Click here to read Shopping from the Pantry ~ Part 1
. . . A quick review of my menu plan for the week revealed that some of the meals on the list were doable with a few tweaks, but others weren’t even close to becoming a reality.
The task: Come up with a new plan for breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and dinners for six days (Monday through Saturday) that required absolutely no purchases at the grocery store.
Added challenges: For dinner on Monday and Tuesday, one of the kids’ friends would be with us for dinner, and my mom would be visiting from Wednesday evening through Saturday morning. Not only would we have a sixth mouth to feed for 10 out of the 18 meals being served (not complaining, just giving you the full picture), but my meal changes would need to meet the preferences of our guests!
After taking stock of the options in my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer, there were some obvious high points (some of which had gotten us in this situation to begin with), and some very low lows.
- An untouched mini watermelon—the vegetable and fruit situation was one of the biggest challenges of the week, but this impulse buy from the week before was a lifesaver!
- 3/4 of a chunk of Parmesan cheese
- A wealth of tortillas
- Plenty of carrots and celery
- A fresh block of tofu
- A good supply of tater tots, berries, venison, and bagels in the freezer
- Almost no fresh fruits or vegetables
- 4 eggs
- 1 stick of butter (or so I thought)
- No “quick and easy” snacks
- Hardly any dairy milk (but plenty of rice milk and evaporated milk)
What I did . . . Breakfasts:
Breakfasts were the least challenging meal, as I generally have plenty of back-up ingredients on hand for our regular breakfast routine. Monday & Tuesday: oatmeal and toast, Wednesday & Thursday: smoothies and toast, Friday: cereal and toast. Saturday was the one challenge—no eggs for pancakes or waffles, so we switched to biscuits and gravy, tater tots, and venison steak for the carnivores.
What I did . . . Lunches & Snacks
The photo of the partially eaten apple above (Spud has a newfound fondness for eating apples just like us bigger people, but usually only perseveres for a few bites . . . ) visually represented my biggest fear of the week. Breakfasts were no problem, and I was pretty sure I could make six passable dinners, but lunches are often the bane of my existence. We depend on leftovers for school lunches at least 3 out of 5 days a week, and with these stringent measures in place, I imagined having to send this partially gnawed apple in one of my kids’ lunches. Thankfully, that did not even come close to happening, and the apple did serve a useful purpose.
Surprisingly, Jr. and Bug had very large lunches comprised almost solely of leftovers for 4 out of the 5 days (on one day I’m pretty sure they got Ramen). Fruit needs were met by using the watermelon, applesauce, and frozen berries. I also baked a batch of cookies using my favorite (no-egg) recipe from this book—something I hadn’t done in awhile. After school snacks were lots of popcorn, a few crackers, dried fruit, and the occasional tortilla with butter (Bug’s invention and favorite snack).
My mom is a fairly adventurous, non-picky eater, so I knew I could count on her to join me in eating some foods with a kid-rating of EWWW! and free up more of the “normal” things for their lunches.
Fortuitously, I had saved these broccoli stems in the fridge from the week before, thinking I might make up one of my favorite salads with them. Honestly, during a normal food week, these would have ended up in the compost pile: good intentions, but too much work. Now, every food item in my possession was analyzed from every angle with new eyes. Chopped up with the aforementioned apple (minus bitten part, of course) and mixed with a mayo dressing (original recipe, again from this book—hmmm), the stems became a great broccoli slaw (although I did miss the usual third ingredient of veggie bacon).
Two cups of garbanzos (again, usually these would probably have been thrown out) left over from a soup recipe became some delicious falafels that we paired with plain yogurt, cucumber, and the broccoli slaw for two days’ worth of lunches for Spud, Mom, and myself.
So . . . that took longer than I expected . . . I’ll be back next week with Part 3 (and maybe 4): Dinners & Wrap Up!