Eat What’s In Your Pantry

Inspired by this recent post on the eGullet forums (and whomever pointed me to this, let me know in the comments section, because I can’t remember who you are!), I decided to take stock of my cupboard, fridge and freezer. The post calls for people to go without shopping for a week and instead live off the bulk of their presumably packed pantries:

Surely I’m not alone in having a freezer and pantry full of food, much of which will get thrown out as it expires over the course of the coming months and years. Indeed, I live in a small apartment. People with houses, basement freezers and walk-in pantries surely have far more of this stuff lying around than I do. Surely I’m not alone in having overbought at the supermarket last week. Surely I’m not alone when I get home from the supermarket and can barely fit the new food in the refrigerator because there’s so much of the old stuff. Surely I’m not alone in being able to skip a week of shopping and still eat well.

So let’s do it again, together. Let’s all skip a week of shopping. Let’s declare national eat the stuff in our freezers and pantries week.

Think about it from an economic standpoint. Times are tough right now. If you spend $100 a week on groceries, this experiment will put $100 back in your pocket quicker than you can say stimulus. If you’re home 50 weeks of the year and you perform this experiment once per quarter, you’ll reduce your grocery bill by 8%.

So this Sunday, I’m not going shopping. And whether you shop on the weekend or on another day, I’m asking you not to shop either. Instead, let’s eat all the stuff we already have around. And let’s talk about it, compare photos, help one another figure out what to do with that jar of giardiniera or that packet of pilaf.

I know plenty of people (Mom, I’m looking at you!) who could comfortably subsist on the contents of their pantries for a week, if not an entire month. In fact, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather — notorious horders who kept huge freezers full of food on their property in anticipation of the next stock market crash or an impending zombie apocalypse — would have stared this challenge in the face and laughed hysterically at it.

I, however, cannot. I’m not an all-at-once kind of shopper. I love Costco, but don’t buy in bulk. Instead, I go shopping nearly every day, buying whatever looks best for dinner that night and grabbing any staples that may have run out. That said, I’ve been…a bit busy lately. Without elaborating, allow me to simply run down a quick list of what is currently residing in my fridge, freezer and nearly-bare cupboard.

Contents of Fridge

  • Half-empty bottle of orange juice
  • Carton of expired half and half
  • Four sticks of butter
  • Mostly empty bottle of discount ketchup
  • Two mostly empty jars of artichoke marinara sauce (this is particularly shameful, since I’d rather make my own marinara sauce but am often short on time)
  • Two wilted carrots
  • Half a gallon of milk
  • Handful of grapes
  • Two takeout containers that may or may not have become sentient
  • Bottle of Zubrowka (Polish buffalo grass vodka)
  • Bottle of Dogfish Head Fort
  • Bottle of Ace Pear Cider
  • Two cans of Boddington’s
  • Bottle of half-consumed Castell del Remei
  • Bottle of Happy Camper cabernet sauvignon
  • Bottle of scary-looking chardonnay
  • Bottle of undetermined provenance, with no label, that has some kind of odd cork contraption on top slightly resembling a champagne bottle
  • Bottle of Boone’s Farm “Blue Hawaiian”

Contents of Freezer

  • Bag of peas
  • Unknown hunk of frozen meat

Contents of Pantry

  • 18 different boxes of tea
  • Jar of honey
  • Nearly empty bottles of balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce and vegetable oil
  • Half-eaten jar of peanut butter
  • Can of sliced peaches bought before Hurricane Ike
  • Box of kosher salt
  • Two boxes of Jell-O
  • Five cans of evaporated milk (???)
  • Tiny can of tomato paste
  • Can of black beans
  • Can of turnip greens
  • Two snack portions of applesauce (also leftover from Ike)
  • Tin of sardines
  • Canister of Bisto “Chip Shop Curry” granules
  • Half-sack of cornmeal
  • Half-sack of flour
  • Canisters of white sugar, brown sugar and yet more flour

As you can see, having too much wasted food in my pantry isn’t such a problem. Living off this dreck for a week would be, however. And I do believe it’s even more worrisome that I have such bizarre and disgusting collection of alcoholic beverages squatting in the bottom of the fridge. Boone’s Farm? Wow.

But if any of you intrepid cooks out there feel that you could put together meals for a day — let alone a week! — based upon the sorry contents of my kitchen, I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below. And you say I never challenge you…

14 thoughts on “Eat What’s In Your Pantry”

  1. Boone’s Farm? AWESOME!!

    Yeah, see, this is me as well. My fridge contains a to-go box, mayo, mustard, some salad dressing, three Shiners, seven Diet Cokes, a Jurassic era pizza box and some sketchy looking green beans.

    My pantry contains rice, rice paper wrappers, olive oil and a packet of ramen noodles. I could go a meal or two. Maybe. That’s assuming whatever is in the to-go box doesn’t eat me first.

  2. LOL! Looks like the only thing you wouldn’t need to buy is booze. 😉

    I have a stuffed pantry for sure. I like having lots of flavorful ingredients to use. I *am* trying to cut back, especially on meat/fish that ends up in the freezer. Seems to be workng, I’m slowly working the stocks down.

  3. I just love it when you get all fiscal.
    Your mom always said ” you have to get the food good and cold before you throw it out”
    Boones Farm? Oh, hell no!

  4. You know very well that 99% of the stuff in my fridge involves condiments and not “real food”. Anyway, 90% of it is scraps from clients meals that *they* don’t want cluttering up their fridge and I use to feed poor Ralph. As a matter of fact, we’re going to be chowing down on some great lasagna left over from a cooking party I taught last night. Yum! Wanna come over?

  5. I once found myself with a surplus of evaporated milk (I think I was making a tres leches cake and shopping at Costco…). It sat in the cupboard for a long time and the one day I was making macaroni and cheese and was low on milk. I decided to stretch it out with the evaporated stuff, since it was getting cooked anyway, and guess what happened? I made a béchamel that will never ever break! Hooray! Now I almost always use half evaporated milk for my mac and cheese.

  6. I participated in a similar thread on eGullet when I moved from North Carolina to Houston. My goal was to move with as little foodstuff as possible and I did, moving with just one cooler of things I couldn’t part with (salt pork, scuppernong grape butter, and Carolina barbecue sauce). It was a fun experiment!

    I doubt this will feed you for a week, but here goes. The only thing I think you have to buy is eggs. And I assume, although you didn’t list them, that you have staples available like spices & baking powder/soda.

    Apple Pear Cider Tart with Custard: Make your favorite pie dough with the butter & flour.
    Make a custard similar to this –
    with your milk & evap milk. Cook down your applesauce with some of the pear cider until thickened. Construct a tart with the pie dough, layered with the apple pear cider mix and the custard on top, and bake until yummy.

    Peach Honey Tea Turnovers: Using the syrup from your canned peaches, cook down the syrup with honey and a little bit of tea (something complimentary from your 18 flavors!). You could also cook the peaches down with the syrup to make them jam-like. Make another pie dough. Construct free form turnovers with the dough, the peach slices, and drizzle the honey tea syrup on top. Bake until yummy! Or if you’re sick of pies, make it a little cobbler in the same way, with a quick biscuit topping. Or kolaches with peach filling. Or a simple butter cake with peach filling.

    Peanut Butter Cookies: the classic, using your PB, flour, sugar, brown sugar. There are a million recipes for these. Here’s one:

    Artichoke Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce: Your leftover marinara simmered with tomato paste, the milk or half + half (if it still tastes ok), and a little vodka. Make a pizza dough with your flour and cornmeal, and make a pizza with the sauce and maybe a few sardines on top?

    Beans & Greens Stew: Using your black beans, turnip greens, carrots, and freezer meat, make a stew similar to this: – and add some of your red or white wine to the cooking liquid depending on what will go well with the unidentified meat you’re using. Replace the stock with water unless you have a bouillon cube.

    Make a homemade bread and have orange juice, grapes, bread & butter for breakfast.

    I’ve got nothing for the Bisto “Chip Shop Curry” granules!

    That’s all I can think of. Some of these could be horrific, but necessity is the mother of invention. Good luck!

  7. The American Heart Assoc. recommends substituting evaporated skim milk for heavy cream in sauces and gravies. You could flour and fry up your hunk -o-meat and cover it with cream gravy made from unknown renderings. Serve with boiled, buttered peas and carrots revived in a butter and brown sugar fry up. Just a thought.

    But forget your misplaced shame of prepared marinara. You got some splainin’ to do about that Boone’s Farm, Lucy.

  8. Linda and I are going to eat out of our pantry next week. We’re already working up the menu.

    The only thing we’ll shop for is fresh fruit and vegetables, everything else will be from our pantry.

  9. I try to shop for a week at a time, especially with fresh fruit and veggies. I’ll buy chicken breast and canned black beans in bulk at Costco. I think, though, I am going to try this so I can clear out some of the detritus in my pantry.

  10. Are you saying that Ricahrd did NOT drink his 2008 birthday present from me & Billy? Shame on him. I specifically picked out the best flavor that Boone’s has to offer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s