Why I decided to skip grocery shopping for weeks…

A couple months ago, I got a large bill for my teacher certification renewal. I was cranky so I posted a question on Facebook to see who else had to pay large fees to keep their jobs.
Turns out, a ton of people.

The difference between the teachers and the non-teachers was this–the non-teachers ended their responses with, “…but my company pays me back.”

There aren’t any “pays me back” in teaching.

Instead of staying grumpy, though, I said this: “I’ll make that money back by skipping grocery shopping for a few weeks.”

That may sound like the misuse of a hunger strike, but it’s not. By not grocery shopping, I not only save time and money, I tune into my creativity, resourcefulness, practice my chef skills, and avoid a lot of waste.

Let the pantry raid begin!

Pantry Raid: How you can eat for free by skipping grocery shopping…

Americans waste an incredible amount of food. We don’t eat our leftovers, and we overshop, letting things go bad. Each and every trip to the store for “just one thing,” turns into a five bag ordeal ending in a giant bill–for me at least.

Pantry raids–committing to eat only what’s in the house for a certain length of time–take care of that problem while saving a ton of money.

Many of us could skip grocery shopping for a good, long time and still have food to spare. Putting a regular pantry raid into your seasonal meal prep plan saves food from being wasted and gives your wallet a boost too.

Have you ever cracked open a five-pound bag of flour only to find disgusting little larva growing inside, or opened the freezer to find dried out foods and the smell of freezer burn?

By scheduling a pantry raid, I use these things I might otherwise miss in my regular meal planning. This lets me feast, reduce waste, and save at the same time.

What did I find on my pantry raid?

Fresh foods

The fridge was stuffed full of things that needed to be eaten before they ended up in the compost pile–tons of veggies, some sauces, eggs, dairy, and a few leftover meals ready to go.

Dried goods

There were several types of beans, peas, legumes, and dal in my pantry and hidden in mason jars throughout the kitchen and dry storage. I found six kinds of rice, several pastas, noodles, and rice paper wraps.  These alone could feed me through the zombie apocalypse.

Baking goods

I had  nine types of flour–chickpea, all-purpose, bread, corn, rice, tapioca, hazelnut, coconut, and almond flour. I had all the baking basics–baking soda, salt, sugars and sweeteners. There were several oils, butter, two shelves of spices and blends, and a few flavoring extracts… The possibilities–endless.

Frozen & Preserved Foods

I do a lot of canning and food preservation. As I looked deep into the pantry I noticed “the forgotten shelf.” Everyone reaches for jams, jellies, and tomato sauce, but pushes aside the soups, salsas, and broths. I inventoried those so I could create meals to feature them.

The freezer had a lot of promise, too–everything from last year’s blueberries to entire meals I’d packaged up while bulk cooking, ready to go.

Now what?

As I finished my recon mission, I made two lists. One was “things that need to be eaten now.” The other, “things I have a ton of.”

Then, I crafted a giant list of meals featuring all the forgotten pantry staples. This is just a small taste of what I came up with:

  • salads
  • slaws
  • soups
  • smoothies
  • kombucha
  • pancakes/waffles/muffins
  • bean dishes
  • curries
  • pasta dishes
  • chopped salads
  • buddha bowls
  • sushi
  • roasted roots
  • risottos
  • frittatas and egg dishes
  • oatmeal with fruits
  • Pancakes, waffles, and crepés
  • desserts

It was a foodie’s dream.  As I ran out of fridge ingredients, I switched over to the freezer, cabinets, storage shelves, and spice shelf. After two weeks, I was still going strong.

Eventually, I stopped at the store for a couple pieces of fruit, some milk, and some American cheese for the boy, then back to the pantry, I went.

I had so much fun channeling my inner chef and making gourmet food I forgot I was supposed to be cranky about bills. I ate for pennies–not a single ramen noodle in sight–doing things I feel strongly about–eating clean and natural, avoiding waste less and appreciating the blessings in my life.

Those are things I try to do a little bit more of every day.