If you're like most people, you have odd ingredients in your cupboard that you don't know what to do with. Maybe you bought them for a recipe, never made the recipe, and don’t even remember what the recipe was. Or, maybe someone gave you an exotic-food-of-the-month club subscription. Or, you just saw an interesting ingredient, brought it home, and never did figure out what to do with it.

NPR wants to help us use up those odd ingredients and curb food waste. The news organization has started the Cook Your Cupboard tumblr board. Here’s how it works:

Submit a photo to the tumblr board of one to three ingredients that are stumping you.

  • Explain how the stuff ended up in your pantry.
  • Check back later to see if anyone has left suggestions in the comments about how to use your ingredients in recipes.
  • A few of the entries will get special treatment and get advice from chefs on NPR's "Morning Edition". Nigella Lawson is the first chef who will offer advice.
You can also lend a hand, by leaving suggestions in the comments for those who are stumped.

I spent a little time this morning checking out the photos. Someone posted a picture of sugar-free, calorie-free, fat-free peanut spread, a peanut butter alternative. She said it didn’t taste even a little like peanut butter. Imagine that! The best suggestion she received was to use it with birdseed outside, but I’m not so sure it’s kind to give birds something like that.

Some of the ingredients seem silly to post. A bag of cookies? Just eat them. Peanut butter and quick-cooking oats in the same photo? Make granola bars. Nutella? Just stick a spoon in the jar and eat it like ice cream.

Others, though, are worth figuring out how to use them creatively. A suggestion for bottle of roasted raspberry chipotle sauce was to mix it with cream cheese for an appetizer spread. That would probably be delicious. A suggestion for the sweet potato pancake mix above was to use it as a batter for fritters.

I think this creative way that NPR has come up with to help people not waste the food in their cupboards is a great idea. I found the entry for the various jars of Chinese food ingredients helpful. I bought several jars last year when my son wanted me to cook more Chinese but by the time I got around to giving it a shot, I had forgotten which recipes I had chosen. So the jars are still in my cupboard. I think we’ll break them out this weekend.

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

NPR's Cook Your Cupboard gets creative with your odd ingredients
NPR wants to help turn your back-of-the-pantry food items into dinner — all with the help of chefs and helpful home cooks.