Monday, March 3, 2014

The Pantry Challenge...

Right about now is when I go into panic mode....I have a relatively large spare freezer in my storage room that is packed to the gills with all kinds of frozen food - from cookies, cupcakes, cakes, frozen vegetables and fruit to loaves of bread, bags of bagels and some frozen gefulte fish loaves.  In addition to all that is a bevy of Tupperware containers that are filled with I'm-not-sure-what, since I'm not very reliable when it comes to labeling containers.  I've often taken out what looked to me like a container of frozen vegetable soup only to discover that it's just extra gravy left over from some long forgotten roast.  And I haven't even discussed my pantry.  With Passover looming over us in the not so distant future, I chastise myself every day for not getting started on both the cleaning and the clearing out my freezer and pantry.  

Every year around January time, I promise myself that I will stop buying so much and work on finishing what I already have.  I'm not sure if it's just a Jewish-mother-thing, or a granddaughter-of-Holocaust-survivor-thing, but I seem to be a food hoarder.  It might just be the lure of a good sale (I mean, who couldn't use an extra six mayonnaise jars in their pantry when there's a 2-for-1 sale?), forgetting what I already have in stock, or impulse buys, but there's something comforting in opening my pantry and finding it full of food.  My grandparents cellar was filled to capacity with all kinds of canned goods - and we're not talking a couple cans of pickles and another couple cans of beans, but rather cases of each, along with corn, soups, soft drinks and much more - but I just chalked that up to their obsession with being able to feed an army in case of another war.  I just didn't expect that I would have a pantry to rival theirs...

Last year, I tried an experiment that actually worked.  I attempted to get through a period of a few weeks where I didn't purchase any food except for fresh produce and protein.  My goal was to finish whatever half-bags of rice, grains, beans, barley, pasta and whatever canned goods I had stacked in my pantry before Passover.  Besides the fact that my grocery bills were significantly less, we did indeed make a decent dent in clearing out some of those shelves.  

What this kind of experiment needs above all is creativity. Instead of building your menu by what you're craving to eat, you build it based on the ingredients you have readily on hand.  For those of you who have difficulty thinking outside the box, you can check out  This Conde Nast super-site has a great search engine where you can list several ingredients into the search bar and it will find you recipes that incorporate all those items that you've listed.  

In the past week I've kept my shopping to a minimum and managed to create some very interesting and tasty recipes. And from the lack of leftovers I'd say they were a hit.  For the next couple of weeks, I will be posting some of the recipes that I've created using whatever items I had in both my pantry and/or freezer.  

Take the challenge with me and share some of the creations that you've made!

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