I recently looked inside our refrigerator and realized the average Joe off the street would probably be unable to identify many items inside. (I’m not sure why Joe from the streets would ever be in my kitchen, but humor me here.)
I laughed a bit to myself and proceded to snap some pictures so you could have a peek inside.
One reason identification is tricky in our fridge is because I forget to label things. I tend to rely on my not-so-reliable memory for what’s what and how old things are; which can be a bit scary, so label and date whenever possible.
Another reason is, many items are straight from our kitchen. That’s right, made and packaged by us. Not purchased from a store. Not sold in fancy, wasteful packaging. Not manufactured by a company with less than optimal health standards. Not left over from a restaurant that is purchasing from one of many corrupt multinational food corporations.
I don’t consider us food snobs. I consider us food realists. We understand that good, healthy food takes time.
We didn’t always eat like this. Our refrigerator used to look a lot different, and our health suffered for it. Some very drastic and deliberate changes over the last few years have allowed us more time for nourishing ourselves with “real food.”
It is a gradual process – one we’re still in the midst of – but the simplicity of ingredients in our refrigerator mirrors the simplicity in our lives.
A peek inside our fridge
Eggs: Free range eggs from a local farmer. We love our eggs and are blessed to have several local folks raising healthy hens.
Bacon: From hogs not fed hormones or antibiotics. This bacon was smoked without the use of nitrites and nitrates.
Liquid whey: When we made cream cheese a few weeks ago we also harvested a good amount of whey; it’s the liquid that remains after milk has been clabbered and strained. It has a ton of great uses and cannot be purchased in the store.
Homemade mayonnaise: Matt is experimenting with many homemade condiments right now, and this one’s easy and delicious.
Sauerkraut: One of our Amish farmer friends makes the most delicious sauerkraut, and we just love him for it. This one could easily be made at home, we just haven’t tackled that project yet. (Find a good brand of sauerkraut here.)
Peanut butter: Yes, a five pound bucket of peanut butter. When I can find a good price on good peanuts, I whip up huge batches of peanut butter in our Vitamix.
Salsa: One of our favorite late night snacks, we blend up fresh salsa anytime we have tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cilantro hanging around in the fridge.
Pureed greens: Remember the article about using up your garden greens? This lovely green stuff has been making its way into many unsuspecting dishes lately.
Strawberry jam: When strawberry season arrives, I pick for hours, process for even longer, and always make several jars of homemade jam to freeze for later in the year.
Chocolate syrup: I panic a bit when we run out of chocolate syrup. I’ve been known to scurry into the kitchen at midnight to cook a batch and replenish our supply.
Lettuce: Our CSA has been anything but short on lettuce, so the salad spinner is a very bulky, semi-permanent fixture in the fridge. Soon, kale from our own container gardens will be residing in the salad spinner. (Tip: keeping your greens in a salad spinner makes them last a looooong time.)
Kefir: (Pronounced ka-FEAR) is similar to yogurt and is made by mixing milk with a starter, then allowing to ferment. We mix it with berries and granola and enjoy it for breakfast. We also use it as a substitute for buttermilk and cream in recipes. (Learn how to make your own kefir here.)
Organic beer: Matt enjoys a beer every now and then, and recently found a great organic brand that he’s stocking.
Non-homogenized milk: When we’re out of raw milk (which we can only get every other week), we purchase non-homogenized (cream separates) whole milk. I just love the glass bottles; they make me feel like I just got a delivery from the milk man! Maybe you’ll think I’m gross, but I also love it when a small chunk of cream ends up in my glass of milk. Mmmmm. It’s like dessert.
Fat back: I had no idea what this was when Matt purchased it. (I kept snickering like a third grade boy when he would mention it.) A local pig farmer sold it to us at the Farmer’s Market. We have recently been reading about the Traditional Diet in the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. The book teaches about the age-old truths of healthy animal fats. Matt intends to make lard from the pork fat back. I know this might sound strange to some, it goes against everything proponents of politically correct diets preach to consumers. Read more about this and other Traditional Diet ideas from The Weston A. Price Foundation.
Pure maple syrup: Michigan produces some of the finest pure maple syrup, and we can purchase a gallon for $46 from a few farmers there! This is crazy cheap if you’ve ever priced out PURE maple syrup. We use it to sweeten desserts, drinks, popsicles, and other treats. (Find pure maple syrup here.)
Bread dough: I have a new found love for baking artisan bread. Ever since a reader recommended Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I’ve had this gigantic bowl with bread dough taking up space in my fridge. Totally worth it – it’s a bowl full of sourdough goodness! This master recipe has been turned into gorgeous loaves, bagels, pizza crust, and breadsticks. (Find sourdough starters here.)
Cheeses: We purchase large blocks of cheeses from the Amish, cut them into smaller pieces, and freeze. Our cheese drawer will typically contain a hunk of parmesan reggiano and white cheddar. Cheese, it goes with everything. (Find cheese-making supplies and starters here.)
Salad dressing: Once we learned how easily salad dressings could be made, we no longer had to deliberate over which dressing to purchase from the thousands of choices at the grocery store. We never use a recipe, just eyeball ingredients and throw together what sounds good.
Coleslaw: In an effort to use up produce from our CSA, I made my very first batch of coleslaw. Next time I will use the food processor instead of chopping cabbage by hand for 40 minutes. Lesson learned, but it was delicious. We prefer a vinegar slaw to a mayo-based slaw.
Produce: During CSA season we always have trouble closing our produce drawers. You’ll notice beets, kale, corn, red onion, radishes, garlic, celery, kohlrabi, white onions, and some other things I can’t quite identify in the picture. :) None of it goes to waste; we’re relentless about using up every bit of food in the fridge. (Good thing kohlrabi lasts a while; using it up takes imagination, but that’s the fun of unfamiliar veggies.)
More milk: No, we don’t have milking cows at our house. I actually took this picture a few days after the other pictures. We purchased raw milk, along with a half gallon of raw cream. We’re planning to use the cream to make butter, cream sauces, and other yummy things. (Find raw milk and cream here.)
Real butter: A few sticks rest in the butter compartment, and the raw milk butter is hiding behind some of the condiments. Things taste so much better with real butter, and unlike margarine, it’s not made with chemicals.
Don’t fall for the diet hype. Eating healthy doesn’t mean “fat-free” or “low-fat” or “skim milk” or margarine or fake eggs (rhymes with egg-skeeters) or anything of the sort.
Real food is grown by real farmers, is processed by real people in real homes, and is enjoyed by real families. Healthy families.
What’s in your fridge?