Do you know what’s in your pantry?  I mean, specifically, not in some general sense like, “Oh, yea, there’s some food and kiwi strawberry kool aid packets and 187 packets of soy and plum sauce from the Chinese take out in there.”  That works for me for most of the year, but round about the beginning of the January, I get the urge to purge.  I like to dig through all the stuff we’ve crammed into the pantries (yes, plural) and freezer, add it all up, and try to figure out how long we can eat here without grocery shopping or dying of scurvy.

Generally speaking, this is the procedure:

1. Make rapid speed survey of all the spaces you store food in your house.  Make a list as you go of all those items.  Illegible is best (ok, not best, but my standard for sure).

2. Find a blank calendar.  Immediately add in any events you know mean you won’t be eating dinner at home.  Also, pick the busiest night of your week, or the one you usually feel the laziest, and make it your “Leftovers Night”.  We call it “Survivor’s Night” in our house because you find something to eat on your own, or you die of starvation.

3. Start pairing proteins with starches and adding in side dishes based on the foods from your survey list.  Try to make as many meals as possible without needing a grocery store.  If you’re short an ingredient, check the interwebs for sweet substitutions you may have on hand, or just skip that item and pick something else.

The goal here is to eat as long as possible from your pantry.  4 weeks is a sweet goal.  2 weeks is better than nothing.  If you’ve never made a meal plan before, one week at a time is still a good start.  I have 4 weeks of menus written right now.  We just sailed through Week 1, and can I wax poetic on my love of menu plans?  Oh, I adore them.  They’re amazing.  No thinking about what’s for dinner at 5pm when my brain, despite it’s ability to solve quadratic equations, cannot possibly put some food items together into a meal.  No fighting about what we’re making.  No caving and sending someone to ‘town’ for $5 garbage masquerading as pizza.  Oh, menu planning, how I adore thee.

We are still grocery shopping through our “Eat From the Pantry” challenge because we didn’t start the month with 4 weeks of produce on hand (which is both yummy and helpful in kicking Britts-I-don’t-eat-salad ass at Biggest Loser).  We’ll shop weekly for fresh items and super good deals to restock the pantry for the next 4 week rotation.  I like the idea of planning menus based on what we have while buying new items to base the next set of menus on … always buying ahead.  This was always the plan, but sometimes … you know, rarely … (hahaha) I get lazy and let things pile up.

That’s of course how we got to this pantry of pure craziness in the first place.

Em.

ps, there are a ton of other bloggers also doing Pantry Challenges this month.  You should check out Money Saving Mom, FishMama, and Amy for great ideas.

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