To-Use Bins

As you have seen in my last post, I have a lot of ingredients.  I make a lot of food, and I have a lot of specialty ingredients.  However, these can add up over time, and most cannot be added into your average dinner. Super stinky fermented bean paste has few applications outside the few Chinese dishes I use it for, which I don’t want to make all the time. In fact, I didn’t like it, and really should give it to someone who will, come to think of it…

I grew up knowing that food was expensive, and whether my parents wanted me know or not, I knew we didn’t have much money for food, especially while I was young.  I feel that it can do strange things to you – I feel sick when I throw food away, I tend to get stuff on sale just in case, and I panic about food.  I realized a few years ago that I didn’t want to be like that, and it really hit home while cleaning out my grandpa’s apartment.  He lived through the Great Depression, and he hoarded food.  There was some ancient food in there.  I am not a food hoarder, but I hate wasting food, and I will hold on to things I will never use again for far too long.

One way I have been changing that is by adding a To-Use bin. I put food I need to use in here, and I look for ways I can add it to my meal or prep plan. For example, below is the leftover masa and corn husks from my last tamale batch. It was a while ago, and I simply need to use it up.  We now have a store in town that sells tamales made locally by lovely little old ladies, and for only a little more per tamale, I am willing to support them from here on out instead of making my own. Frankly, theirs are better, and it saves me on spoons.  I also have an old bag of Gluten Free pancake mix (I have an intestinal disorder and occasionally have to cut out a lot of foods to find new triggers. Gluten was sadly a trigger for several years, and I still don’t have a lot of it.), and I am halfway done with the bag. I have been making small pancakes that fit into the toaster and freezing them, so the kids can grab one in the morning and have something different for breakfast.


Sorry for the blurriness, my hands are shaking a lot today.  I would have asked my husband to take it, but you know, I’m stubborn.

This is my goal for today – finish making a bunch of pancakes, and make the tamales with the help of my husband and my stand mixer. Last time I did it by hand and I couldn’t use my hands for a week. I do not always think straight, and the other day I realized that duh, I should have put it in my mixer. I make plans, and sometimes I don’t think to deviate from them when I hit a roadblock.  I am a tad stubborn.  Use your appliances for what they are designed for. Don’t be like me. Be reasonable. Use your spoons wisely.

This method is also really useful for me as my kitchen is small and awkward, and this makes it easier to me to find all the dry ingredients I need in one spot without hunting around. I put it all in there the week I am making the food, and then I don’t spend so much time looking for ingredients.  Most of this bin should (hopefully) be used up by tonight, and then the items I want to use next week will go in.  I am working on cleaning my freezer so that I can do the same thing there, and I have a spot in my fridge labeled “Use this week” as well.  It has really helped me keep my meal plans together, so give it a shot, and let me know if it works for you!


Meal Plan for the week of 1/29

Sunday: Dinner with my parents – I will offer to bring a side that matches whatever my mom makes.

Monday: No kids that night, so at-home date night! Steak, potatoes, and a side veggie from freezer.

Tuesday: Pull out a freezer meal to use up – I have a few that got buried in the chest freezer, so I am going to find a few and bring them to the surface.

Wednesday: Same as Tuesday –  I meant it when I said I’m cleaning out my freezer.

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Taco night, with chipotle black beans (recipe coming soon)

Saturday: I work, so my husband will make tortellini, red sauce, and use up a freezer side veggie.


One thought on “To-Use Bins

  1. your to-use bin is a brilliant idea! ages ago i tried to group meal components together in the pantry, but that’s long since fallen by the wayside. i need to clean out my pantry anyway, so I’ll see how i could incorporate this into my space.


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