Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lessons learned from the pantry challenge

Like a lot of people, I flirted with the idea from the eating from the pantry/freezer challenge in January. Was I consistent? Hardly so. But it's the thought that counts.

Here's what I learned from a month-long attempt to clean house:

A menu plan should be in the works. Too many evenings were spent glaring at our pantry, which seems to house more boxes of tea, pasta and random items (coconut milk, anyone?) than anything else. We have a number of family favorites. We just need to be a bit more organized in it beyond getting what's on sale, and then splurging on everything that goes with it.

Eating simply doesn't have to cost a lot. As I learned from our birthday experience, baking a cake from scratch is not more difficult or costly than buying the pre-made mixes or frostings. It's a bit messier, but that just makes it fun.

Old food is wasted food. Yes, you realize that with wilted produce or spoiled milk, but the same effect can happen in the freezer. We wound up tossing out several frozen dinners we'd bought for work lunches but had long ago forgotten about, only to find them freezer burnt months (years?) later. Making a rotation schedule will be on the to-do list after the freezer is finally defrosted.

A little creativity can go a long way. We stumbled on a few good surprises like shitake mushroom pilaf just by tossing what we had on hand into a pan.

Restocking should be done with a plan. While buying things because they're on sale is great, we're going to be a little smarter moving forward as to what canned products in particular we'll use faster and which ones we should just hold on. Unless, of course, I can talk my family into a diet of red beans and peaches.

For those of you who dived in, what did you get from this experience?

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