Life Lesson: work with what you have

This Life Lesson Episode:

You can’t always have what you want, so work with what you have.

One of my concessions in life – not having a walk in pantry in the kitchen.  I’ve never had a walk-in pantry.  I most likely never will.  I’ve given up worrying about it.  There’s no point.

What I do have is an organized pantry cabinet in the kitchen, and some of the other cabinet shelves organized to hold baking items, like the baking soda, baking powder etc.  I can organize one shelf in the pantry for flours, one for sugars and sweeteners, one for rice and grains…If it doesn’t all fit, I probably don’t need it.

I don’t have room here for all the canned goods from the garden, so they can go downstairs.  A second pantry area if you like.  I keep the bulk goods from the box store together here, as well as the empty canning jars.

The rest of my pantry is the fridge and freezer.  I have always had a big freezer, in addition to whatever space is in the refrigerator in the kitchen.  So I can store quite a bit of frozen meat, for example, when there’s a good sale.

I will always find a place to put goods until I use them.  Maybe temporarily something goes in the spare bedroom or on the floor of the kitchen closet.  So it goes.  I will never have a walk-in pantry I might dream of.

What else to I make do with?  I patch my jeans…those inner thighs just always give way.  The rest is perfectly good, so why would I throw away the whole pair?  I can sew, and have a sewing machine. So I put it to use. No need to by more jeans  just to wear around the homestead.  If some people can spend $100 to buy a pair of jeans with holes in them ( I never understood this trend!), I can wear the ones I patch.

My house is not big, but then there are just two of us.  A spare bedroom for visitors.  That’s all we need, no 3000 square foot mansion for us.

I substitute ingredients when I am cooking.  For instance, I have some nice kale I just bought at the farmers market.  I wanted to make white bean and kale soup.  I looked all over all parts of the pantry – no white beans, anywhere.  But I had a bag of navy beans in the freezer from when I cooked up a couple pounds of them.  Good enough.  I also found a piece of Parmesan rind I saved just for such an occasion.  Great.  Not exactly according to the recipe, but that’s okay today.

I even found a couple slices of pancetta in the freezer, which the original recipe does call for.  It’s been in there quite a while, but this is soup, right?  I understand that ideally I would have fresh pancetta, but today I don’t.  Martha Stewart and Ian Gartner are rolling their eyes if they read this.  As a side note, on one Barefoot Contessa show, Ina was answering questions at the end as she often does.  The question was: What do you do with the whole chicken carcass once you are done making stock?  Her answer:  it really doesn’t have much flavor at this point so I just throw it out.  My turn to cringe.  I wondered if she realized how many of her viewers would love to have that 4 or 5 pound chicken for the meat, that it might be more meat than they could afford that day. That it could turn into a potpie, stir fry, chicken salad and more.  Sorry to rant, but it bothered me.

I find some sense of peace in just accepting what is.  There are other things I may feel strongly enough about having to spend money, but most often if I ask myself “Is this something I need, or just something I want?”.  Usually it’s the latter.  I am old enough now to not care about fancy clothes, tons of shoes, lots of makeup, the latest kitchen gadget.  I like what I have,  and I can do just about anything I want to do with what is already in the house.

Except for wine.  I do have to buy that. I never learned how to make it from my father-in-law.

As my girlfriend will say: “I’m good for the three H’s – I’m not hitchhiking, I’m not hungry, and I’m not homeless”.  That’s a pretty good way to accept what you have, and not worry about what you don’t.

What do you make do with, when you can’t or won’t get your wish?