What’s Lurking in the Back of Your Fridge?

Pop quiz: What’s hanging out in the back of your fridge? (We will always and forever have an old rind of Parmesan.) Tell the truth in the comments below…

This is part of a series with Emily McDowell, one of my favorite illustrators; she asks us one pressing question every month. Previously, what’s in your bag, and what do you do when you’re home alone?

P.S. This is also a tea towel!

(Illustration by Emily McDowell)

  1. There always seems to be half of a jar of olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s. No one can ever remember when it was actually opened, so we toss it, buy another one, and just use half, leaving the remainder to waste away again.
    Cara Hidup Sehat

  2. I ALWAYS save the other half of the can of coconut milk and never use it. It is such a terrible habit and I know I should just freeze it into sorbet instead!

  3. Onions I pickled last summer. I doubt they’re still good. It was a quick pickle–no sanitized jar.

    I also just tossed out duck fat I rendered well over a year ago. I was cooking eggs and veggies in a skillet with it. Until I got distracted and stopped.

  4. One persian cucumber, some raspberry jam and some blue cheese – at least it’s blue now. ;)

  5. Salsa, about 2 months old :/

  6. In our household, it’s usually a bunch of limp and wobbly carrots and a nubbin of ginger root in the “crisper”, a 3 year old bottle of fish sauce in the door, and a 1/3 full jar of tomato sauce that I swear I will use, but it always sits there for 2 weeks and goes a little fuzzy around the rim, under the cap, until I next make spaghetti and meatballs and open a fresh jar, only to start the cycle over again.

  7. Ditto on the parmesan rind, as well as bits of various other cheeses. And the puckered lime. Old container of Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, a perpetual tupperware with the rest of a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (they never seem to go bad…), and random weird condiments: ajvar (Balkan red pepper spread), anchovy paste, etc.

  8. JP says...

    Lemon curd, pesto sauce and almond butter.

  9. Pimentos. Year after year, pimentos
    In a blue polka dot Moon, I crave confetti salad, (cold cooked [frozen is best] corn, diced peppers, onion, pimentos, and brown sugar), and I go buy the little round jar of pimentos because I threw the old expired one out. I rarely make the salad. Its like buying the pimentos ends the craving.

  10. i usually survey my fridge every two weeks or so (coincides with me going grocery shopping). But we always have weird condiments on the door rack hanging out for years – bbq sauce, hoisin/general tso, a1, some salad dressing. but sometimes i get the yucky veg going bad in what seems like nano-seconds. we try to eat our leftovers for lunch each day. Although i just threw out a whole can of cranberry sauce that was in the fridge for months.

  11. 3 month old yoghurts which worryingly are still good- so clearly extremely additive filled!

  12. LOL! The mystery jar in your fridge made me think of mine in my fridge from Target. Gotta love those red stickers!!

  13. apricot jam, and i counted 7 different jars of mustard!

  14. There always seems to be half of a jar of olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s. No one can ever remember when it was actually opened, so we toss it, buy another one, and just use half, leaving the remainder to waste away again.

  15. Parm here, too, for sure! And beer I just had to try and hated….I did, however, just remember to change out my 2 year old box of baking soda last week!

  16. And one tiny bottle of bio gaia to help with my son’s reflux when he was an infant – which was over 2 years ago…so – expired.

  17. 8 different flavours of mustard – one plain yellow French’s and the rest are all Kozliks – made in Canada – my husband loves it and they have a big booth/small store at a fresh food market we go to that sells just their mustard. They are all his and he eats specific flavours with different foods to shake things up. They have over 30 flavours. Seriously. Of mustard. Who knew?

  18. LC says...

    The fennel in the illustration is cracking me up! I always seem to have a random farmer’s market find that I have big plans for…except they never come to fruition. Right now we have homemade tamales that are 2 weeks old. So much work…don’t have the heart to pitch them yet!

  19. A ramekin of solidified bacon grease!

  20. A container of dried figs that I impulsively bought and have no idea what to do with.

  21. A container of homemade tartar sauce, gluten free flours, and our own parmesan rind. :)

  22. Tahini. I buy it to make hummus, vow to use it up in other applications, forget it, see it back there and wonder if it’s still good, get scared, ignore it, eventually throw it out.

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. As always, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso. I guess we like fermented things ’round here. :)

  25. Exactly what is illustrated is also lurking in my fridge. Plus a half eaten yogurt pouch from my toddler.

  26. Keep the parmesan rind, it adds amazing flavour to chicken broth!:)

    I always seem to have some wilting herbs and many different jam jars (apricor or blueberry anyone?)

  27. Cleaned out the vegetable drawer and found a very shriveled red pepper…..hmmmmm

  28. A bundle of fresh Italian parsley that I bought with the intention of green smoothies, stuck in a cup with water like a vase (so it won’t die) and covered with a plastic bag (so it won’t wilt), but rotting/wilting anyway because I fail to add more water or use it up quickly. Glad you asked.

  29. we have a tiny fridge in our flat but there is still that old rind of parmesan, some going-off pears belonging to my flatmate, a tupperware box of lovingly made mac & cheese which I didn’t really want to reheat again yet, but didn’t want to throw away either, half a head of cauliflower from when i tried to make that new fad of ‘cauliflower rice’ and some honey mustard pickled gherkins (living in Germany after all…) I am enjoying reading everyone else’s comments, it’s a funny but weirdly interesting post!

  30. I’m with nimber… my mom and my neighbor have chickens so I make a lot of frittatas and quiches and always have people over for brunch! We just moved and bought a refrigerator and it’s amazing how you take all of those weird things and condiments for granted… who knew you had to buy soy sauce, doesn’t the soy sauce fairy just drop it off in the night?

  31. many types of mustards and an opened jar of anchovies i’m afraid to check on

  32. Light bulbs! A friend stuck them in there when I moved and I never took them out.

  33. Chipotles in adobo, because you never ever need a whole can; one can of pop, because someone left it at our house; a gallon container of maple syrup my parents gave me for Christmas 4 years ago (we’re about 2/3 done with it); a box of baby lettuces because the fresh-from-the- garden lettuce is so much better I haven’t opened it. Cute question. :)

  34. ms magpie, oh man, haha, i don’t envy you! :)

  35. nimber, that is so cool that they have chickens! my aunt used to have chickens when we were growing up, and i loved collecting the warm eggs.

  36. When I was a kid I found an old can of Spam in the cabinet that had expired ten years prior. My mom suspects it was packed up when we moved and just shoved away and forgotten. My brother and I decided to have a party in it’s honor. On the day of the party we went to retrieve the guest of honor, but it was missing. To our horror, we discovered that our dad had found the recently unearthed Spam and eaten it. He said it tasted fine :-/

  37. I have six cartons of eggs in my fridge. My parents have chickens and each time I visit I get sent home with a dozen. I really need to spend a weekend making egg dishes. The problem is all the cartons are recycled so I have no clue which are fresh vs. edible. I’m sure there’s some type of nifty test for that. Or I could start writing dates on them ha. Wasteful :/

  38. A huge bottle of fish sauce and incredibly old baking soda.

  39. A small tub of miso (good thing that never goes bad!), a jar of bacon grease and some maple butter.

  40. a says...

    limes… from a party in the beginning of April.. gross…

  41. Parsley gone slimy >_<

  42. To be honest, we’re pretty good about eating everything in our fridge haha. But! I think the things we have had the longest are: psyllium husk powder, some free beer my boyfriend got from a friend who doesn’t drink, ginger liquor, apple cider vinegar and Earth Balance shortening. Woop! I know how to party haha…

  43. So funny/perfect for me today–I’m the last one moving out of my senior year college apartment, so I’m not only finding my stuff, I’m also finding things my roommates left…five half eaten but now freezer burned gelatos (the roommates’), little nubs of butter from recipes that didn’t use a full stick, red curry paste, the baking soda box I added back in August, etc.

  44. A pre-opened jar of mustard (why?) another jar of
    mustard (really, why ?), 11 (!) bottles of sauces , half a yellow courgette, a 3- week old leek, 3 bottles of Belgian beer.
    Now that makes for an interesting dinner !

  45. Question: should i really be putting my baking soda in the fridge? I’ve seen this before, but don’t bother putting it there.

  46. Lettuce, gone bad but I can’t bear to throw it out because its from my husbands balcony garden. Why, oh why didnt we eat it?

  47. I try to be responsible with what I have in my fridge since I share it with two roommates, but I know there’s bean dip in the back corner that’s about 6 weeks old.

  48. Raspberry jam :)

  49. Lemons, crusty and hard has rocks.

  50. Great questions! We always have a pot of sour cream lurking there or an old jar of opened mustard!

    Beccy // Bluebell & Bumpkin

  51. Schmaltz (chicken fat) from a chicken I roasted at least 3 months ago. I curse it every time I need the particular Pyrex container it’s occupying, by I just can’t work up the energy to scrape it out and dispose of it.

  52. A bottle of aloe vera that I purchased over a decade ago.

  53. I just tossed some cheese rind this morning… I am sure I thought it was a good idea to save but for the life of me I don’t know why….

  54. Always and forever, the last pancake wrapped in foil that I am convinced I will eat as a snack.

  55. My sourdough starter, mystery gladware container I’m afraid to open, wilted spinach remains. I hope that is all.

  56. A moldy lemon from when I decide to drink lemon water every morning, then forget for a few weeks.

    Three bags of arugula with just a handful left inside (my boyfriend refuses to ever finish a bag before buying the next).

    And 6 different kinds of mustard that have moved with us into 3 apartments and probably expired 2 years ago.

  57. Put that parmesan heel in a batch of spaghetti sauce or a pot of soup! If left to simmer for a really long time it will eventually melt in completely, or it will soften and get chewy – you can eat it if you like. But the sauce or soup will get a boost of delicious parmesan flavour!

    I always have a can of coconut milk (in case I need the solidified cream from the top), questionable feta, and really old tahini that hopefully is still okay

  58. We’re pretty good about using everything up (you can great the parmesan rind straight into sauces!!), but we have A LOT of condiments and three jars of (open) pickles that our roommate left behind when he moved out.

  59. – Eggs (I learned that even should be stored in the back of the fridge never at the doors in order to be kept fresh for longer)

    – Left overs from God nows how many days ago.

  60. Batteries! My boyfriend insists on storing them there.

  61. i usually have an avocado that was hard as a rock when i purchased it, then it verged on too ripe on the counter so i put it in the fridge to prolong it’s life — only to forget about it.

    i try to be very ‘european’ with my shopping and only buy what i need on the day to prevent back of the fridge surprises!

  62. Yellow green beans! And some old wilty radishes.

  63. I clean out the fridge almost every time I grocery shop (we have a smallish fridge and mold grosses me out), but I always forget the door. Last week I found a bottled Diet Coke there, which is very strange because I would never buy that for home. Then I remembered that my roommate brought one home for me the weekend we moved in…last September.

    We also have at least six containers of hummus at any given time because WHAT IF WE RUN OUT OF HUMMUS?

  64. prepackaged beets from trader joes that i had good intentions for and they’ve never made it into the smoothie or out of the package.

  65. We also have 3 heels of bread and way too old baking soda, in addition to a variety of pepper jellies (mango jalapeno, raspberry jalapeno, chocolate habanero)!

  66. A head of butter lettuce. The kind with the roots still attached. It’s about a month old, but it seriously looks like I just bought it yesterday. I’m too afraid to use it, but I can’t stand the thought of tossing it!

  67. We’ve got a treasure-trove of condiments and sauces, three small bottles of Evian from our pre-Irene panic, and about 5 different salad dressings. We’re trying to be better about making everything we eat (a la Paleo) and haven’t had much use for a lot of the old condiments and dressings we used to rely on. And the Evian we’re definitely saving for the next hurricane :)

  68. Taco Bell sauce and soy sauce packets… I hoard! :)

  69. jajajajaja good one!

    – pieces of vegetables that were not used entirely and needed to be saved for…. some day, starting to rott.

    – Coconut milk

    – cream cheese

    – parmesan

  70. Ripe mango puree in a small cup, wheat dough, cucumbers, aubergine and some pickle!!!

  71. At one point I had 17 different kinds of cheese in my fridge. I live in Wisconsin…. go figure. Many of them with mold on them, but we just cut it off.

  72. Ha. I cleaned the fridge out recently… and we are generally pretty good about not over-stocking it, so there is nothing too exciting right now! Pickles, some jam, and some condiments that are close to expiring is about it!

  73. I have to say, I bet the tiny apartment dwellers have the cleanest fridges! Ours is just not very big, even our freezer tends to get well cleaned out every week because I will only buy what we need.

  74. Always chipotle peppers in adobo. Our NYC fridge is pretty small, so we try to keep it clean

  75. I cleaned out my fridge before the weekend since my parents came to visit…it was scary.

    4 containers of expired sour cream. Pickles that expired in 2012. Molded leftovers with eyeballs. YICK! but, glad I’m not the only one!

  76. a Christmas pudding that we bought 2 years ago and haven’t found an occasion special enough to eat it (including last christmas)

  77. Bag of spinach I swore I’d eat! Did not eat.

  78. I just want to comment because last week I cleaned out my fridge. It looks awesome. I mean, I didn’t wipe it down but I threw out all the stuff I don’t need and it was cluttering up the space.

    Needless to say I am feeling proud!

  79. Open cans of pureed tomatoes. We put it in quinoa (a very flavorful combination). No matter how many I throw out they keep reappearing!

  80. half full tins of cat food in ziplocks….#catlady :)

  81. A sinister, fermenting bowl of unidentifiable leftovers which has been continually pushed to the back of the fridge, seemingly since about 1982. Eek. At least you’ve inspired me (shamed me) to have a proper clear out!

  82. Old wrinkly grapes and limes. And moldy mascarpone … that stuff goes bad quickly.

    Quick tip for your parmesan rinds: freeze them and put them in your soups and tomato sauces while cooking them. They add an AMAZING flavor and richness!!

  83. yes, cream cheese! haha, us too. also, cottage cheese for the same reason.

  84. The 3 wrapped bread heels, for sure! Also some wilted celery and a bundle of utterly dessicated thyme.

  85. old won ton wrappers (which I used for ravioli)

  86. Multiple tubs of cream cheese and mascarpone, I’m sure. Whenever I’m at the grocery store, I don’t remember if we have any left and I just buy another.

  87. I just found a punnet of strawberries at the back of my fruit drawer. I can’t remember when I bought them… that’s how pretty it looked :)