Pantry and Refrigerator Rescue: What to do with Leftover Condiments, Sauces and Stocks

Written by: Chef Mayumi Tavalero, posted on 03/27/21

Years ago when I was the director of a Bay Area cooking school, one problem I kept facing was what to do with all the condiments and sauces that were stockpiling in the cooking school pantry and the refrigerator. We had so many different chefs cooking wonderful ethnic-inspired recipes, however, it left us with a multitude of different jars, tubes, and containers. With so many different classes on our schedule, I was never sure when we would be able to use them again and ultimately many were just thrown out.

Now that I do my own virtual cooking classes from home, this problem has resurfaced, so I wanted to share a few of my tips on how to keep the clutter under control. This will ultimately eliminate waste, save money, and make cooking so much easier.

1. Minimize your purchases and keep it simple

Most cooks only need two types of oil. One for higher heat cooking and the other for lower heat cooking. Do you really need 5 different flavored olive oils? You can flavor them yourself as needed using fresh or dried herbs. Avocado oil is great for high heat cooking such as stir-fry or pan-frying. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is great for salads and dressing and medium-low heat saute. If you do a lot of ethnic cooking, again choose two suitable cooking oils that work with your dishes.

It used to be we only had a choice of a few salts and now a walk down the spice section you could see as many as 10 different kinds. Choose a basic salt such as Kosher salt and have an additional salt or two for finishing foods or to use in special dishes. Once you’ve used your current selection, and only when it’s gone, purchase something different to try. Ultimately keep your top two favorites.

2. Substitute when you can

I love to experiment with different ethnic cuisines and as I mentioned previously, this can cause a stockpile in the pantry. Hot sauces are used in many cuisines and many are made from a vinegar base and some include garlic. Instead of making another purchase, check your inventory and see if you can find a similar sub. You may find the change is a good one! For example,  Asian chili-garlic sauce for your wings instead of your standard hot sauce.

3. Freeze in ice cube trays

There are some canned and fresh goods that I only use a small amount of, maybe a tablespoon or so at a time. These include tomato paste, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pesto, coconut milk, lemon juice, curry paste, miso, chutneys, homemade lemon curd, orange juice (for my orange chicken!), and a small number of stocks (such as for braising vegetables). Freeze these items in ice cube trays, and remember you don’t need a separate ice cube tray for every sauce. Just fill one tray with a variety of sauces, and once full, remove cubes and store them separately in labeled freezer bags. This eliminates waste, saves money, and makes cooking so much easier.

Chef Mayumi Tavalero is just one of the talented chefs in the Foodom marketplace. If you are looking for a chef to cook meals for you in your home for less than the cost of takeout, start here:

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