Friday, April 1, 2011
Pantry Challenge Final Wrap up!
Yesterday was the last day of the month long pantry challenge and thankfully it ended just in time! We are now completely out of butter, sugar, potatoes, fresh veggies (except onions) and garlic. Virtually no dairy left- sour cream is long gone and a tiny bit of feta is all that stands between me and complete cheese desolation. There is still some frozen turkey, corn and various soup stocks but otherwise the freezer is a black hole of emptiness. The pantry cupboard is pretty much depleted as well- no coffee, no black tea, no herbal tea except a small amount of loose dried herbs. The crackers were gone in the first week, there's not a canned good to be found and even the pasta stockpile is nearly gone. Oddly we still have a few packets of hot chocolate mix left- guess we just aren't chocolate cravers. The dried good shelf is equally grim- white flour is all but gone, we are low on salt, and totally out of lentils, nuts and rice.
But we survived and we didn't even have to resort to eating pickles as a meal! The preserve shelves are looking a little sparse from a month ago but they're nowhere near empty. One thing this challenge has made me realize is that most of what I preserve are more condiment than main course. They make great snacks or additions to other foods as part of a meal but aren't really the main components. Which means I'm still heavily dependent on my freezer and store bought staples. It was a sobering realization.
Some other things I noted along the way:
We don't eat bread much. This is not exactly news to me since I know how infrequently I buy it but I had thought I might make some during the challenge to help stretch out our food. I never did make any and never felt the need to either. Although we did finally eat a small loaf of locally made sourdough bread that was in the freezer- we cut thin slices and toasted it to eat like a cracker for snacks.
Speaking of snacks, popcorn saved me from feeling completely deprived. I am a savoury snack person and had eaten all my usual treats early on (hummus, pate, rice crackers). Having a big jar of popcorn gave me an option for something when I was feeling in need of a treat. Also this recipe from Liz at Food Snobbery was a godsend this week- tahini and kimchi is amazing together- who knew?
My other lifesaver was lemon juice. The concentrated in a bottle kind. Once I ran out of everything else to drink and used up my fresh lemons, a little of the concentrate with some sugar (or honey or maple syrup) in water made a drink I could live with. I added fruit syrup from canned or frozen fruit occasionally as well. I think I will stockpile a few bottles of that stuff in the future- it's not likely to ever go bad!
The mushroom kit was a nice bonus, both for the sustenance and the opportunity to actually grow something edible in the winter. I'm going to invest in a few more of those and see if I can't find a way to keep them going.
Overall the experience wasn't as difficult as I first imagined. There were some tough moments and few lapses that I wrote about previously but it wasn't as big an adjustment as I predicted, once I got past the no shopping part. I think we ate pretty well overall, and I even discovered a few new recipes that I will likely keep making. We definitely didn't lose any weight tho!
One of our last storage meals was Turkey Cacciatore made with frozen turkey and the last of my whole frozen tomatoes.
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup red pepper, seeded and diced (I used frozen)
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olives chopped ( optional
2 cups tomato sauce (I used my own canned sauce)
1 cup fresh or frozen cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tsp Fresh or 1/2 tsp dried herbs to taste (I used basil,thyme and rosemary, oregano and sage would be good too)
salt and pepper
2 cups of turkey meat, cooked
Over medium heat, saute onion and pepper in olive oil until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Add turkey, tomatos, olives, wine, bay leaf, sugar, and herbs and salt, cook on med for 5 minutes until tomatoes are softened. Add tomato sauce and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over pasta or rice.
I don't think anything that came out of this experience will change the way I shop or how much food I'll keep in storage. We really don't have the room for much more here and while I'm forced to acknowledge my dependency on the freezer as one of our main food storage sources, we're not really in a position to change that at present. But I do think it may be time that I look into buying that pressure canner!
Now if you'll excuse me, there's some grocery shopping to be done!