The Pantry Challenge.

My family is in the middle of a budget overhaul- we are cleaning out a lot of our old things for consignment, especially clothes and toys that the kids have grown out of. We’re also cutting down on general costs- a de-cluttering of every facet, if you will. There is a lot of room for improvement…especially where our grocery bill is concerned. I try to buy my groceries as cheaply as possible without compromising quality, but in the process I can get swept up in impulsive purchases. My efforts are going to center around buying only what I need for the week- making a list and sticking to it, and planning out meals every Friday night.

I used to be a big-time meal-planner, but in the past month, a lot of my planning has fallen by the wayside due to a hectic schedule with the kids and a ton of schoolwork at the end of this last semester. As the Fall approaches, I am planning on having a meal-plan each week. I actually like being on a schedule- it makes it a lot less stressful to balance the kids and school when I don’t have to worry about figuring out meals on the fly.

The most significant effort we are going to be making is eating what we have before we buy more food. I know that sounds like an obvious system, but I don’t think most people actually follow it. I know I am totally guilty of running out to the store when I have plenty of food here at home. So here is the challenge I am undertaking: I combed through our fridge, freezer, and all of the cabinets and removed all of the items that I cook/eat. My goal is to eat only what I have in the house, and during that time I’ll limit my grocery shopping to some basic staples that will need consistent replenishing (almond milk, garlic & onions, etc.). I’m going to see just how far the food I have will carry us, and hopefully get some shelves cleared out in the meantime.

We have so much food– I can’t believe I’ve been making weekly trips to the store. With all that I already have, what in the world was I buying? Here is a rundown on what I unearthed from the far corners of our kitchen (and keep in mind, this is just my supplies- this doesn’t include my Mum and Rob’s):

Produce, my favorite! Here’s what I pulled from the shelves:

  • 2 pints of blackberries FROZEN.
  • 2 pints of raspberries FROZEN.
  • 1/4 peck of peaches
  • 1/4 peck of pears
  • 8 apples
  • 2 3 lemons
  • 1 giant eggplant
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 4 onions- 2 red, 2 sweet
  • 1 2 bulbs of garlic
  • 7 bananas
  • 5 tomatoes- 2 heirloom, 3 yellow
  • 1 loaf of pumpernickel bread and 1/2 loaf of 5-grain flax bread
  • 1 bunch of chocolate mint
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 5 stems of collard greens
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 bag of TJ’s haricots verts (string beans!)
  • 3 large beets
  • 3 peppers
  • 4 lb. carrots
  • 8 jalepeños
  • 4 squash- 2 yellow, 2 zucchini
  • 1 head of celery
  • 1 bunch of red russian kale
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 1 bunch of dinosaur kale

To be fair, some of that was purchased today, so it’s not as though it was all just sitting rotting at the bottom of the vegetable bin. However, that almost makes it worse- I went out to the market today and actually purchased more food when I clearly had plenty of produce at home. Frankly, though, the produce overflow isn’t what alarmed me the most. Fruits and veggies, while delicious and nutrient-dense, are not very filling, so it’s easier to eat more of them- and boy, do we eat our fair share! I am confident that by Saturday, we’ll be pretty barren on the produce front. No, what really blew me away was how many grains and beans I have been hoarding away like some demented bulk-food nut.

This is actually a bit embarrassing. What kind of bean/grain-drought am I preparing for, exactly?

  • 2 packages of soba noodles
  • O-shaped pasta (I can only assume I was going to make homemade spaghetti-o’s?)
  • whole wheat farfalle
  • whole wheat elbows (again, pasta salad, perhaps?)
  • mai fun noodles
  • dry polenta
  • sushi rice
  • TJ’s white corn grits
  • organic brown rice
  • white basmati rice
  • Wegman’s Aztec rice/grain blend
  • dried anasazi beans
  • dried lima beans
  • dried black-eyed peas
  • dried kidney beans
  • forbidden rice
  • dried navy beans
  • black beluga lentils
  • raw buckwheat groats
  • barley
  • amaranth
  • french lentils
  • brown lentils
  • tri-color quinoa
  • millet
  • TVP
  • farro

Some of these items are staples in our house- things like quinoa, millet, lentils, and the farfalle are items that I try to always have on hand for throw-together meals. The rest of it is all things that I like to keep around- dried beans are particularly nice. But if they’re there, they should be eaten, not hoarded. I should be replenishing these when I run out, not ignoring them altogether. I sense a bean salad in our future…or perhaps a nice chili.

This is my collection of dried fruit and nuts. We do consume a good amount of these, usually in some form of trail mix for snacking on when we’re out. I also often use dried fruit in baking, or on top of our oatmeal.

  • TJ’s hemp protein powder
  • homemade trail mix
  • tri-color popcorn
  • goji berries
  • medjool dates
  • dried blueberries
  • red quinoa (for making baked onion ring crust)
  • dried mulberries
  • dried cranberries
  • raisins
  • sundried tomatoes
  • hempseeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • sliced almonds
  • chia seeds
  • pepitas
  • dried mango
  • dried ginger chunks

Tentative plan: snack mix…and granola. Lots of granola.

This looks pretty tame…until you realize that it’s all nut butters and jams. But mostly nut butters. Some people just stock a jar of Skippy, but we are a fancy folk.

  • blueberry chia jam (homemade)
  • apple butter (homemade)
  • coconut butter, courtesy of Artisana (review coming soon!)
  • Crofter’s superfruit spread
  • tahini
  • PB2
  • cashew butter
  • cherry chia jam (homemade)
  • TJ’s almond butter
  • homemade maple peanut butter

This is excluding the rest of the Artisana review samples. In our defense, we buy cheap nuts and make a lot of this ourselves, but it is still unnecessary. My intent is to stock a single nut butter- probably almond- and save the rest for special treats when the mood strikes. Likewise, I think we would survive with just one flavor of jam.

This was the most alarming collection for me. I do a lot of baking, as well as experimenting with different flours. I am not gluten-free, but I like to have a few great gluten-free baked good recipes in my arsenal. Though, as many of you know, gluten-free flours can be temperamental, and usually require a combination of flours to turn out a tasty result. As a result of extensive hands-on research, I now have enough flour and sugar to open a bakery.

  • 2 bags of light brown sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • TJ’s cornstarch
  • cane sugar
  • Purely Elizabeth pancake mix (a gift from Renee)
  • oats
  • sucanat
  • chocolate chips
  • steel-cut oats
  • maple sugar
  • puffed kamut cereal
  • whole wheat flour
  • vital wheat gluten
  • ground flaxseed
  • TJ’s blueberry-infused flaxseed (delicious!)
  • whole wheat pastry flour
  • maca powder
  • buckwheat flour
  • Bob’s Red Mill irish soda bread mix
  • vegetable shortening
  • shredded coconut
  • coconut flour
  • brown rice flour
  • regular pastry flour
  • cornmeal
  • soy flour
  • graham flour
  • spelt flour
  • almond meal
  • vegan chocolate chips

On the bright side, it is going to be absolutely delicious cooking through all of this! 🙂

Canned goods, of which I have very few. I really prefer to soak and sprout my own beans, for health reasons as well as cost effectiveness. I am also afraid of the scary BPA monster. These are “emergency only” foods:

  • hearts of palm (why??)
  • dark red kidney beans
  • black-eyed peas
  • plum tomatoes
  • red beans
  • diced tomatoes
  • great northern beans
  • pumpkin
  • butter beans
  • black beans

Honestly, Luis will probably have a lot to do with eating through these (save for the pumpkin).

Condiments! I actually keep a running stock of most of these. The right condiments and spices can take a plain dish to an outrageous one, and I use most of them so infrequently, they last long enough for it to be worth the cost of having them on hand.

  • kalamata olives
  • rice vinegar
  • liquid smoke
  • sundried tomatoes (packed in oil)
  • raw honey
  • coconut oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • mirin
  • balsamic vinegar
  • apple cider vinegar
  • walnut oil
  • miso
  • bouillon paste
  • vegenaise
  • brown rice syrup
  • vegetable shortening
  • tomato paste
  • wasabi powder
  • sunflower oil
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • liquid aminos
  • TJ’s goddess dressing
  • flower pepper
  • agar flakes
  • vanilla beans
  • dijon mustard
  • gyoza sauce
  • barbecue sauce
  • sriracha

Anything I could ever need to whip up a great dressing or sauce is in this picture. I am going to use this challenge to try out new flavor combinations and dressing recipes!

Finally, frozen foods. I don’t have too much going on in there since it’s summer and everything I could want is in season, but during the winter I stock quite a few bags of frozen veggies. Trader Joe’s has a great selection. Right now, I’m stocking:

  • 4 2 frozen bananas- 2 peeled, 2 in-the-peel (lazy…)
  • a bag of frozen grapes, for snacking
  • berry medley
  • açaí smoothie packs
  • 3 bags of raspberries
  • 5 bags of blackberries
  • 2 veggie burgers
  • 5 falafel
  • veggie dumplings
  • asian veggie medley
  • lima beans
  • peas
  • corn/bean/carrot medley
  • haricots verts
  • pearl onions

Also, these trays waiting to be bagged (5 cups of raspberries, 4 of blackberries)…

…and these coconut oil chocolates I had completely forgotten about.

Good find 🙂
So there you have it- the entire contents of my kitchen, in photographs. I am pretty ashamed that I have been stocking all of this food and still continuing to head to the grocery store every week. I’m looking forward to getting creative and working my way through all of this, seeing what I can come up with.

Depending on how it goes, I’d like to make this a seasonal routine. It seems like it could be a great thing during the transition from season to season- cleaning out leftovers from the previous to make room for the upcoming seasonal things. As I progress down the list, I’ll update and cross items off to keep track of my progress, and will link back to this post at the conclusion of each update.

For now, I’m just spinning my wheels and trying to fit this all into a plan. Wish me luck!

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2 thoughts on “The Pantry Challenge.

  1. Pingback: On Being a Single Momma. « Being Elizabeth

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