The Pantry Challenge

Canned tomatoes

Do you ever think about how long you could go without buying more groceries? What would you have after a few days, weeks? After talking about it with a few friends, I have decided to take the challenge. For the month of January I will not be going to the store. I will use what I have here and make it work.

I have a pretty well- stocked pantry, so I don’t think it will be a problem, but I know as the month goes on, it will be trickier. Fresh fruits and veggies are the biggest issue, but I should be able to work with what I have frozen, dehydrated and what I canned.

So why do this? Partly to see how prepared I would be in case of an emergency. If something happened, could I get by, and for how long?

Part of it, too, is about food waste. I know I buy things, put them in the freezer or pantry, and forget about them. I think most people do that sometimes.  Estimates are that American families throw out between $1,000 and $3,000 worth of food annually. Anything to bring that number down is a good thing, right?

This is a perfect time of year for me to do an inventory. I have some time off before I go back to teaching cooking classes. I have time to really see what I have and where I am lacking.  

The Inventory

I will pull out all the foods in my pantry, to see what I have to work with. I will also look at expiration dates. While canned goods last a long time past those dates, quality starts to suffer over time. I will set aside anything that is getting close to its expiration date, and try to use it in something. It’s a good idea for all of us to do this, at least once a year.    

The inventory will also expand to the freezer and fridge. In the next few days, I will defrost the freezer to see what I have. I will admit to having a better idea of what is in the pantry, than what I have in the freezer. I tend to toss all sorts of stuff in the freezer, always with a plan to use it later. I am pretty good about labeling, but I always come across at least a few mystery items.

My mother was great about her spare freezer. She kept a notebook on top of it, and would mark down when she froze something, and when she took something out. I like to think I will do the same after I do my inventory, but we’ll have to see how that works out. I start out good in the beginning, but get sloppy after time. My goal is to at least get an accurate accounting of what I have.

So what rules have I set up for myself? Pretty simple- I won’t buy food for a month.  The only time I would buy anything is if I need something for a cooking class. That is for work, so I feel that is not cheating. I also want to up the ante, so to speak, by having people over at least once a week. That will get more interesting as the month progresses.

I will be posting updates as the month goes on. I might even extend the no-shopping challenge into February, but I will wait a while before deciding that. I hope you will enjoy reading about this adventure. Maybe join me on it? Or perhaps, at the least, be a dinner guest at some point.   

Happy New Year!!

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