Friday, March 07, 2008

The Pantry Challenge

It's true: I've been threatening to take part in my own so-called "Pantry Challenge" for quite some time now. And, unfortunately for my beloved CH (and as is clearly evidenced by the pictures below), it appears as though that time has finally arrived.

But wait!

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.
Rules of the Pantry Challenge:
  • 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.
Now, for a Few Pantry Challenge Caveats:
  • 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.
    • Note:
      • 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!
Alright, now let's get to that embarrassing photographic evidence...

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

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, jalapeƱos, 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 - The Storage Center
(Left Side of the Pantry)

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.

(Right Side of the Pantry)

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.


  1. What a great idea for a challenge! I have this problem in my freezer and should probably do something about it. And I also have a fondness for rotating canned tomatoes in my cupboard.

  2. Scared off? I'm just feeling slightly inadequate after seeing how stocked up you are! Hehe, you could open up a mini grocery-store with all that stuff you have. Thanks for sharing!

  3. My house used to be like that! When we moved we did go grocery shopping for anything but "staples" (fruits and veggies) and we clear out a lot of our pantry. My favorite thing to make when things are getting a little tight is garbage soup - just throw a bunch of beans, grains or pasta, tomatoes, veggies (fresh, frozen or canned), veg. stock, and herbs into a pot and let it cook a while. Yum!

  4. I DID THIS!

    I called it "top chef" home edition!

    It was fantastic.

    You can click on the label "top chef" on my label cloud to see my creations.


  5. Hey, thanks for the comments and the link! Best of luck with the challenge (and with the final semester of law school... you're a better person than me :-)

  6. I love looking at people's refrigerators and pantries, I don't know why! I can tell you're about as addicted to Trader Joe's as I am. My pantry looks like a TJ sales ad!

    Good luck with your challenge. I used a lot of my staples up when I did my challenge earlier this year, but like you, I stock up on things and think I've actually replenished more than I used up. Oops!

  7. You are so right, the contents of one's kitchen is very personal... especially for vegans I am thinking. (even more so for those of us that have omnivorous significant others and roomies) But now worries, I don't think any of us are here to judge!

    And I think your two exceptions are very understandable... go all out in Portland for sure! We were there a year or so ago and I think I was eating constantly, but it was worth it. And bar-preps.. sounds tough.... so definitely don't stress yourself out more!

    Our condiments in the fridge are way out of control, yours look very manageable. Someone should come up with a fridge for vegans... those produce drawers are never big enough to hold it all. Can't wait to hear more about your pantry challenge!


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