which the sauce was from) and some chopped up red pepper. The pre-shredded mozzarella cheese was sitting unused in the “vegetable crisper.” Used up one bag of cheese and started on another.

I used up a bottle of ketchup that’s been sitting upside down for ages and almost used up a jar of dijon mustard. I’ll mix up salad dressing in the bottle to get the very last bit out, (yes, I am that insane.)

The boys and I worked on trying to eat up the “colossal” apple pie I bought day-old & half-off yesterday.

A loaf of homemade bread showed up at my door today, which believe in included within the buy-no-food challenge bylaws. I also bought a head of romaine lettuce, as our salad farm is doing poorly this year. I did however walk to the store and used my reusable string bag instead of any plastic.

I could probably eat for two-three weeks from the food we have, although it might get a bit heavy on the pinto beans.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Jeremy July 1, 2009 at 11:34 pm

My wife had a baby a week and a half ago, and some of our neighbors saw to the challenge of stuffing our refrigerator to the gills. On top of that, we’ve had people bringing us meals or feeding us up until yesterday.

When cooking dinner tonight, I noticed that we had a lot of things that are probably approaching their “do not attempt to eat” date in the fridge. So, in the spirit of controlling food waste, I will not go to the store until all of the perishables have perished (in our bellies of course).

Thanks, love your blog.


thenonconsumeradvocate July 2, 2009 at 12:59 am

Last update here —

I went through the refrigerator just now in anticipation of our trip to Seattle. I did toss a small amount of mashed potatoes which were probably still okay, but would certainly not be by the time we return.

The buy-no-food-challenge was a success. All of our meals this week were based on incorporating the contents of the refrigerator. A large red pepper became both topping for a pizza and the secret zing in a large french bread sandwich, (which also used up all the pastrami.)

Dinner tonight was a large lasagna which used up a half container of cottage cheese, the last of some shredded mozzarella and the sauce from some spaghetti and meatballs. It was not what I would have necessarily chosen on a hot Summer day, but it sure hit the spot anyway. The best part was that my husband made it, which is always my favorite kind of meal.

I look forward to coming home to a clean slate.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Jeremy July 7, 2009 at 2:13 am

So, I actually tried this, and it worked for the most part. We didn’t go shopping for anything for the refrigerator until we’d used up everything that is in danger of going bad. The caveat is . . . when I went to use a lot of the “stuff” that was cluttering the fridge, it had already gone bad.

I give myself an “A” for effort, and a “D+” for timing.


BarbS July 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm

I took this challenge, though a bit later than the rest of you (when I read the post). I went more than a week without buying a thing, though if my daughter’s camp hadn’t provided lunch for her I would have had to buy some lunch-food.

It was an excellent exercise, made me realize how many more meals I could easily make from the same amount of food. Plus, it felt amazingly good to clear out some space in the pantry and the fridge. I have a tendency to cook meals for the freezer, and then leave them there far too long.

Thanks for the challenge, Katy!


dlm July 19, 2009 at 9:14 am

I discovered recently that you can freeze mashed potatoes.


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