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The Pantry Challenge January 27, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Resolutions,Righteous Fury — LotusMama @ 10:31 am
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Food prices are insane. No matter what you buy, the price of it has gone up – sometimes by quite a bit. People have been complaining loudly about gas prices, especially when it was over three bucks a gallon, but hardly a peep was mentioned about the rising cost of butter or milk or kumquats (love the word, hate the fruit). Not nearly enough attention is focused on this issue. Everybody has to eat and everybody should be able to eat good food but with prices as they are that isn’t always possible. Life, liberty and the pursuit of produce, I say. Time for a uproar on the status of our vegetables, a State of the Pantry address to let us know just what is being done about the inflation of pork bellies and orange juice. Maybe I can email Keith Olbermann somehow and get him to do a Special Comment. “You, Sir Loin, should be ashamed of yourself and your constant grabbing for more money…”

Anystew, after a trip to the store for a bit of this and a bit of that which prompted much agitation at the cost of said this and said that, I decided to challenge myself to clean out my pantry and use up what I have. I’m going to stretch my dollar by digging out those cans of beans, those half-empty boxes of rice or pasta, the lone jar of spaghetti sauce or tomato paste or chicken broth.

The trick to this particular challenge is that I didn’t know I would be doing this so I didn’t stock up on essentials – onions, beef broth, crushed tomatoes. What I have in the pantry is what I have to work with – all week. No beef broth? Ok, I have bouillon cubes. No tomato sauce? Ok, I have tomato paste. Sure, you can’t swap out everything for something else – nothing will substitute for onion, even onion powder – but I’ll have to get creative with what I have.

For example, tonight’s dinner is going to involve ham because that’s what I happen to have. I have half a bag of Great Northern Beans, carrots (but no onions). I think I’ll be making a batch of Navy Bean soup. I have some biscuit dough in the fridge, so that will probably go with it. The leftover soup will by Hubby’s lunch tomorrow and the frozen hamburger is thawing right now for some kind of meatloaf tomorrow. No ready-made bread crumbs in the pantry so I’ll be making those from scratch – which is better anyway.

Things might get dicey as I only have 11 eggs in my fridge right now. Those eggs are going to have to last all week and if I bake bread or make cookies or do anything that takes more than 1 or 2 eggs, I’m going to be in hard shape. Can’t really substitute an egg. Even milk I could get around – frighteningly, I happen to have some powdered milk in the cupboard for some recipe that needed it – but eggs are pretty tough to fake. So I’ll be checking my plans carefully and making sure that my eggs last me until the end of the week.

What’s the point of all this? Well, first and foremost it is a chance to see what I can do with what I have. I’m one of those bad planners that tends to go to the store several times a week for different ingredients because I’m coming up with dinner plans only a day or so in advance – I know, it’s a bad habit. Remember, magpie.

Secondly, it’s my own little protest against the price of food right now. A sit-in, at the kitchen table. And finally, it is a chance to really go through my cupboards and use up what is languishing in there. My pantry is tall and deep so things get pushed to the back and they stay there, mainly because I can’t see them. Eventually, we’re going to revamp the pantry so I can pull out the shelves, but for now it is what it is.

So wish me luck on my little challenge. I’ll report my progress and perhaps photograph my soon-to-be empty pantry as evidence. I wonder if the new administration will have a Food Prices Czar appointment soon. I have a feeling that we could use one.