Monday, January 3, 2011

Clean Out the Cupboards, Week 1

I hate canned food.

There. I said it.

As I've stared at my pantry for the 10th time this weekend, I realized that I really don't like canned food. Not canned tuna. Not canned veggies (though mushrooms and anything for Chinese is ok.). Not canned anything.

I should have realized this months ago. Thanksgiving day, I tossed out can after can - filling a garbage can - with canned items I'd bought at a good price and promptly ignored. Not because I can afford to waste money on our cramped budget. But because I just don't like to use canned goods.

If I think about how I cook, it's rare that I grab anything that's canned out of the pantry. Soup, beans and mushrooms seem to be the exception to the rule. We rarely buy spaghetti sauce anymore since I started buying tomatoes for massive sauce-making and freezing in August.

If I really look at my pantry's contents they can be summed up as:

  • Breakfast stuff

  • School lunch stuff

  • Pastas

  • Leftover junk food and Christmas treats my husband bought

  • Abandoned canned goods

  • Stuff to make other stuff

It's the last two items I'll be worried about most during this pantry challenge. Figure out how to use, actually use, those canned goods in a meal, instead of bypassing them to grab last summer's veggies from the freezer. I'll figure out how to use the obscure condiments (coconut milk, anyone?) and other cooking items we've grabbed because we might use it in a recipe someday.

If I was just eating cooked, canned green beans it would be easy. But making the most of my pantry, rather than just letting things go waste, is a bigger challenge for our plates. It's time to dust off those cookbooks and get tasting!

What are your goals for the challenge? Is it simply cleaning house? Cutting back on your food budget? Shaking up your meal plan?


Unknown said...

I really dislike canned vegetables too - don't have a single can of it (other than mushrooms) in the house!

Good luck with the challenge!

-- Laura from Frugal Follies

Rebecca Jean said...

Ha! I have that same can of coconut milk!

Mister found a recipe for Garlic-Scented Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Cilantro that I will be making to use that.

Good luck with yours!

♥ Rebecca Jean
Midnight Maniac

robbie said...

Faboulous - share the recipe! :-)

Cindy @ One Part Sunshine said...

I cleaned out my cupboards right before I moved. I found it really helpful to use the recipe finder on You can search by ingredient (such as coconut milk) and it makes it really easy to use up some of those more obscure foods.
Good luck!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I grew up on canned vegetables. Now I found frozen (budget concerns) and tasted fresh there is no going back!

Do you like Thai food? I have a coconut Thai Curry Shrimp recipe that uses coconut milk on Lazy Budget Chef You can easily make it vegetarian if you like.

Robbie said...

@Cindy and @CondoBlues, thanks for the tips on hunting down recipes with the coconut milk!

I have to confess, I haven't tried curry in about 20 years (a batch of "home cooking" Indian food can do it to you), so I may have to pass on that recipe this time. :0

Rebecca Jean said...

Here you go!

It's cut and pasted from my email so forgive me if anything's wonky.

Recipe: Garlic-Scented Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Cilantro
Serves 4. Published November 1, 2002.

Shake the can of coconut milk before opening to combine the coconut cream with the
liquid beneath. Cutting the sweet potatoes into slices of even thickness is important in
getting them to cook at the same rate. A potato masher will yield slightly lumpy sweet
potatoes; a food mill will make a perfectly smooth puree. The potatoes are best served
immediately, but they can be covered tightly with plastic wrap and kept relatively hot for
30 minutes. This recipe can be doubled in a Dutch oven; the cooking time will need to be
doubled as well.

1/2 cup coconut milk
1 small clove garlic , minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large or 3 medium-small potatoes), peeled,
lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
pinch ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves

1. Combine coconut milk, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, sugar, and sweet potatoes
in 3 to 4 quart saucepan; cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until
potatoes fall apart when poked with fork, 35 to 45 minutes.
2. Off heat, mash sweet potatoes in saucepan with potato masher, or transfer
mixture to hopper of food mill and process into warmed serving bowl. Stir in
pepper and cilantro; serve immediately.

The Taskers said...

Coconut milk can be used to make a curry! You'll have to purchase some sort of curry paste most likely in the Asian or International food section of the grocery store (and I can guarantee you won't find a coupon for it). Look for one that you use all in one recipe, otherwise you'll be putting a 1/4 used jar of curry paste in your fridge and you'll end up having to buy more coconut milk (though if you like it, that's not such a bad thing).

Then do the following:

Get out all your almost-off veggies: green/red peppers, squash, peas, asparagus, spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes - anything! Chop them all up. Satay some chicken or beef (or skip that for a veggie options), then throw in the curry paste for a minute to warm up, then the veggies, then top with the coconut milk and wah-lah! Serve over rice or cous cous, or pasta, whatever you need to use up.

robbie said...

Both sound terrific - and I think I have everything on hand for the sweet potato recipe!

Keli said...

I found that I hate frozen veggies. LOL Canned I can deal with - frozen not so mch :)

Good luck with your challenge!

Creating Nirvana said...

I hate canned food too unless I can it myself. Canned vegetables just have a weird texture to me. If you are looking for a use for coconut milk, then I suggest the blog Zesty South Indian Kitchen. She has a lot of wonderful food using coconut milk.

Robbie said...

Thanks for the suggestion! I guess Indian food may have to be the way to go.