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Making the Most of Your Pantry, Fridge, & Freezer (Eat Well, Spend Less)
Posted By Jessica Fisher On September 21, 2011 @ 1:01 am In Budget Living,Eat Well Spend Less,Meal Planning | 18 Comments
All of us have been there at one time or another, staring into the pantry or refrigerator and thinking, “There’s nothing to eat in this house.”
While this truly may be the case for some families, for many of us, this is a gross exaggeration. “Nothing to eat” often translates to:
Chances are for most of us, there really is something to eat. We just need to suck it up and get cooking. Sometimes that takes an attitude shift. Other times we just need a little inspiration.
One or two times a year I take a month or a few weeks to reduce my grocery shopping and make the most of what we already have. I shop less and cook more. Typically this takes a time investment and some good home cooking, but it also usually results in some money savings and better stewardship of the things we have. I even create these wonderful concoctions that we want to eat again! Necessity is the mother of invention.
I do a periodic “pantry challenge”  for a number of reasons:
What if we ran out of power and had to live off what was already in the house? What if we experienced an unexpected job loss and needed to truly “make do” for a season? What if there was some kind of emergency that limited our ability to add to our food stores and we had to make the most of what we had?
After several years of doing “a pantry challenge,”  I’m convinced that we could make a go of it for several weeks if we had to. Would it be all the foods we loved? No, obviously not. But, it would be nourishment, and for the most part, it would be tasty.
Take an inventory of your cupboards. What do you have? Make a list and see how many meals you could create with what you already have on an average day. I read a statistic once that said the average US household has the makings of at least three weeks’ worth of meals.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a doomsdayer and I don’t imagine that any awful thing is coming our way. But, I think it’s good to spend a few minutes thinking about these things. Times are tough, and budgets are slimmer than they once were.
Years ago we hit rock bottom . We got a wake-up call when my husband was suddenly out of work for an extended period of time. All at once we realized that we couldn’t continue on the ferris wheel of revolving credit. So we sucked it up and made the most of what we had.
Speaking from experience, I do know what it’s like for the cupboard to get empty . It’s a humbling feeling.
God graciously used that season to teach us many valuable lessons. One was to learn how to make the most of a little.
And that has helped us to think through how to be prepared for emergencies: natural, political, or financial.
Here are some techniques we’ve used to put good food on the table when it didn’t really seem like we had very much to begin with:
You don’t need pancake mix or frozen waffles in order to prepare a great “breakfast” meal. In fact, making pancakes from scratch is almost as easy as shaking out a boxed mix. This is my go-to recipe for homemade pancakes . It’s simple and filling and can be doctored up in a number of ways. It’s also usually cheaper than a prepackaged mix.
If you really miss the convenience, make your own mixes .
Making good soup is not rocket science. You can pretty much pull one together with very little work. If you’ve got veggies, broth, spices, and a starch like potatoes or rice, you’ve got the makings of a great soup. Serve it with crackers or bread for a hearty, cold-weather meal.
We have had at least one to two meatless meals every night for years. It wasn’t because we had lofty social or health ideals, we just knew that meat was a more expensive component of a meal. So, Beans and Rice  and Pasta and Red Sauce  are two of my go-to meals, even today, when the pickings aren’t as slim as they once were. They come together fast and easily — and my kids gobble them down.
Unless you have a great source of clearance breads, chances are storebought bread is taking a big bite out of your budget. I just saw that bread is $4 a loaf! Holy cow!
Flour, yeast, salt, and water are really all you need to bake a good baguette . Sugar and eggs add richness. Either way, these are ingredients that the average kitchen will have already. Make your own cookies, cakes, muffins, and breads. And it doesn’t take much to make them beautiful. 
Years ago I would make a special trip to the store for one ingredient, spending time, money, and gas. Nowadays, I usually go without it. We’ve learned that we can live without a myriad of costly ingredients  — and still be satisfied come meal time.
No matter the reason for “making do,” attitude matters . If you feel like you’re lacking, then you certainly are.
The power outage, gas leak, natural disaster, financial downturn — these all can be bad deals. And they are. But people throughout history who’ve faced adversity and triumphed had one thing in common — a desire to fight and overcome the hardship.
Being prepared is one step toward doing just that.
This post is part of an ongoing series about how to eat well and spend less . Along with some fabulous foodies, organizers, and frugalistas, I’ve been bringing you suggestions on how to eat like a king without becoming a pauper to do it. This month we’re discussing emergency preparedness ideas and how we can make the most of our resources should the unexpected come our way.
Be sure to check out what the other ladies are sharing this week or browse their archives:
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 a periodic “pantry challenge”: http://goodcheapeats.com/breaking-news-on-the-summertime-pantry-challenge/
 doing “a pantry challenge,”: http://goodcheapeats.com/category/eat-from-the-pantry-challenge/
 we hit rock bottom: http://lifeasmom.com/2011/04/how-to-prepare-for-tough-economic-times.html
 my go-to recipe for homemade pancakes: http://goodcheapeats.com/2010/01/pancakes-easy-pantry-staple/
 make your own mixes: http://goodcheapeats.com/2010/07/make-your-own-mixes/
 Thursday Night Soup: http://lifeasmom.com/2008/12/thursday-night-soup.html
 making soup from leftovers: http://lifeasmom.com/2008/12/home-ec-101-soup-from-leftovers.html
 Beans and Rice: http://goodcheapeats.com/2009/06/good-cheap-eat-beans-and-rice/
 Red Sauce: http://lifeasmom.com/2010/04/homemade-croutons-shredded-chicken-and-red-sauce.html
 bake a good baguette: http://lifeasmom.com/2009/04/homemade-baguettes-one-of-finer-things.html
 make them beautiful.: http://goodcheapeats.com/2011/08/creating-beautiful-baked-goods/
 we can live without a myriad of costly ingredients: http://lifeasmom.com/2011/04/avoid-expensive-ingredients-to-eat-well-spend-less.html
 attitude matters: http://lifeasmom.com/2011/07/poor-is-a-state-of-mind-frugal-friday.html
 eat well and spend less: http://lifeasmom.com/category/eat-well-spend-less
 Simple Bites: http://www.simplebites.net/tag/eat-well-spend-less/
 Kingdom First Mom: http://kingdomfirstmom.com/tag/eat-well-spend-less
 Denver Bargains: http://denverbargains.com/tag/eat-well-spend-less/
 Good Life Eats: http://www.goodlifeeats.com/tag/frugal-pantry
 Kitchen Stewardship: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/tag/eat-well-spend-less/
 Life Your Way: http://food.yourway.net/tag/eat-well-spend-less
 Food for My Family: http://foodformyfamily.com/tag/eat-well-spend-less
 Tammy’s Recipes: http://www.tammysrecipes.com/taxonomy/term/272
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