In January, my husband and I took part in a “pantry challenge.” We agreed to not buy groceries for 30 days and to live on what we’ve frozen, preserved or stored in the cellar. (We made one exception: we bought milk.)
After seeing farmers and home-steaders in our circle or on social media doing the challenge, we decided to give it a go. The goal is not just eating what you grow, but also being mindful of waste, trying to live more sustainably, being more self-reliant, supporting the local economy, and eating whole foods in-season.
The first week was a breeze. We are in an uncommon situation where we grow a lot of food and have taken over an old farmstead where the previous owners had planted a good amount of fruit. Our property has a blueberry patch, more than 150 old apple trees, high-bush cranberries and blackberries. We buy meat from local farmers by the half or quarter for the freezer. We freeze fruit for morning smoothies, soups in portion sizes and veggies.
We also make lots of preserves: mainly pickles, fruit sauces, and a big supply of tomato sauce and salsa. We have laying hens for eggs. We buy dried goods (like rice, quinoa and nuts) in bulk; grow our own dry beans and dent corn (for cornmeal); and store veggies in the cellar. There is a big sense of satisfaction and achievement cooking from scratch and knowing exactly what’s in the food we eat.
At the end of the second week, we had run out of cheese, bananas, bread and tortilla chips. Since I don’t make bread we buy that too (someday I'll learn how to make it).
A common evening snack is tor-tilla chips and home-made salsa. We improvised. We went without cheese, but I made bread-type things like cornbread and oat flour bagels. For snacks, we made popcorn from our heirloom corn and ate sliced apples warmed in the oven drizzled wi-th maple syrup and topped with coconut and nuts. We made salads from shredded root crops. A favourite was shredded carrots and beets with raspberry vinaigrette, raisins, nuts and seeds.
By day 30, we had made a big dent in our freezer. The next day I went to the grocery store in excitement. I left, surprisingly, with only a few items in my bag. As I drove home, I realized I really hadn’t bought much. I found I really didn’t need the items that I did buy and could easily go without them. Although, I have to say the cheese was really good! My appreciation for it grew and it tasted ten times better than it normally did.
We concluded that this was a good exercise for us and we will definitely do it again next year. We substituted ingredients to use up what we had, got creative in our meal making (which was fun in the down-time of winter) and we saved money as well.
This type of challenge might not be a fit for every household, but I encourage you to challenge yo-urself in some aspect of it. May-be try a seven-day challenge or make some meals from ingredients you find that you wouldn’t typically use. You might be surprised at the positive changes that could take place.
To learn more, see #pantrychallenge on Instagram
Learn more about Angela MacDougall and Fundy Farms: local harvest here