There’s a movement slowly creeping into foodie articles and blogs. Kim O’Donnel from the Washington Post calls it Eating Down the Fridge. On The Green Phone Booth Blog, it’s called Eating Out the Cupboards. I’ve called it Digging In Your Pantry.

Whatever name it goes by, it’s all the same thing — eating what you already have in your home instead of going to the store to buy more. Finding the foods that are going to go bad if you don’t eat them soon, or the foods that you frequently pass over in your cupboards, and figuring out how to incorporate them into a meal.

I’m working on this. This week, I made a stir fry with things I had on hand. I grabbed some beef from my freezer that was already cut up into stir fry strips that I had bought on a manager’s special at the store, some brown basmati rice that had been sitting in my pantry for a while, and all of the vegetables in my crisper that needed to be used up that seemed appropriate. Then I went online and found out how to make a stir fry sauce and found one that used ingredients I had on hand. Here are the results:

My six year old pointed at it and said, “I am not going to eat THAT” and my older son made a face, but they both ended up gobbling it down. It was good.

Why should you consider joining this eat what you’ve already got movement?

  • You'll waste less food. At least 25 percent of the food we produce in the U.S. gets thrown away uneaten (and many think it’s a much higher percentage). It’s a big environmental problem. Whenever you waste food, you also waste all of the water, resources and fuel that went into growing, processing and transporting the food.
  • You'll get to flex your creative culinary muscles. Figuring out how to use that can of black beans that you bought for a recipe that you never made (and now don't remember what it was) can help you discover all new recipes.
  • There's a good chance you'll eat a little healthier. Let's face it, you've probably got some dried whole grains in your cupboard that you bought with good intentions, but passed over when you chose to make something a little less healthy. Chances are many of the foods you pass over are healthier ones. Even in my family where I try to get us to eat healthy, that happens a lot.
  • You'll get your cupboards, fridge and freezer cleaned out. Once they are a little less full, you can refill them with more healthy foods. For some ideas on healthy, organic foods that won't break your budget, check out this post I did on how you can afford some organics.
  • And speaking of budgets, if you use foods you already have, you won't need to spend so much on groceries. At least for a while. It can help you lower your weekly food bill for several weeks, and you can save some much needed cash.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Digging in your pantry
You've got a lot of food in your cupboards and your refrigerator. How 'bout eating it?