The “eat from the pantry/freezer” challenge is likely going to look a bit different in my house than in many of the other homes taking part in it. You see, I don’t have that much in my pantry or freezer. Now, you’re probably thinking, why oh why would you want to take part in such a challenge then? Well, I have several reasons. Let me begin by describing my household situation to you. Ninety per cent of the time, I am home alone…well alone except for the three cats and the dog who do a lovely job of keeping me company. My boyfriend has a job which involves making service calls all over southwestern Ontario and the winter weather, in particular, keeps him hopping with servicing, installing, and rebuilding boilers alone so he is not home much. My daughter, a pre-med student, is two hours away at university for most of the year. So, most of the time, dinner time involves preparing meals simply for myself so keeping much food on hand just doesn’t make much sense anymore. On top of that, after hearing my daughter complain of “being broke” and needing groceries, along with my best friend losing his job and being very strapped for cash to support himself and his son, I cleaned out my freezer and pantries a few weeks before Christmas and took most of the surplus to them.
So again, you are probably wondering why I am taking on this challenge. Well, as I read about others taking it on, I realized that I too have my own needs in this area. For one thing, since my daughter left for a new year of university in the fall and since I spent a lot of the fall out of town, I have been pretty much flying by the seat of my pants as far as grocery shopping and meal planning has gone. Hmmm, meal planning – in my case perhaps that should be called meal not-planning. Now, you would think that with me being away so much, with usually only feeding one person, that my grocery costs would be minimal. That is not the case. This lack of any plan has cost me dearly financially. Oh sure, the costs would be much higher if I had a family to feed on a consistent basis but still, I am sure many of you would be astounded by what I have spent on groceries in the past 4 months. (note: I would quote you actual figures but I haven’t kept track. I just know that I am overspending by a lot). To me, even worse than the financial cost in terms of what I have put out for groceries, has been the cost of all the food that has been wasted in this house over the past few months. Even now my refrigerator and freezer desperately need a good cleaning out because there is way too much food in there that is no longer safe to be eaten. Besides that, there has been all the food that has been thrown out along the way and when I reflect back over it, it sickens me. So many people could have benefited from that food. I could have reduced my costs by using up the food that I bought efficiently. So no, I don’t have a huge stockpile of food to rely on this month as many of you do. Even just to feed myself and myself alone there is no way I could live on what’s in there right now. In fact, I don’t think I could get past a week or 10 days on what’s in there right now. Still, that is exactly what I intend to do.
Here is my plan:
1) To take inventory of my freezer and pantries, meagre though it may be, so that I know for sure what I have to work with. Over the holidays when I did some grocery shopping to prepare for the big holiday meals I came home to put things away and was shocked to find duplicates of many things I had purchased as well as some items that I had bought because I had seen some great looking recipe ideas for using them (i.e. the edamame beans in my freezer and the white beans in my pantry) and yet, I still haven’t used them.
2) To make out a meal plan that begins with using up the items I have in the freezer and pantries. Yes, this may mean I have to go out and buy some supplemental items to go with what I already have but that is exactly what those items will be. They will be things to supplement and help me utilize what I already have NOT new items that I would eat in place of what I already have. This meal planning will include me looking for better ways to repurpose leftovers. There is a grocery store nearby that caters to seniors living on their own and so I am able to often find packages of meat in smaller single serving quantities but still I find myself often stuck with leftovers that I don’t know how to utilize effectively. I am not a person who can eat the same thing for three days straight so I have to find ways of either making over the leftovers into something different or to use them to make something that can then go into the freezer for another time.
3) To shop only for the items needed to supplement the items I already have at home. To utilize store flyers (and coupons when possible but I don’t find as many opportunities here where I live as I see many online are finding…we have no double or triple coupon days and our opportunities for actually even finding coupons around here are quite limited but still I could benefit from using the ones I can get my hands on) for finding sale items and then planning my meals around what’s on sale and what’s on hand at home.