Purging the Pantry

Pantry raider several years ago

Last year, MaryAlice made a comment that she was trying to focus on using up those things that tend to accumulate in the pantry over the course of a year. I’m not sure if it is part of her Lenten food plan this year, but I found it to be a great exercise last year and am trying to do it again. It makes me more conscientious about what we are using and wasting and more grateful for the bounty we have!

Last night I threw out several rancid bottles of specialty oils that I rarely use (how long they had been sitting there rancid is a great question) and I will find a way to incorporate half a cup of salted pepitas and 1 C of leftover bulk barley into something this week. I’ll also use some duck and Trader Joe’s satay sauce while my not-Indian-food-loving husband is out of town. It really is amazing what can be pulled together from the shelves of the pantry with a little creativity before it goes to waste. I also went through the freezer so I can use everything up before it succumbs to freezer burn.


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  • MaryAlice

    Thanks for the reminder! I have been trying to be very careful in my meal plan for the produce lists, since I think we have a lot of waste in that area (all of my ideals and ambitions go into to my produce shopping, and then often it does not get cooked or eaten!). We are doing pretty well with it — because everything we buy is actually for a recipe, the chances are much better that it will get used.

    I will take your advice and look over my pantry as I am making my list/plan for next week — we can use up random cans of beans instead of buying more, I’m sure!

    This week when I cooked brown rice, instead of cooking the 2 c. that I needed, I cooked the entire package. Now, I have a bag of frozen, cooked rice in my freezer instead of an open bag of rice in my pantry, and rice can be a quick addition to dinner. I also know that I have 4 bags of lentils — perhaps today I will just cook them all by the same theory.

    This is paying off so far for us — we are doing without our monthly order of meat, but our grocery receipts are down for the month on top of that! My cart is mostly fresh produce, organic dairy, beans and nuts.

    Related — nuts are super expensive. Does anyone have tips for that?

  • Lisa

    Hi MA. For nuts, I think it depends on what types you are buying. I *love* almonds, and the brand Blue Diamond has some nicely flavored ones as well as natural/roasted ones. These go on sale frequently at my grocery store. Also, for cashews, which I see as less healthy than almonds but a super delicious treat, if you buy the canned ones instead of the ones in your grocer’s bulk aisle, they tend to be cheaper. Our store carries whole cashews in a can, but also “pieces and stems” or something like that – basically ones that have broken apart. The pieces and stems versions are a really good price, generally.

  • JMB

    I see coupons all the time for nuts, esp Blue Diamond. You can also stack them against store sale. Stop & Shop has nuts on sale just about every week.

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  • Juris Mater

    Tex, this is a great idea for Lent that I had forgotten about until now. Thank you! Many of our canned goods are meatless sources of protein–tuna, beans–and less desirable meal options, which makes them perfect for Lent.

  • JMB

    If you’re looking for some breezy light reading, pick up “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” by Kathleen Flinn. She makes a great point that when you are shopping for produce, you must shop for your “real” family, not the fantasy family in your mind. I took this to heart and I finally stopped buying bananas because nobody in my family likes them. And nobody will eat banana bread including myself. Now I take note of what actually gets eaten and what I end up throwing out, week after week. I also stopped buying OJ for the same reason. Nobody drinks the stuff. It’s very liberating.

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  • maryalice

    Love that — shop for your real family! I usually shop for a fantasy, quinoa and broccoli loving family…