Saturday, 30 June 2012

Eating through the Pantry - I

My cousin Tara is an idea person, which in this context means that I read her blog and get great ideas. Several months back, she decided to have a big clean-out of her pantry by using it as her main source of meal planning. I thought this was a great idea, since my experience of pantries seems to be that they get over-stuffed with half-filled bags of beans and packet mixes etc. Every time I move to a new city I find myself throwing out tonnes of perfectly edible dry goods, because the bags are all half-empty and there’s no one to give them to. It’s such a waste.

My problem is that I like to constantly try new recipes—otherwise I get bored. But this doesn’t tend to be particularly conducive to using up the remnants of other recipes I’ve tried, and it can also get a bit expensive. So I’ve issued myself a challenge of using up pantry leftovers for at least two meals a week, until the cupboard is looking a little clearer. As the point of this is to use up stuff, not buy more, it means finding recipes that work with what I have in there, instead of buying more of the feature ingredient to make up the amount required in the recipe. I know that this is all second nature to people like my mother, but I’ve been quite lucky in that I rarely need to worry about my grocery bill as we give ourselves quite an ample budget. As we both enjoy cooking, it means a lot of recipe trying, instead of storecupboard rooting. I think this definitely falls into the firstworldproblem/iliveinacity category of evils!

This week’s challenge ingredients: a packet of Southwestern marinade and around 250g of organic haricot beans:

Monday: southwestern marinated chicken wings, Tuscan white bean salad w/Italianvinaigrette, and garlic bread:

I only had to purchase the chicken and the vegetables/cheese for the salad (which formed part of this week’s vegetable & cheese budget—I love that we have a cheese budget!). Everything else was either made from scratch thanks to my cupboards, or was already chillin' out in the freezer.

Verdict: the chicken wings were delicious. I bought a small pack of salt & pepper ones and added the marinade on top, which meant there were really nice undertones to the flavor. The salad was pretty good although I thought the dressing was a bit heavy on the oil side and to be honest I'm not a huge fan of haricot beans (the beans I used were leftover from a bean dip I'd tried making. Usually I only like haricots in Boston baked beans...). But if you do like bean salads, it's a good one to try! Later: I had some of the bean salad, without spinach, for lunch later in the week and it was delicious! The bean mixture had soaked in the dressing for a few days and it was really tasty. I'm not going to keep the recipe in my personal folder, but it certainly improves with time and if you hate spinach then you could definitely omit it for more of a traditional bean salad.
Wednesday: southwestern marinated pork-loin chops, potatoes, and corn on the cob:

Verdict: As far as speed goes, which is what I really care about on nights when I have to make supper after work, this was great. I could marinate the meat the night before, and the marinade was already mixed from earlier in the week. Then it was just a simple matter of ensuring I made everything according to their cooking times--so potatoes first, then meat, and then the corn. It all tasted good, and what isn't pictured is the homemade seasoning salt that I used on the corn and potatoes. As for taste, since the chops were unplanned (I'd wanted steak but it was too expensive) I ended up getting them at the grocery store, rather than from our Butcher and you really can taste the difference. This is why we are happy to pay a few pence more to get happy meats when it matters. The corn also wasn't as sweet as it should be, but it's often hit and miss with produce. Anyway, it was a filling and quick mid-week supper, and that made it a win in my books.

What isn't pictured are the leftovers--I made extra potatoes, and David accidentally ate half of the bean mixture for lunch one day, so I took what was left of the beans & potatoes and turned that into a side dish to have with chicken kievs for lunch one day. It also freed up the remaining spinach from the bean salad to have for a vegetable later in the week.

As for the grocery bill verdict, we didn’t come in under-budget this week but we were bang on target. Considering I managed to sneak £10 worth of baby things onto the bill, plus extras that weren’t budgeted for (like unplanned dessert buying and my last minute splurge on chicken breasts from the butcher), I think we did really well.


  1. Love this! Not just because you mentioned me but because I love challenges like this! Great job using up pantry stock!

  2. I'm finding it fun and a nice break to the usual routine, especially as I'm doing a bit more cooking now so that David can do a bit more working. All thanks to one of your ideas :)