Shop the pantry with me

After a long weekend, sometimes we find we’ve overspent. This is never more true than after a long weekend that’s also our anniversary. And as much as I enjoyed the eating and lazing about, it’s well past time to get ourselves back on the straight and narrow. So the goal this week is to avoid buying groceries and use up what’s on hand.

We begin with an inventory of the pantry. In the cupboard, we have:

  • 5 tins of diced tomatoes
  • 4 tins of tomato puree
  • 6 tins coconut milk
  • 3 tins black beans
  • 2 tins red kidney beans
  • dried cranberry beans, navy beans, red lentils and yellow split peas
  • hulled barley, Scotch oats
  • onions, garlic and ginger

In the fridge, we have:

  • carrots
  • celery
  • miso paste
  • green peas (well, in the freezer)

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers the bases and gives us an idea of what we’re working with. Obviously, there are staples like soy sauce and cooking oil that I’m not bothering to list. Your staples may differ, and that’s okay! Work with what you’ve got – that is the point. I’m presenting this as an example, not dogma.

Next, we brainstorm the kinds of dishes that lend themselves well to pantry shopping; what Alton Brown refers to as ‘culinary Velcro’. These are your soups, your curries, and other one-pot wonders from around the world. Basically, any recipe that’s built using a neutral base like broth, coconut milk or tomato sauce.

For our example, here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Raw veggies with black bean dip (can of black beans, small onion, garlic, celery and carrots)
  • Green pea miso soup (frozen green peas, miso paste, ginger, onion)
  • Baked beans (tomato paste, can of kidney beans, onion, garlic) – maybe a surprise flatbread, too?
  • Curried oats with green peas (coconut milk, oats, onion, garlic, ginger, frozen green peas)

That gets us to next weekend, at which point we’ll grab up more fresh stuff. I have every confidence that we’ll have enough food to make it through without buying anything, but that doesn’t always happen with a pantry shop. Often as not, there’s going to be something you’ll need to dash out for midweek. The point is to use up as much storable stuff as possible while buying in as little as possible.