Before you begin scrolling down this page and sighing about how much effin' food I've managed to amass, please understand that this isn't easy...
In fact, there's something very strange about the idea of exposing my entire food stash to a bunch of virtual strangers. I mean, what if you decide that I have bad taste in crackers, or that my organizational skills are seriously lacking, or that I have so much food that I must weigh at least 500 lbs.?!
Honestly, it almost feels like I'm letting all of you into one of the most personal parts of my life, which is particularly weird considering the fact that I spend so much time blabbing on this blog. I guess I never realized how intensely intimate my relationship with food is, which is really a lesson in itself.
Huh - maybe this is working already...
Anyway, enough with the armchair psychology, let's get right to my self-inflicted pantry intervention!
Goals of the Pantry Challenge:
- By the time this challenge has been completed, I hope to have lessened my hoard-aholic tendencies and to have increased my ability to make due with a lot less.
- No grocery shopping for items that I already have
- Why?: I'm a major "stocker" - there's nothing I like more than refilling spice jars and rotating cans of tomatoes from my storage pantry to the cupboard.
- Enforcement: If I run out of black beans, for example, all of the other available types of beans must be used before I can replenish the black beans.
- I must plan at least one full meal per day
- Why?: I've never been a big fan of meal planning, which has often lead to quick (and unnecessary) trips to the grocery store.
- Enforcement: If I haven't planned dinner for the night by the time I'm having breakfast that morning, it looks like leftovers will be calling my name!
- I may only purchase food "staples" in a limited manner
- Why?: Being veg, I rely on mostly fresh fruits and veggies for my meals, so it wouldn't be fair (hey, I make the rules!) if I couldn't have anything besides canned/frozen/boxed food for weeks.
- Enforcement: Staples include only whole food items (ex: lemons, apples, lettuce), and cannot be solely relied upon as the basis of a meal. In other words, I can't plan a meal that consists solely of staple items, just because I'm allowed to purchase them. The bulk of all meals must come from food items that I already have on hand.
- I'm not setting a firm date for this challenge, because I intend to follow it for as long as I can. However, two upcoming events will likely interfere with my otherwise strict adherence to the rules. As such, I'm going to go a little bit easier on myself during those times...
- The 2 Built-In Excuses:
- My final law school Spring Break will be here in just over a week (yipee!), and CH and I have been planning a much anticipated trip to Portland, Oregon for that time. As a result, the Pantry Challenge will be put on hold while I'm gone (although it will resume - without grocery shopping trips - when I return). Who can pass up farmers' markets and great restaurants while on vacation?
- Right after I return from Spring Break, I'm scheduled to begin my hellish Bar-prep courses. Unfortunately, that means attending boring lectures all day on Saturday and Sunday, in addition to working and going to school during the week. Thus, I'm under no illusions that I'll be in the best of moods at that time, so I'm reserving the right to bend the rules a little bit, if necessary.
- Despite these two caveats, I intend to give this challenge my very best efforts. Hopefully it'll end up being a fun, creative, and enlightening experience!
Our Freezer - Where Food Goes to Hide
(L) Freezer Door; (R) Inside the Freezer
Our freezer is mostly stuffed with frozen fruit, brown rice, veggie burgers, veggies, and frozen pasta meals. There's also concentrated juice, flaxseed oil, flax seeds, and pizza crusts. Plus, even though you can't see it, shoved into the back of the top right-hand side of the freezer is all of CH's non-veg-friendly food. (And the truth is, that food literally hasn't seen the light of day for years...)
Our Fridge - The Healthiest Place in the Kitchen
(top L) Refrigerator Door; (top R) Inside the Refrigerator
(bottom L & R) Refrigerator Drawers
(bottom L & R) Refrigerator Drawers
Our refrigerator door contains mostly beer and condiments. Here, you can see Dijon and yellow mustard, organic ketchup, Nayonaise, salad dressings, Teriyaki sauce, pickles, green olives, Margarita Mix, peanut butter (crunchy and smooth), raspberry jelly, maple syrup, Parmesan cheese, and lots more. (The Diet Coke belongs to CH - it's his vice.)
Inside the fridge, there's spinach, cream cheese, avocados, several kinds of nuts, bread, blueberries, soymilk, soy yogurt, soy creamer, cottage cheese (another one of CH's vices), red-leaf lettuce, several containers of left-overs, a Brita water container (that's my baby!), and lots more.
The drawers contain carrots, a variety of bell peppers, radishes, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, cilantro, parsley, jalapeños, Serrano peppers, etc.
Our Spice Cabinet - The Essential Arsenal
This cabinet holds most of our spices and healthy food additives. I've reserved the very top shelf for the items that I use most when baking (ie: sprinkles; certain spices; pumpkin butter; Vegemite; and a few extracts - vanilla, almond, lemon, and mint).
The middle shelf contains: olive oil; extra-virgin olive oil; canola oil; balsamic vinegar; red wine vinegar; white vinegar; peanut oil; coconut oil; and lots of other liquid flavorings.
The bottom shelf basically serves as the spill-over from our spice rack (which isn't pictured). Here you'll find the following: table salt; sea salt; kosher salt; parsley; oregano; rosemary; cayenne; cumin; dried mustard; peppercorns; garlic powder; onion powder; curry; red pepper flakes; dill; bay leaves; marjoram; mustard seeds; Italian seasoning; coriander; sage; basil; chili powder; thyme; paprika; shallots; garlic cloves; etc. Oh, and if you look carefully, you'll also see a baggie of the best spice mix I've ever had!
Our pantry consists mostly of storage/back-up food items. Here you can see lots of snacks, as well as extra boxes of soymilk and vegetable broth, pizza sauce, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. You can also see tons of sauces and dressings in the bottom of the pantry, as well as the top of my blender and a the vinyl gloves that I use when cutting hot peppers. We also store our re-usable canvas bags (as well as other bags) in this side of the pantry, but they're not visible in this photograph.
On this side of the pantry you'll find canned beans and veggies, coconut milk, vinegar, cereal, hemp seeds, pita chips, and lots of instant meals. The light brown plastic bag that's hanging on the wall is full of healthy snacks (like granola bars, fruit leathers, and trail mix), so that I can quickly grab something on my way out of the house.
In addition, we also store our polenta, gnocchi, pastas (spaghetti; penne; cavatappi; small shells; brown rice pasta; etc.), grains and flours (oatmeal; steel cut oats; vital wheat gluten; etc.), and other dried items (white and brown rice; lentils; dried beans) on this side of the pantry. My gigantic supply of teas and all of my baking items are stored here as well, but they aren't visible in this picture.
Well, I suppose that's just about everything!
Hopefully you haven't been too scared off by the sheer amount of food in my kitchen... Just in case you have though, look at it this way: At least you know who to call if there's ever a nuclear winter. Me.