Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Eat From the Pantry For An Extended Period

Any of you who follow my menu plans know it already:

I haven't done a "real" shopping trip in eight weeks.

I'm also not a champion stock-piler. Yes, I try to grab extras when there are deals to be had but, like many, my cabinet and pantry space is limited, and I don't like to go overboard. (Note: If you like to keep tons of reserves on hand, I think that's awesome. Likewise, if you prefer to just shop week to week, I'm not going to judge you. I'm just letting you know how things happen in this house.)

So, it's been eight weeks. I've spent well under $100 during that time (including my pastured eggs and trial of raw milk.)


Here are some tips for going an extended period without grocery shopping:

  1. Take a full, detailed inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I find it helpful to note down actual amounts, e.g. six potatoes, 4 oz cheddar, five pounds of flour, etc.
  2. Plan suppers first. It's a good place to start. For many families, this might be the only meal you all eat together and it also often requires the largest amount of food.
  3. Do not limit yourself to "dinner food" when planning suppers. Soups, sandwiches, or breakfast fare can easily fill in a night or two.
  4. Be specific: when I'm trying to stretch what food I have, I make sure to note how much of something I'll be using. It's important to note how many ounces of cheese I'll allot or how many eggs so, come the end of the week, I'm not left empty handed.
  5. Get creative. This is not the time to follow recipes to the letter. In fact, I'd recommend abandoning recipes for awhile in favor of just putting together foods that sound tasty!
  6. Also, be flexible. If you ARE following a recipe, be open to substitutions. Casseroles, stir fries, and the like are very forgiving if you need to switch up a meat or veggie. Pizza with Jack instead of mozzarella still tastes delicious. And, truly, we can get by with a mere four ounces of cheese on a 16" pizza if I shred it finely.
  7. Say "yes, please!" Don't turn down food! If a neighbor offers you excess or a family member offers you leftovers, accept gratefully. Do not worry if you have a "plan" in mind for them. Consider it a happy blessing and have confidence that you can fit it in.
  8. Make it yourself. Knowing how to bake and cook from scratch is extremely helpful when low on food. If you can bake a loaf of bread or whip up some tortillas, that's handy. It's also good to know how to "recreate" items... like using molasses and sugar for brown sugar or processing sugar and corn starch for powdered sugar.
  9. Reconsider "must haves." We tend to serve milk to drink every morning with breakfast. But MUST we? Probably not if we have other adequate sources of dairy. I like to keep a wide array of fruit on hand. But is it really a tragedy to rely on apples, frozen berries, and raisins for a week? Not really. It's only temporary. On the other hand, when we ran out of coffee, I made a trip to the store. My husband will tell you- you don't want to make me go without coffee for long. It's not even a caffeine addiction: I drink decaf. But I drink an entire pot by myself. I am PASSIONATE about my coffee. ;)
  10. Don't sacrifice nutrition. Finally, don't get so hung up on "making it work" that you completely throw good health out the window. I think working with what you have can be a good exercise in discipline, creativity, and resourcefulness, but you're not "failing" anything by picking up necessary items at the store. I have most certainly purchased a few items here and there over the past few weeks. No shame in that.
How about you? Do you ever go a super long stretch without doing a true grocery shopping trip? What are your favorite tips for staying out of the store?

Linked to Top Ten {Tuesday}
Kitchen Tip Tuesday

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