New Year's Fresh Start Challenge: Cook Through the Pantry!

New Year's Fresh Start Challenge: Cook Through the Pantry!

Tess Wilson
Jan 11, 2011

The new year has brought with it two strong desires: To save money (the post-holiday financial situation is dire!) and to start fresh. Inspired by necessity, I've decided not to buy any groceries except produce until I've cooked my way through my stash of staples.

This goes against every instinct: I would love to have a proper pantry always overflowing with home-canned produce, every type of grain and bean, and enough food to survive the winter, if necessary. Also, I love grocery shopping. However, I'm quite excited to clear out the endless bags of bulk dry goods that have been languishing in the cupboards. Why do I have four bags of lentils?

Let's see what's in my cooking arsenal, and place bets on how long this will last...

I have an abundance of:

  • Flours - 2 pounds all-purpose white, 2 pounds whole wheat pastry, 10 pounds (!) whole wheat.

  • Corn Products - 1 pound masa, 3 pounds polenta, 1 pound blue cornmeal.

  • Legumes - 4 pounds lentils, 1 can adzuki beans, 1 can soybeans, 2 cans refried beans.

  • Rice - 3 pounds brown, 2 pounds jasmine, 1 pound basmati, 2 pounds arborio, 1 pound forbidden (?) rice.

  • Other Grains - 2 pounds farro, 2 pounds barley.

  • Nuts - 2 pounds almonds, 1 pound macadamias, sadly no cashews or peanuts.

  • Noodles - 1 pack udon noodles, 1 box campanelles, 1 pack mung bean threads.

  • Condiments - Tamari, Sriracha, Pickapeppa Sauce, tapatio, hoisin, barbeque sauce, ketchup.

  • Oil - Nearly 750mL of both canola and olive oils.

I'm sadly lacking in:

  • Nut Butters - Zero, unless you count tahini.

  • Sweeteners - 1 cup sugar, no maple syrup or agave nectar.

  • Canned Tomato Products - Just one large can whole tomatoes.

It has only been a couple of days but the kitchen cupboard cuisine has been going very well. I've made sweet potato rancheros using this recipe from The Post-Punk Kitchen with fresh tortillas, whole wheat muffins with currants and almonds, more tortillas for breakfast, and warm farro and spinach salad. So far, so good — wish me luck!

And any particular tips or recommendations for my cupboard-cleaning-cooking adventues?

Related: Do It Now! Reorganize Your Pantry This Weekend

(Image: Tess Wilson)

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