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What's in YOUR fridge?

This morning I decided to clean a couple of shelves in the fridge (I can only handle a shelf or two at a time), and threw out some condiments that cost me plenty but we only used once or twice. One was a Costco bottle of roasted raspberry chipotle sauce (husband hated it) and the other was organic salad dressing best used before June 2006!

So my question, dear CH'ers: what do you have in your fridge that you bought in a moment of weakness, then didn't use/didn't like, but didn't toss out because it was almost full or was a splurge?

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  1. A bottle of sweetened iced tea, left behinf by the previous tenant (we've been here for almost a year). I don't like it at all, and, for that matter, do not understand why it is so popular (even along with meals) in the U.S. South. One day I'll discard it, along with the half-loaf of too-healthful whole-grain bread from a local farmers' market in the freezer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ekammin

      1. a pre-made iced tea? maybe that explains why you don't "get" sweet tea.

      2. gosh, you have room in your fridge for year-old iced tea?

    2. Three boxes of Gardennay Cream of Mushroom soup.

      I bought them because I love Cream of mushrooms soup and needed something quick sometimes. This was before I tried them. They come out as an almost-solid, gelatinous mass, made me gag, and taste... let's not go there.

      But I can't bring mysellf to just throw them out. That's a lot of food!

      I'm thinking that since there's obviously preservative-d up the hilt, they may find their way into a food drive.

      1. I don't think I have anything back there that's gone moldy, but then I haven't given it a good cleaning in a while. I'm better than I used to be - some years ago I found a container of beans that were not only molded beyond recognition, they were clearly on the verge of developing a personality...

        I never buy anything I regret like that, but we do have a few items we did not buy, but which other people brought for a party and left behind: bottles of bright-blue Bartles & Jaymes, crummy beer (at least I can cook with that), PB&J in a jar... they all get tossed eventually, but I'm so reluctant to trash even inedible food (this appears to be a common problem for us food freaks, doesn't it?) that I typically put it off until I really, REALLY need the shelf space for something important, like a Thanksgiving turkey.

        1. Great topic! Your question inspired an archeological dig in my fridge! Excavated three crusty bottles:
          Annie Chun's Shiitake Mushroom Sauce: way too salty. It's now in the trash.
          Hoboken Eddie's Rasta Relish: supposedly a jerk BBQ sauce, but tasted wrong -- should have paid more attention to the main ingredient, pickled cucumbers. It's now in the trash.
          Trader Joe's Scoville Scoundrel: mango and habanero pepper sauce: great concept, and it tastes good, I just never use it. Keeping that one.

          1. My husband bought a jar of pickled palm something-or-other (looked like little brooms), and they languished in the 'fridge for over a year. I could not bring myself to throw them out because they had a price tag on them--and a relatively high price.

            Finally I tossed them and used the jar for homemade pickled ginger. It was a good trade!

            1 Reply
            1. re: mamaciita

              they were probably palm fronds - a type of sea vegetable similar to seaweed. i've never had them pickled, but the dehydrated ones are a great salty-crunchy snack.

            2. I just moved in, so there hasn't been much time to accumulate things. So far, all I've got that fits your description are two cans of Sprite my parents forgot during their last visit.

              1 Reply
              1. re: piccola

                A more accurate report would be what I had before I moved. Unopened packages of:

                Dried yuba sticks (couldn't figure out what to do with them)
                Dried galangal slices (ditto)
                A handful of Thai curry mixes (before I realized there was dried shrimp in there)
                Vanilla sugar (came with pandoro, can't bear to throw it out, but always forget it's there)
                Earl Grey tea (gifts from people who see I drink tea, but don't know I hate EG)

              2. Right this moment there is an unopened jar of Palette Mission Fig Preserves in the back of my fridge that I bought at least a year ago on the pretext that I was going to try and replicate a sandwich I had at a local resto. Even though it's unopened I'm afraid to see what sort of experiment might be lurking inside. Just now rescued the jar from the fridge and there doesn't appear to be a best before date...but I suspect preserves that are 1+ year old may be stale at best.

                12 Replies
                1. re: gourmethunter

                  i'll bet those figs, if just opened, are fine.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    agree. the sugar does "preserve" them for a long time, as long as the jar is still sealed. HOWEVER, if the lid is bulging at all, or the top blows off with actual force and a very audible "pop" when you break the seal, toss it immediately.

                  2. re: gourmethunter

                    I love fig, proscuitto, and feta "pizza" made with pita bread. It always goes over well as an appetizer--in case you need another use for fig preserves. . .

                    1. re: mamaciita

                      That sounds delicious! Ok my mission this week(I'd say tonight...but tonight is family dinner w my meat and potatoes BIL & SIL and their 4 kids) is to open the jar and if all goes well and the contents are safe to consume a) replicate the sandwich b) make mamaciita's "pizza".

                      Thank you all for the inspiration!

                      Oh, and goodhealthgourmet: Thank you too for the tips about food safety. I've seen a few bulging lids in my day - but not in my own refrigerator thankfully! I volunteer at the local foodbank and well meaning people have donated items that should not be consumed by man or beast.

                      1. re: gourmethunter

                        I used to work at our church's food pantry, and about 10 years ago we got a box of Success rice with no bar code. Looked at the box more closely, and the coupon on the back had expired in 1976!

                        Just because they're poor, doesn't mean they should only get the stumps!

                        1. re: coney with everything

                          the first time i ever cleaned out my parents' refrigerator, i was appalled. i discovered OPEN bottles & jars that were 2 or 3 years past the expiration date, yogurts, cheese & the like that were months past their prime, and fuzzy growths in colors i never knew existed in nature.

                          obviously they eat out a lot. i don't think mom's cooked a complete meal since i left home 18 years ago.

                          at least now she cleans out the fridge before i visit :)

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            ok, so i'm visiting my parents and did my usual clean-out, and mom was NOT prepared this time. many, many open jars of various condiments that expired over a year ago.

                            i figured while i was at it i might as well tackle the cabinets too, and that's when it got really scary. i thought i had discovered the worst offender when i found an open container of dill dip mix that expired in 1997...but i was wrong. i climbed onto the counter and attacked the very top shelf of the spice cabinet...where i discovered a WIDE-OPEN box of cornstarch from 1988.

                            yep.

                            nearly TWENTY YEARS.

                            not quite as old as the "success rice" coney found in the church donation box...but close. and it was open. ugh.

                            btw, among the gems i unearthed were several boxes of that sugar-free "sparkling" white grape jell-o to which you were supposed to add sparkling cider. anyone remember that stuff?

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Oh yes, Mom bought that all the time. And since it was clear, it was good if you wanted a clear layer for some kind of jello mold.

                              I found a lot of scary things in my mom's cabinets when I did a "poison" purge while she was in the hospital recovering from open heart surgery. Don't remember dates, but there were some products I was sure had been off the market for years. No bulging cans at Mom's but there were several at my grandfather's when we took apart his apartment after he died...

                        2. re: gourmethunter

                          other idea for your fig preserves -

                          stir into yogurt, cottage cheese, or even oatmeal [trust me, its delicious], add a drizzle of maple syrup, and top wth chopped/crushed toasted almonds or walnuts

                          heat/melt in the microwave and drizzle over ice cream or frozen yogurt [personally i think it goes beautifully with chocolate]

                          and yes, please beware of those old jarred/canned goods. a bulging lid or can is an indication of botulinum toxin - the deadliest of all foodborne bacteria.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I made an arugula salad from a recipe in Cooks Illustrated (from earlier this year), which required figs in the dressing--I think it could be suitably modified to use preserves. I must say it was quite tasty and I'm having the leftovers for lunch today!

                            1. re: coney with everything

                              ok, now i'm really loving this post...you may have finally motivated me to open that jar of maple fig salad dressing in my fridge. i always make my own dressing so i really don't know what possessed me to buy it, particularly since i don't even like sweet dressings...but the flavor probably would work perfectly with the peppery arugula i bought yesterday...and maybe some of the goat cheese i need to use up.

                              thanks for the inspiration!

                      2. re: gourmethunter

                        I have fig preserves that I bought at Surfas in L.A.... I love it.

                        Try it stirred into some greek yogurt!

                      3. Dynasty Sweet and Sour Sauce

                        1. it's a pretty safe bet that you'll never find anything spoiled in my house - i'm sort of a freak about that. it drives my mother crazy - the first thing i do when i visit my parents is clean out their fridge...usually by the time i'm finished it's practically empty.

                          hey, if you had studied microbiology & food science, you'd be the same way :)

                          but things i purchased ages ago that are still sitting in the fridge or on the shelf unopened? yep. guilty as charged...

                          maple grove farms "maple fig" salad dressing. love the ingredients, seemed like a great idea at the time...but i just never have a desire for those flavors when i'm preparing a salad.

                          a jar of amchur powder - an indian seasoning made from ground, sun-dried unripe mangoes. bought it when i was on a "sweet curry" kick. i thought it would be a great addition to one of the many sauces i concocted at the time, but i never got around to using it.

                          a box of frozen lima beans.

                          a can of "resurrect healthy elixir & hangover mixer." don't ask. it was a promotional freebie, i'm figuring one of my friends might drink it at some point.

                          a bottle of metromint water. again, seemed like a good idea at the time, but now every time i look at it i just think it'll probably taste like swallowing the water you rinse with when you're brushing your teeth.

                          this was a great topic! now i'm motivated to finally use that anchur powder...

                          1. Good grief. You tricked me into looking! I have a sealed package of shiro miso that may or may not still be good. It's a full kilo and I'm sure it will start to spoil the minute I open it, so I buy littler packages and use them until I'm ready to cook for the Japanese army. Then I've got two boxes of phyllo pastry and a huge block of feta cheese that would probably have made great tyropita about two months ago. Oh, and a bottle of "Ginger People" pickled ginger that really sucks, but was a bit pricey so it can sit and rot on the shelf...

                            Is there a regrigerator cleaning service run by people who aren't emotionally involved with any of your food?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Caroline1

                              Good luck getting that ginger to rot. I made some in January and forgot about it until about a month ago. Once we started eating it, we finished the whole jar in about a week.

                            2. very bad I wasted a bunch of beautiful peppers that i was going to make salsas with to wilt, just pulled them out. Otherwise, there are all the usual suspects of condiments.. way too many half eaten salsas, I have an addiction and never find them hot enough so I get bored.

                              soymilk
                              wine
                              carrots
                              rice left overs that I plan on making rice pudding tonight
                              4 beers
                              tortillas
                              goat cheese
                              hot sauce- 5
                              fennel

                              1. Oh my, I have a box of phyllo dough that has been in my fridge for probably two years. I don't even remember what the heck I originally bought it for.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: diablo

                                  Next time, stick it in the freezer. But phyllo is strange. Open the box and examine the package. There is some rare chance it may still be good. Depends entirely on how well the packaging was sealed at the factory. If there has been any sort of moisture condensation inside the envelope, you'll have a colony of mold! If it still looks good, break off a corner of a sheet and brown it lightly in butter, then taste it. If it tastes "off," toss it. Otherwise, go for it!

                                2. to the garbage goes:

                                  Rice Wine Vinegar
                                  Horseradish Mustard
                                  Snow Cone Machine Flavorings (Ha Ha Ha - my little one's)
                                  about 12 little packet of soy sauce from take out orders - why I save these is beyond me
                                  jar of minced garlic - circa 2006

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Jimbosox04

                                    Bummer, I'd certainly take that rice wine vinegar off your paws...

                                    1. re: Jimbosox04

                                      If you'll ever use it, no reason to throw out the rice wine vinegar. No reason to regrigerate it either. It keeps at room temperature for a very very long time!

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        i would have taken it too! i was wondering why one would throw it out unless you truly never have a reason to use it...which i just can't imagine. i seem to go through an awful lot of vinegar...

                                        i hate to waste food. if it's still safe to eat or unopened and i just don't want it, i always give it to someone or donate it to a food bank. i just can't bear to throw it away if i know someone else will make use of it. when i had a maid, she loved it when i cleaned out the pantry :)

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          ok, you caught me before I made it out the door. Saved !!! I will find a use for it .... not even sure when or for what I used it for.

                                          1. re: Jimbosox04

                                            It's a very mild vinegar. Traditionally, it can be used for polishing rice for sushi, but it has other uses too. I find it makes a nice mild salad dressing. I also like it for acidulating water for poached eggs. Makes them hold together! You can use it in any recipe that calls for vinegar, unless you want that super strong, leap on your tongue attack flavor that some vinegars give. Try it, you'll like it... '-)

                                            1. re: Jimbosox04

                                              I use rice vinegar for a simple Cucumber & Tomato Salad.

                                              Recipe (from memory)

                                              Equal amounts cucumber and tomato in bite size chunks (about 2 cups of each)
                                              1/2 cup rice vinegar
                                              2 tsp. granulated sugar
                                              Salt and pepper to taste

                                              Mix veggies with rice vinegar and sugar, salt and pepper. Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow flavours to develop. Drain off excess liquid or serve using a slotted spoon.

                                              Hope that's a bit of inspiration for using that rice vinegar :-)

                                              1. re: Jimbosox04

                                                it's a great mild base for salad dressings. i also use it in my asian slaw, sesame stir fry sauce, and my homemade version of the "dynamite" sauce many sushi places use.

                                                glad we got to you in time.

                                                i think we're on to something here...perhaps a new reality show for tvfn?

                                                a group of chowhounds raids random domestic kitchens and devises recipes utilizing the contents of bottles, jars & packages that have been languishing, unappreciated on people's shelves.

                                                i can see it now...caped [ok, maybe apron-wearing?] crusaders who swoop in and rescue those innocent edibles from the land of forgotten ingredients...or even worse, save them from premature "death by dumpster."

                                                hounds to the rescue!

                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                  I'm picturing it now....complete with the old Batman show style "sound effects" "Kapow!" lol too funny!

                                        2. We got a new fridge this year, and cleaning out the old one was quite an experience. I had a lot of tiny jars of "fancy" mustards, received as part of food gift boxes. I got rid of them, figuring I wasn't ever going to get around to using them.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: manraysky

                                            Food gift boxes are the source of many a forgotten jar. I remember getting all these assortments of "bagel spread spices mixes," "coffee toppings" or "dip spice mixes" that I forgot for ages. I finally used them for completely unrelated purposes.

                                          2. I know, without even looking, that I have an almost full jar of Maine wild blueberry preserves circa 2005 in the door with about 3 different containers of Vermont pure maple syrup of varying degrees of disintegration. Pine nuts from 1000 years ago, and several jars of chili powder because someone told me that chili powder should be kept in the fridge. Guess it's time for a refrigerator overhaul/cleanout. Thanks for reminding me. Harumph.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Gio

                                              next time store the pinenuts [and any other nuts you won't use immediately] in the freezer...they'll last longer.

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                One shelf at a time, Gio, it's so much easier that way!

                                                1. re: coney with everything

                                                  I know, I know. But which shelf do I start with?
                                                  \Well..... thanks for the encouragement, anyway.

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    personally i prefer the "rip off the bandage" approach...just dive in there & clear it out all at once.

                                                    anything that's unopened [and still good] you can donate to a food bank.

                                                    edible stuff that's open but you know you won't use can be passed along to friends/family.

                                                    if anything needs to be tossed you can rinse out the container and recycle.

                                                    see, cleaning can be a surprisingly rewarding experience...

                                                    others benefit from your cast-offs, you're doing something good for the environment by recycling...and you end up with a clean fridge.

                                                    everybody wins :)

                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      Start at the top, do one a day. If you go top to bottom, you can move stuff you're undecided about to a lower shelf and then make a final decision later. Plus it's easier to wipe down the sides of the fridge top to bottom.

                                                2. Good topic!

                                                  I bought this acai pomegranate fruit spread once, and have yet to even touch it! Too bad I refuse to return anything to the grocery store (it hasn't expired yet).

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Chew on That

                                                    don't toss it.

                                                    mix it into yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal along with a tablespoon of peanut, sunflower or almond butter.

                                                    or heat it and pour on chocolate ice cream or frozen yogurt.

                                                    it's also a great way to add a fruity sweetness to smoothies or protein shakes.

                                                  2. About 8 inedible muffins. I'm experimenting with some healthier breakfast alternatives (bacon, eggs, and pastry is all we have at the cafeteria at my college) so I made some whole-wheat muffins with dried cherries. They sounded delicious, but once I made them and tried them they were awful! Talk about a bland hockey-puck of a breakfast! Come to think of it... I may have forgotten to add the baking powder.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Mangojane

                                                      good for you for taking the initiative to create your own healthy alternatives to campus cuisine! i hope you don't let one unsuccessful attempt discourage you from trying again...

                                                    2. Italian mustard fruit. Eww.... Pricey and yucky.

                                                      1. I love this topic- it gives me the opportunity to ask your opinions on this item that's been sitting on the door of my fridge (opened) for a while now, and I am not sure how to use it:
                                                        Ragin' Rhub Chutney. It's a delicious, spicy, fruity spread with rhubarb, apples, onions, tamarind, fenugreek, habaneros, brown sugar, mustard seeds and cider vinegar (among other things, and not in that order). I bought it at a local farmer's market and used it as a condiment for grilled pork sandwiches (they were delicious). I can't figure out how to use the 75% of that jar that's left. Ideas?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                          1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                            Baked brie - spread that stuff on it before you bake.

                                                          2. Good question! Actually, I'm somewhat afraid to go foraging into my fridge, LOL There's no telling what moldy leftovers I might find in the back!

                                                            1. Oh boy how embarassing is this. M&M jfood review the contents of the fridge about every other weekend and toss anything that should not be there. So as far as expired items, there are none. But in the process of tossing they normally find one cucumber that gets buried under the other salad stuff and usually one lemon that has seen better days.

                                                              Usually after little jfood comes home from college for a few days there are some of her specialty items that won;t make it to her next visit so they get tossed when she leaves (some salsas and spicy stuff).

                                                              1. A bottle of Newman's Own Asian Sesame Dressing. Not pricey in the least, but it is nearly full so I have a hard time tossing it even though it is tastes terrible to my palate. Other than that, I have a policy of eating basically to bare cupboards/refrigerator before shopping again and only buying what I know will get used so I rarely have spolied things in my kitchen.

                                                                1. Typically it's some marinade, dressing, mustard, relish or similar thing. I buy a bottle, try it once or twice, then even if I like it, don't go back to it right away, as I don't want to bore myself. Then it lingers, and lingers, and lingers. And I can't figure out if it's good anymore. Then I need room in the fridge, or I get nervous about using something that's been around for awhile, so I start tossing.
                                                                  I think I may start taking a sharpie to bottles as I open them, so I can have an idea how long something has been open. I figure after awhile, even if something is still "good," if I haven't used it, I probably won't and even if the date's not past, if it's been open for months, why take a chance.

                                                                  Anyone have an idea how much those cute litte jars of mustard are good for, if not opened?

                                                                  Oh, did anyone else, when you were still living with Mom, bring her things and ask if they were still good, rightly figuring that she would taste (or sometimes smell) whatever it was and let you know, as if you could not do that yourself?

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                    Yes! And I still subject her to it when she comes over sometimes! I've also been known to call my father, who for some reason I think of as a food chemistry whiz, to ask him if he thinks X item that's been in the fridge for Y number of months is likely to still be good... and he gives me a very authoritative response (usually, "I'd eat it") that either makes me feel safer or leads to my taking it to their house the next time I go. Good thing they live within driving distance, or else I'd have no one to give my scary unused condiments to...

                                                                    1. re: Shayna Madel

                                                                      Have you seed those ritzy date keepers on Oprah. You affix them with a magnet or sticker to the top of the jar when you open it and then press a button. It starts counting the days the jar has been open. Your method is cheaper, but isn't this novel?

                                                                      I'm not a mom, but I am known in the family as "iron gut". Once I came home from college for the weekend and feasted on leftover meatloaf in the fridge. When Dad was feeding the dog that evening he searched and searched for the old, "disgusting" meatloaf; alas it was all gone and I never suffered.

                                                                    2. Marinated bamboo shoots I bought in Chinatown. I thought they looked cool, and sounded good, but theyhad a weird flavor/texture to them. I keep thinking I'll find something to do with them. I should just go toss them now :-)

                                                                      1. Right now, just two doubtful items:

                                                                        * A jar of Manischewitz grated horseradish -- I have no idea when I bought it, but I definitely haven't touched it in at least a year. Anyone know (a) how long it can live in the fridge (there's no expiration date) and (b) what I can do with it besides put it on gefilte fish? I know some people make horseradish sauce for beef, so maybe I'll try that. Anything else?

                                                                        * A jar of Annie's BBQ sauce, "smokey maple" flavor, which wasn't at all the flavor I was looking for but it was the only one in the store that didn't have high fructose corn syrup. I should have just made my own. It says "best flavor before 8/9/06." Notice that it doesn't suggest it will make you sick -- so it sounds like one to offer to my dad, who is brave enough to eat anything...

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                                                          As to the horseradish, I have only ever bought Gold's, but I assume roughly the same shelflife from brand to brand. It seems whenever I buy it, the "best by" date usually expires before the next Jewish holiday usually 6 months later. Can't think of much else besides horseradish sauce. I know that the red horseradish sorta starts losing its bright color after awhile.

                                                                          I once found some really big cans of College Inn chicken broth in my mother's garage. They were expired. When I called the phone number on the cans, I was connected to Del Monte, presumably the parent company. They told me that the stuff is usually okay at least 6 months past the date and after that, it won't get you sick, but might start tasting like the can. It says on the Duncan Hines website that the cake mixes don't go "bad" after they expire, it's just that the baking soda/powder in them might kinda die and the cake might not rise.

                                                                          I think the spoilage issue has more to do with with whether or not the item has been opened and how long it has been open, rather than the expiration date. But that's just my uneducated guess. I am sure there is some article somewhere out there on the internet that is more informational, or some of the food company websites may provide some clues.

                                                                          1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                                                            Horseradish is great.

                                                                            I use the white usually, so use the beet flavored at your own risk ; )

                                                                            Add it into almost any salad dressing recipe.
                                                                            Mix it with mayo and make deviled eggs.
                                                                            Mix some in ketchup and use for whatever you're using the ketchup for.
                                                                            Add it to mustard for sandwiches

                                                                            1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                                                              Put some horseradish in when you make a pot roast--it mellows out and adds a nice sweet flavor.

                                                                              Mix with sour cream for sauce or dip.

                                                                              Horseradish is also a nice condiment with sausage.

                                                                              1. re: Kitchen Imp

                                                                                Stir some of that horseradish into a dollop of mayo, add chopped cornichons, capers, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and enjoy the world's best tartar sauce!

                                                                              2. Not in my fridge... but...from my pantry tonight I just tossed a can of Contadina Pizza Sauce given to me as a gift from my old boss (along with a pizza stone and cutter) while I was in college. I might have needed to use carbon dating to get an exact age on the can, but I am placing it circa 2000. This can of sauce has logged many miles, a move to Texas from Kansas (and back again), my husband's graduate school, two apartments and two houses...I was finally going to use it but my husband insisted it go in the trash.

                                                                                1. I have a small jar of green peppercorns in vinegar - they were incorrectly shipped from an online food order, and I have had no reason in two years to use them. So there they sit....