Monday, March 21, 2011

Pantry Challenge Week 3

I have a confession to make. Last week we failed. Badly. So badly I'm almost embarrassed to write about it. But since part of doing this was to see potential weaknesses in our ability to survive off of what's on hand, I'm going to consider last week a learning experience and talk about it from that angle.

Problem area #1 Poor planning

Last week was the first time in a while that both the Russian and I were out of the house for work all day every day. Because we seldom have access to a kitchen or even a refrigerator at work we don't normally bring a meal with us. I usually bring light snacks and beverages to tide us over but if we are on the job for an extended period we just grab take out. Monday I was not expecting a long workday so I brought a handful of crackers and some cheese. I expected to be home by about 6 pm and had pierogies in mind for dinner when we got home. What actually happened was we finished work at 7:00pm and then still had over an hour of transit travel before we got home. Compounded by a lengthy delay at one of our transfer points that left us stranded for another 20 minutes, hungry and exhausted, and the proximity to a fast food outlet (in the subway station no less!) was too much to resist. Dinner fail.

Lesson learned- I need to plan ahead for food that can be taken with us in case the day goes longer than expected. We did much better for the rest of the week.

Problem #2 Poor Communication

When we set out the rules for the challenge one of the things that was agreed upon with the other participants was that we can still take advantage of food sales for future use but we aren't supposed to consume anything we purchase during the challenge. Last week I found KD (macaroni and cheese, my personal weakness) and canned soup ( the Russian's weakness) on sales so I purchased a number of each. I'm pretty sure I mentioned it to him that these weren't for eating right now but apparently I failed to make that clear. One can of soup was opened and being heated by the time I discovered it. In the interest of not wasting food, it was consumed.

Lesson learned- any future purchases that I make during the month are now being stored somewhere other than the pantry.

Problem # 3- Timing.

As previously mentioned it was my birthday last week. It was also St Paddy's day which meant there were multiple celebrations going on, most of which involved food. On St Paddy's we made the rounds of several local drinking establishments and when there was free food proffered, we took full advantage. On the actual date of my birth, the Russian made me breakfast at home but we went out for dinner- sushi to be exact. On the day after my birthday we hosted a party that involved guests bringing cheese. A lot of cheese. Delicious cheese that did not all get consumed during the party and that will not keep for another two weeks.

Lesson Learned- not much. I'm of the mind that free food should be accepted whenever possible. And it was my birthday.

(Kinda looks like St Patrick threw up on me here doesn't it?)

So this week we will have to be on our best behaviour and I already know it's going to be much tougher than it's been so far. We are running low or completely out of many things now. No eggs, no milk, very little butter. Veggies, both fresh and frozen are in short supply- we still have a lots of frozen fruit however. Only one lemon- yikes! Maybe 5 lbs of potatoes which is practically none when you live with a Russian. Lots of onions but they are starting to sprout so we may have to use them quickly. I'm attempting to get the shiitake kit to fruit again but it's not looking near as plentiful as the first round. Even if we only get a few mushrooms this time they will be very welcome! There's still some meat in the freezer and we haven't eaten all the pierogies yet but we are almost out of sour cream. Still have some pasta, beans and rice, and a decent amount of a couple types flour so I can make both flour and corn tortillas. We won't starve yet but things are going to get a little dull.
(Thank god for the cheese!)

One of my fall back dishes for when were are absolutely ravenous doesn't really have a name. It is loosely based on a German dish that I tried at my friends and loved. I usually serve it as a salad but it can be easily adapted as a main or side dish.

1 carrot, grated
1 beet, grated
2 green onions, or 1/2 sweet onion minced
Optional- other raw veggies chopped fine. (In this version I added some of my white kimchee which included fermented cauliflower and turnips)

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp soy sauce or Braggs
1 clove of garlic minced

Grate carrot and beet and add minced onions and other veggies if using. In separate bowl add all dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour over veggies and serve. Makes two salad portions.

For a complete lunch I will add a hardboiled egg, cut in quarters. To make it a more substantial meal, double the dressing ingredients and serve over warm cooked potatoes.


  1. I agree - food should never be wasted, even if it's free and ESPECIALLY if it's your birthday :) I commend you for giving this a go, I find myself picking something up nearly every day of the week.
    I tell my boyfriend all the time that my gardening skills will come in handy in the zombie apocalypse - these pantry challenges seem like a good primer for it too

  2. Happy Birthday Callie, I am behind, its been a busy week on the farm, sorry its late, looks like you had a great time and free food is free food..

    Thanks for your week 3 wrap up, it was great to read it and get a feel for what was happening in your world, and in truth is sounds busy, and fun!

    I agree with the don't waste food, I would have done the same as you on that case for sure.

  3. I admire you for trying this, especially this time of year. I'm not sure I would have the strength. We have plenty of food but we would have to make a exception for milk at the very least.

  4. Thanks for the words of encouragement! To tell the truth I thought this was going to be a breeze. When I am off work which is often, it's easy to plan and make things from scratch but trying to do this and maintain full time hours is not easy and we don't even have kids to worry about. I can totally see why many people rely on prepared food and take out - sometimes when you are that hungry and tired all you can think of is what can I eat right now!

  5. Happy Belated Birthday! I send you a gchat wishing you a happy birthday wasn't sure if you got it.