Using Up A Surplus of Food

I had an interesting problem recently in regards to food. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Oregon closed all bars and restaurants in mid March. They could still provide take-out or delivery but many places shut down for the duration. Because this was relatively unexpected, the businesses had a great deal of produce and refrigerated food to get rid of before it went bad.

A dear friend who owns two bars brought me a bag of excess food: lettuce, carrots, onions, blue cheese, avocado, etc. I also got a big box of lemons, limes and oranges. From this bounty, I was able to make Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, red onion) and guacamole (avocado, onion, jalapeños, tomato, limes). I still had a ton of food to use up but I hadn't been shopping yet that week so I plan meals around what was left.

The next day, my husband comes home with two big bags of food. His employer is also shut down and is in the same boat. I got more heads of lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, carrots, onions (so many onions), 3 heads of celery, more citrus, etc. It was a tad overwhelming.

This continued for a few days, with my husband bringing home excess food every night after work. It was more than I could easily fit in my refrigerator. Here is what I did to use up as much as possible.

  • Citrus: I have a citrus juicing attachment on my Kitchenaid so we juiced all the oranges and limes. I froze the lime juice to use in a recipe later and we drank the orange juice with breakfast. The lemons were also juiced and we took zest from 12 of them to make lemoncello and lemon bars. The remaining juice was made into lemonade.

  • Celery: I took one head of celery and made a creamy celery blue cheese soup. Another head was chopped up for the mirepoix I was making (1 part celery, one part carrot, 2 part onion) for the freezer. I was able to use up the third head in soups and other meals.

  • Onion: I had both red and white onions. I chopped up some of both to add to my mirepoix and froze some chopped onions separately. I sautéed them in bacon fat and made a quiche with shredded cheese that we received. I made several soups and stews that contained onion, some of which I froze for later. Sliced onions were also used for salads and were added to our scrambled eggs. I had originally planned to make pickled red onions but I managed to use them all up.

  • Carrots: Not only did I receive several large whole carrots but my husband also grabbed a couple large bags of carrot sticks. I chopped up the whole carrots for my mirepoix mixture. These frozen bags will come in so handy when I don't have fresh ingredients. My husband took out our juicer and combined the stick carrots with ginger, apples (also from work) and a head of romaine lettuce. It makes a refreshing addition to breakfast. Most of the rest of the carrots were added to my regular soups, stir fry and meatloaf.

  • Tomatoes: I used a few tomatoes for my Greek salad and a couple in the guacamole. More tomatoes were turned into tomato soup, diced for tacos, or other salads.

  • Peppers: I got bell peppers, poblanos and jalapeños. The Greek salad used up most of the bell peppers. I made tacos and used the spicy peppers and more when I made a taco soup with the leftovers.

  • Greens: I got several heads of romaine, a head of iceberg lettuce and a head of cabbage. In addition to juicing the romaine, I have been using the lettuce for salads, tacos or sandwiches. The cabbage was used in a stir fry and added to the taco soup. We didn't manage to eat all of it before it went bad but we sure tried.

  • Dairy and Eggs: I received both blue cheese and shredded cheddar cheese, half and half and eggs. The blue cheese was used in the celery soup as well as being made into a blue cheese dressing. The shredded cheese was used in a quiche, which also used up eggs and half and half. More cheese and half and half was used in a casserole of mac and cheese. I still have sealed cartons of egg whites to find a use for but they should keep for a little while longer.

  • Condiments: My husband also brought home some flavored oil and sauces. I got a pineapple soy sauce, which I used to make a stir fry with the other veggies. A barbecue mop sauce was added to my meatloaf as was a horseradish dijon. Honey mustard dressing was used to coat chicken tenders before baking. And the garlic oil was used to start all sorts of meals.

My refrigerator and countertops are finally getting cleared out and my freezer is full. It certainly helped our food budget and it was sort of fun figuring out how to use it all up. I'll post some recipes soon.

This list doesn't include everything we received and I did give some of the excess away. We did our best to use up everything. The avocados were the hardest as only my husband and I will eat them. I should have frozen them too.

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April 8, 20200 found this helpful

This is an excellent post - thank you! Also good to keep busy and take one's mind off of things for a while.

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April 9, 20201 found this helpful

Thanks! It was a fun puzzle for me to figure out how to use up as much as possible.


Now, I need to post a bunch of recipes. :)

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April 11, 20200 found this helpful

Good JOB!!! Glad you had the spare freezer space to work with as it was a lot of work but so satisfying and good eats too!!

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April 11, 20200 found this helpful

Some of the food could have been given to the Food banks. They are in need of donations

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April 11, 20200 found this helpful

The food banks in my area wouldn't take fresh produce like this, only packaged and sealed items. That is why the restaurants gave it to their employees instead of donating it directly.

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April 26, 20200 found this helpful

That really depends. While the sentiment is nice, for example the food bank by us does not want food donations! It takes too much man power and time to sort and organize random Items. Its easier for them to get trucks of items in large quantities of the same goods for sorting and distributing purposes.


They also wont even reuse the empty boxes they give out because they have been touched and they are taking extra measures to keep everything sanitary.

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April 11, 20200 found this helpful

What a great post, you did a wonderful job!! Can't wait to see the recipes!!

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April 12, 20200 found this helpful

Here's one of them:

Hopefully, I'll get some more up next week. I have a ton of pictures. :)

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April 12, 20200 found this helpful

One of the best for all. We have a deli person who gave us fresh buns and I using my browser look up uses and wow from puddings to stuffing to you name it.


I took out my( quickie pie maker )short for making meat pie individual and frozen them I was given this tool at age 7 and it has been included in my cooking and family's for over 76 years including camp trips.

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April 12, 20200 found this helpful

You can dehydrate most fruits and vegetables. Lettuce? No so good to dehydrate. The rest would have been great dehydrated. Just steam it for 5 minutes before dehydrating. Ive done this to most of what you got. Even cabbage can be dehydrated. It is so good is soups.

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April 13, 20200 found this helpful

I wish I had your luck. Like you I would have Juiced the citrus (by hand don't have the juicer on my mixer) and would have had a field day.


Thanks for the ideas should it come up around here.

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