Every so often I realized I have quite a bit of food stocked up in my pantry, meaning my pantry cabinet, my freezer, cold storage and whatever I might have growing in the window in winter. There is really no reason to go to a store and buy anything.
My sister and I call this “Shopping at Home”. I plan to not go to the store, and we have to eat meals made with anything I already have, until it looks like I need to restock. Lots of chicken in the freezer? Great. Hamburger? Fine, can do a lot with that. Canned vegetables from the garden last year – check. I am always well stocked with baking necessities, so bread, desserts, side dishes are not a problem. Pull stuff out of the pantry cabinet – there’s always something in there I have forgotten about.
As crazy as it sounds, cooking with only what I already have is harder to accomplish than you might think. The grocery store is only about 4 miles away. More and more I depend on Amazon Prime orders- just click and in 2 days and it’s here. In order words, I don’t HAVE to use up what is in stock, it’s so easy to just go get something else.
We have become such an instant society that it is actually harder to wait or to do more meal planning than just going out to buy more. And I admit it – I just cannot limit myself to what is on the grocery list. I like looking everything over to see what’s on sale. I can’t pass up a deal. That’s how I end up with a full freezer and overstocked pantry. With food costs being what they are, it’s a hundred dollars or more every time I go to the market. I honestly don’t know how large families do it these days.
So I try to “shop at home”, not “shop from home”. The means I go stand in front of the freezer, and say “what’s in here that I feel like today?”. And if nothing strikes my fancy, I say “Okay, what I can do with …chicken…beef…fish… that would be good today – how can I make it into something I DO want?”. Sometimes and answer pops right up, but not so often as I would like.
Sometimes I ask my husband what he feels like having. When the answer is not something crazy like “lobster”, he may suggest something I haven’t made in a while. Other times, I just haul out two or three proteins to defrost, and then start looking at cookbooks or magazine to find inspiration for it, or at least for new sides to go with it.
This is a symptom of a rut in the road. I have been making the same old things all the time, without bringing in new flavors or ideas. We all have a dozen or so favorite dishes, the things we make all the time, and make without any recipe in front of us. The ones everyone likes. Family favorites. As we anything in life, we don’t grow unless we try something new. I enjoy doing something different in the kitchen, using a new technique or trying a food I am unfamiliar with. But it’s more of a challenge when I limit myself to whatever I already have.
Oh, and I don’t buy box mixes of anything, so it’s all got to come from scratch. I always have pasta, a variety of flours, canned goods, whole grains and seasonings on hand.
Winter is the hardest time to shop at home. No garden, no fresh picked veggies, no sun-ripened tomatoes to liven up a dish. Some squash in cold storage perhaps, and canned fruit and green beans from summer. The challenge is on.
I have saved many recipes over the years, the things I want to try. I used to have all of them in binders, but when I got to four 3″ binders I knew I had to sort and consolidate. I ended up scanning every recipe I was still interested in making into my laptop. For me this is an easy way to make folders and sort by food type and category, just like a cookbook. And I can keep a lot more! I know there are ways of organizing recipes on line, but I’m just not that tech savvy. So this works for me If you are a recipe hoarder too, find a system that works for you to organize all those clipped and copied recipes so you can find something when you want to. Oh, and lesson learned, don’t keep whole magazine just for one or two recipes inside. You’ll never find them again when you want them.
If that fails, then I have gone on line to one of the recipe websites that allows me to put in a few ingredients and ask what they will make.
I may find several new recipes to try while I am looking through my archives, or paging through a cookbook, or on line. And hopefully those recipes match up with the 3 foods I took out to defrost. I may put one back in the freezer and take out something different. That’s okay, I have the prerogative of changing my mind. The important thing is that I am still using up something I already have. When inspiration strikes, often on a Saturday morning, I may cook up 2 or 3 meals in advance for the week. And even though there are only two of us, I cook like I have a larger family so there are leftover for lunch tomorrow, or portions I can freeze for my aging mother.
Sooner or later, I will have to market again. Most likely the farmers market vegetable store will be first, so I can have some fresh produce on hand. And whenever I see meat on sale or marked down with some managers special, you can bet I will probably buy more than I need. That’s okay, wrapped up it keeps. And then the week when I really don’t want to go out, or in inclement weather when I can’t get out, I can just “shop at home” once again.
I’m saving up some new recipes for next time.
What do you ALWAYS keep in your pantry ? And when do you decide to restock?