Every January, I like to go through cupboards, freezers and the pantry to really dig in and use up things that need using. I can’t really call it a pantry challenge, as so many on social media do, because I don’t plan to stop shopping. But, every year, I do reduce my grocery shopping in January and that’s what I plan to do this year, as well. At this point it is January 8 and I haven’t gone shopping since the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I will go soon, because I’m running low on eggs and milk.
I usually call it the “use-it-up” challenge, or something along those lines. The first thing I grabbed from the pantry was some bow-tie pasta that was getting near date. I cooked some and mixed it with some leftover cheese Alfredo sauce from Christmas Day. Some was eaten by one kid or the other and the rest went into this chicken noodle soup. The celery was some I froze from the garden, the carrots were some leftover baby carrots from the holidays and the broth was home-canned. The chicken was from a bag of thighs that seem to be getting a little freezer burned, but were still fine when I started getting into them.
I used some more of those thighs to make these taco bowls. I sautéed the thigh pieces and a bunch of onions from last summer’s garden in taco seasoning. I made brown rice for the base. There is a little more in the bottom of a gallon jar from a long-ago bulk purchase that I want to target for use in the next couple of weeks. I made guacamole from an avocado bought on sale, and added other toppings. We had the bowls twice. They were so good!
I dug out some ham broth from the freezer. I used more baby carrots from the holidays, a couple of potatoes, and some ham bits from the freezer with some lentils to make a soup.
We had home-made pizzas on the gf flatbread/pita bread I had made and frozen in December and had that twice.
I cooked a large batch of oatmeal with raisins for Malcolm to eat over a few days. He adores oatmeal.
I used home-canned corn, beans, broth, jams, fruits and more to add to meals. I also grabbed several frozen bits and pieces, such as frozen onions from 2018 (?really?-but they were fine), Anaheim pepper bits, a little baggie of pulled pork, hot dogs bought on sale, buns that were given to us a while back, and more. I threw away a couple of items that were beyond use.
It’s always exciting to me to see the little things I’ve saved get used. It’s food I’ve bought and paid for, grown, or at the least–put the effort and energy into cooking. I love using home-preserved food because that’s what I saved it for–winter.
I will not be that person who takes their pantry/freezers/canning shelf down to a small amount of food. The fruits and veggies need to last until next summer when I can grow or source some more. We get more beef in the fall. We may be getting 1/2 pig next spring and I just buy chicken and fish when I see good sales. But, with the large amount of jars of canned foods, 3 full freezers and a big pantry, I have no worries that I will run out. Even with the traffic that went through this house during the holidays, I can hardly see a dent in the canning. Partly that is because I’m putting most of the empty jars away in boxes and taking spare jars from boxes where I stored them so it still looks very full although we’ve eaten quite a bit.
I do want to keep things fresh, and rotate things. We’ve gone through all the freezers in the past few months, and I inventoried and sorted all canning last summer. The pantry in the garage has been cleaned as well a few months ago. So things are good right now and I want to keep them that way. I’m excited about seeing how this project goes during the next month and plan to see evidence of my efforts in the form of some empty spots here and there.
How about you? Do you do a pantry challenge in January? Or some kind of modified one with your own rules? I’d love to hear what you are doing in the comments below!