Guest Post by My Friend Kelly
Let's face it: we're all busy. No matter if you are married, single, in a
career or working at home, mother to seven, one or none, we all have enough to
fill our days and then some. Maybe the thought of adding one more challenge to
an overflowing Resolution list is too much to consider right now.
Relax, the Eat From The Pantry Challenge isn't boot camp. Crystal and Jessica are quite the opposite of
screaming drill sergeants. These are women who are willing to spend
considerable time and energy to share their struggles, successes, and failures
in order to encourage us.
This month-long challenge doesn't require you to
create a blog, starve your children, or eat leaves and wild roots. It's closer
to finishing the unread books on your shelf before buying new ones.
At the end of November, I embarked on my own challenge to clean out my pantry
and freezer. I am proof it can be done even if you’re not a master baker or planner.
If this pantry month seems too difficult let's start with a new perspective.
This is not a challenge, it's an adventure! Adventures are fun and exciting,
full of surprises and exploration. Here’s just a taste of what you might learn
on this adventure:
Remember the days when an empty plastic container and cardboard from the paper
towels could entertain you for hours? Or times in college when you made pasta
in the coffee pot and grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron?
It's time to get creative
again! Whether it's breakfast for dinner to finish up some pancake mix, using
stale bread for croutons, or finding substitutes, cooking is about enjoying the
process and breaking out of the mundane.
Creativity comes when you have seventeen cans of tuna and need a new recipe.
Creativity is testing new sauces on pasta and trying new recipes, ingredients,
and styles of cooking.
As we settle into our routines, grocery shopping can become a tedious chore.
Take this month to focus not on what you don't have in the pantry but what
you do. Instead of focusing on the deals you might miss, enjoy the ones you
found already! It's simple to grab chili on sale and celebrate a great
deal but it's a little harder to make chili and cornbread or chili on a baked
potato three times a week to use it up.
Look at all the opportunities we have to buy food and utilize discounts,
coupons, and rewards. It's easy to take that for granted. When was the last time
your family gave thanks for having a local grocery store, fresh produce, and the
funds to pick up a treat or two?
Once you embark on the Eat From the Pantry "Adventure", try a little trick I call 'spelunking.'
Simply dig through your stock and find something you can use in place of going
to the store. Crunchy salad toppers can be used in soup. Top macaroni and cheese with the last
tablespoons of bread crumbs. Turn mushy apples into
applesauce and juice into popsicles.
Dacyczyn’s Universal Casserole Recipe. Or, if you get stuck without an “essential”
ingredient this site
on substitutions is one of the easiest to reference.
I know my great grandmothers would be ashamed to see the amount of food I
let spoil each week. They didn't waste; the mantra was to "use it
up!" In that spirit during my Pantry Month I rescued a ham from the work
potluck that was to be thrown away. Ham omelets, sandwiches, added to beans and
soup helped stretch many meals. If you're thinking your stock can't possibly
last 31 days give it a shot and find out how long it WILL last. The worst that
can happen is you'll find your answer.
Crystal has connected her savings to a charity, would you do something similar?
Soon we'll be collecting 2009 receipts and income information for taxes. Do you
find yourself wishing you could give more in time, donations or money? Food
banks are struggling this year so whether you donate some of your savings of
that can of creamed corn you don't want to eat, this is a great time to give
How about making a Saturday trip to a soup kitchen to
volunteer your time? Encountering people in your own city who really do
struggle for daily meals can add some much-needed perspective.
What are you saving money towards in 2010? Do you have a family vacation, new
baby, cash-only Christmas plans, or need new clothes? Remind yourself with
pictures posted on the fridge that represent your savings goal. When you sit
down to a meal get excited about your next adventure and what it means for your
family. If you have kids, talk to them about the importance of paying back
debts, saving for summer camp, or giving to others.
Check out some books on frugal cooking, there are hundreds available from the
library and paperback book swap
for just the price of postage. Or check out a new food blog for recipes that
utilize what you have on hand.
Re-discover Family Time
When you've got all you need right at home to prepare and share a meal, the
time really does center around family. Instead of running out to pick up one or
two things, find a substitute and create a new tradition–you may even
discover a new taste when you introduce variety!
Set the table, light a candle, and share about your day. And don't dismiss
family time if you're single like I am; use this time to decompress and relax.
Enjoy your quiet time and then call your parents or a friend and ask about
their day. Or pick up some nice cards and write a note to a friend or family
What I discovered
While I've never had a baking day or tried to prepare a month's worth of food
in one weekend, I survived the month of December without grocery shopping. When
I found myself thinking of eating out or running to the store for “just one
little thing” I would immediately challenge myself to recreate the meal at
home. And on the days when I was busy and pressed for time, a bowl of soup and
peanut butter with jelly sandwich worked just fine.
You will find yourself accomplishing more on this adventure than you ever
thought possible. Case in point: I've gone 31 days without Starbucks coffee!
In the end I still survived and I'm stronger for it. I
certainly believed I'd be down to mustard, olive, and spaghetti sandwiches by
now but I'm eating just as well as before. I've learned a lot of lessons which
I share on my blog. And I’m looking
forward to reading what y’all learn as well.
Are you up for a little adventure?
Kelly is a 25 year old single homeowner living in Northern
California. Despite a high cost of
living and tough job market, Kelly has created a cozy home without acquiring
debt. Now just $3,000 away from eliminating
student loans (the last of consumer debt), Kelly looks forward her first trip
abroad, thrift store decorating, and teaching financial awareness. Kelly blogs at My Friend Kelly.
photo by ex.libris