Read Part 1 & Part 2
Thanks for joining me on my adventure of one week of shopping from my pantry for every meal. Let’s dive right in and see how the dinners shaped up.
Monday’s dinner was supposed to be pasta, bread, and green salad. Frozen corn filled in for salad, and the fresh block of Parmesan was a nice addition to the pasta.
On Tuesday, the plan was minestrone and homemade rolls. Minestrone is a great pantry meal—I didn’t have zucchini and I’d forgotten to prepare white beans ahead of time, so I substituted frozen eggplant (which I sautéed before adding to the soup) and added a few generous handfuls of spinach (one fresh vegetable I happened to have on hand). Not-likely-to-be used lasagna noodles (broken) took the place of noodles as the absolute last ones on hand were used for Monday’s meal. Again, the Parmesan added a nice garnish to the soup.
The rolls were a bit more of a challenge, in that they required eggs. With only 4 eggs to last the whole week, I weighed and reconsidered their use almost every day. One of the highlights of my week occurred when I spied bagels, (originally intended for breakfast) freshly thawed and sitting on the counter. With cream cheese, these were devoured alongside the soup.
Wednesday was my mom’s planned arrival, and also the day I was the most stumped for what to serve for dinner. I had purposely not told her of my pantry challenge for the week, knowing that she would probably offer to bring something along. When she phoned to say she was on her way, she mentioned that she was bringing a large amount of spaghetti left over from the previous weekend, as she and my dad would never eat all of it. I pulled one of my three remaining Eggplant Parmesans from the freezer. That, paired with my mom’s spaghetti and a green salad compiled from the remainder of the spinach and some lettuce I discovered in the crisper made a fantastic meal. Completely out of salad dressing, I made this garlic-herb vinaigrette.
Thursday’s meal was the least comparable to the original meal plan: tacos. Instead of going south of the border (much to Cowboy’s disappointment), we travelled to the Far East for fried rice and tofu. Carrots, celery, mushrooms, canned bean sprouts, and a few pieces of broccoli came together for a lovely stir-fry atop brown rice. To that, we added Lola’s delicious tofu recipe (make sure you allow enough time for marinating and baking—I didn’t, so it wasn’t as crispy as it was supposed to be, but it was still great!)
Chili and cornbread was an easy fix on Friday—I had two half bags of prepared chili in the freezer, and managed to hoard two eggs to make a double-batch of cornbread. My latest jar of sprouts was ready to eat that day, so we had toppings of olives, cheese, and sprouts for our chili.
An overabundance of tortillas made things easy on Saturday. I made two versions (one veggie, one beef) of this Beef n’ Bean Torta—an easy crockpot meal that received rave reviews. We ate it with rice and a few leftover veggies and fruits.
Reflections on the week . . .
- This experience was exhausting, rewarding, frustrating, and challenging all at once. As soon as I’d made the decision to attempt this project, it was amazing how much time I spent thinking about and readjusting my plans for meals—this even continued into the next week after I was “allowed” to go to the grocery store.
- My refrigerator had very little “waste” left in it at the end of the week. Over and over I “found” things to make our meals better, that normally would have been ignored until they were spoiled or simply thrown in the trash.
- I loved not going to the grocery store for an entire week. It was absolutely refreshing to be able to avoid an environment where products and ads and bells and whistles were competing for my attention (and money).
- I am going to strive more diligently to include a “shop from the pantry” week in my monthly meal plan. After finishing my weeklong challenge, I discovered Cooking from the Cupboard at my local library; I’m reading through the author’s suggestions on pantry “essentials” and might try a few of the recipes as well.