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Mar 4, 2009 03:33 PM

"Problem" ingredients

I have had several recent conversations with friends about cooking frugally and reducing waste. All of us seem to have at least one grocery item that we have trouble using up before it goes bad.
Mine is celery...What are your problem ingredients? You love them, but just can't seem to use them up in time!

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  1. I'd have to say fresh herbs. If one is buying herbs for a specific dish and flavor, you have to be committed to eating that flavor for a few days, else the herbs will go south. Cilantro, say. Love it, but I don't want five days of cilantro-flavored food. Basil is another.

    Thankfully our guinea pigs will eat up the excess (as with celery). Still, problematic. Wih I could grow my own herbs year rounds.


    9 Replies
    1. re: cayjohan

      I keep clamshells of fresh herbs in the freezer all the time. Herbs with large leaves, such as sage, may not serve well as a garnish once frozen, but for cooking, the flavor is unchanged and they work great. At the moment I have mint, chives, rosemary, thyme, basil, epizote, parsley, cilantro, and probably a few more that don't pop readily to mind. Allows me to use them at leisure instead of playing the herb-of-the-week cooking game.

      1. re: Caroline1

        When I've thrown rosemary and thyme in the freezer they have both turned black. Not appetizing.

          1. re: Agent Orange

            yes mine too, is there a secret to freezing them? I say just chop them up and make bread or a pesto and freeze that.

            1. re: chef chicklet

              When I have fresh herbs to use up I typically use them in oil or butter. With the oil I refrig with the butter I freeze for use in recipes.

          2. re: Caroline1


            You have said this before - "clamshells", what do you mean by that?


            Never Mind! I see your answer down below!

            1. re: danhole

              I believe a "clamshell" is the way the herbs come packaged. Two moulded plastice pieces, hinged on one side which close together areound the item packaged.

          3. re: cayjohan

            I tend to make excuses. The only stuff I ever really buy is rosemary.. hey that's about it. oh yeah, basil. I can think of about a million things to use those guys in.

            1. re: cayjohan

              Celery? You must learn how to enjoy a few more Bloody Marys :)

            2. meatn3, this isn't an answer to your post, but I thought I'd share how celery is no longer a "problem" ingredient for me. A few years ago my sister-in-law gave me Tupperware Fridge Smart containers. I cut the celery stalks off the base, wash it and dry it, put it in the container, put a paper towel over it and put the lid on. I open one of the holes for airflow. If it's in there long enough I may exchange the paper towel for a dry one. The celery stays good for weeks. I have several different sized containers I use for celery, carrots and lettuce.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Axalady

                a plastic bag works just as well - either a partially closed zipper bag, or one of the "Baggies" that are flimsier & more breathable. i do it with herbs too, and my parsley lasts for at least 10 days that way, cilantro at least a week.

                1. re: Axalady

                  An even simpler celery preservation method, which I learned here on Chowhound, is to wrap the intact bunch in aluminum foil, enclosing it completely, and store it in the crisper drawer. It stays crisp for a couple weeks.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    yep Caitlin - that's a great tip. Exactly how I store mine and it keeps forever.....well, almost forever

                    1. re: chicaraleigh

                      would this work for other veggies, too? like asparagus, carrots, peppers, etc?

                      1. re: Jacey

                        good question - I'm not sure. I've never tried with anything else except for onion. That didn't work out very well. It turned into a really slimy mess-ugh!

                  2. It may be weird but mine is bread. I occasionally love it but then it's breadcrumbs and how many breadcrumbs can I use?
                    I've tried freezing half the bread but it's not the same.
                    I can take on your celery, I spread it w/ cream cheese and a little vegemite.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: lucygoosey

                      Oh that has to be mine. I tend to buy fresh bread on the weekend, make toast or eat some with cheese, and then half of it doen't get eaten.

                      But then I sometimes make My own, so it's not a huge deal. I definitely will try and make some foccacia tonight.

                      1. re: Soop

                        That was mine too until I discovered papa al pomodoro! saute some finely chopped onion & garlic in olive oil and/or butter, add sliced stale bread, stir it around so the bread soaks up lots of garlicy oil. Add a big can of tomatoes and some water or broth. Herbs like basil, oregano, or parseley, maybe some grated romano. Once it's cooked for a bit, either mash it up best you can in the pot with a fork or a chunkier soup or use an immersion blender or a food processor to smooth it out. At that point you can add pasta, ground meat, spinach, white beans, whatever you like (the authentic version would be to leave it plain, but I can't help but tinker).

                        1. re: Emmmily

                          Smaller (half-size) loaves of bread are available in some stores. But they don't come in sourdough...yet.

                    2. baby greens.
                      i'm single and the bag always go bad before i can finish it all.
                      and the bulk options are even more expensive or not as good.
                      so i keep buying the damn bags, only to throw some of it out...
                      vicious circle!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: dinaofdoom

                        Try using the rolling-in-paper towels trick outlined by Axalady and goodhealthgourmet above. It really helps prolong the life of delicate greens.

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          i hate it when they get slimy and nasty.
                          that is probably the one thing i throw out with regularity.

                      2. Fresh herbs and celery. Though celery can be used up in a clean out the fridge type vegetable soup. And I suppose fresh herbs can go into a salad mix, depending on what they are, probably not rosemary.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Louise

                          i got a huge amount of dill from my CSA, which is my least favorite herb (can't think of what to do with a quantity, unless i am pickling, which i never am...).

                          ended up making a crapload of compound butter (with meyer lemon, capers and sun dried tomatoes) as well as much lemony yogurty dill sauce as my palate could stand.
                          and i still threw a bit out!

                          some herbs are hard to use up.
                          i have the same prob with cilantro.

                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                            Next time chop it with brown sugar and salt, pack it between and around two sides of salmon, wrap it tightly in cling film, and cure it three days under weight, turning twice daily. Then rinse it, slice the gravlax thin, and eat with rye crackers and cucumbers and a little sour cream.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              My dh's half Mexican, so we (I) make a lot of dishes using cilantro.
                              Try this Border Pesto: pulse 2 T pepitas (green squash seeds) in a blender with 1/2 t kosher salt until powdered. Add 1 clove garlic, 2 c cilantro leaves (packed), and pulse until chopped. With blender running, slowly add in 1/2 c olive oil. Pour into a bowl and stir in 2 T grated parmesan and 1 c crema agria OR creme fraiche (can substitute 1/2 c plain yogurt combined with 1/2 c sour cream) until smooth. Use as you would basil pesto; on pasta, spread on toast, or dolloped on soup (pref. tortilla or chicken lime soup).
                              Will post the cilantro soup recipe as soon as I can find it.

                          2. re: Louise

                            i was going to mention celery for soup too! and if you have a big lot a parsley i always make tabouli with heaps and heaps of lemons yum

                            also fresh rosmary, sometimes i let it just sit out and dries out and i use it as "dried" rosmary.