Shopping From the Pantry

I’ve shared innumerable posts on our pantry challenge participation over the last several years.

(Search #threeriverschallenge or follow @threerivershomestead on Instagram for more info on what got me started to begin with.)

This year, we are once again doing our pantry challenge. Interestingly, I’ve had a few conversations – from completely different opinion camps – about it.

Conversation A

“Aren’t you worried, with inflation and supply chain issues, that you’ll run out of something?”

In a way? But not to the extent that I feel like I have to go to the grocery store at every available opportunity to buy what I can… just because I can. No.

Inflation is concerning. Supply chain issues are troubling. The fact remains I have food in my pantry that still needs to get eaten.

Shopping from my pantry instead of from the store, using what we have, saving money in the process is the plan. When I feel like we’ve made a good dent in our pantry foods, and gone until I’m worn out from participating, we’ll figure the rest out from there.

I am not worried that by participating in this pantry challenge, the stores will run out of every morsel of food and my family and I will starve.

Conversation B

“Why on earth would you want to do something like that?”

This question covers a lot of ground. They’re asking a lot of things in that short sentence. Why would I give up the convenience of regular grocery shopping? How do I have food in my pantry that needs to be used up? Why do I want to make my own menu and be creative with our meals?

There are so many reasons/answers to those questions, and I feel like I may have answered them ad nauseam previously. If this is your first gander at my pantry challenge experience, though, I’ll send you here to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

The long and short of it is I have been making our meals from scratch for several years. I have been buying ingredients for said meals, usually in bulk. I have some things in our pantry we need to use up before they aren’t good anymore, or aren’t nutritious anymore.

Also? I am a creature of habit in a big, big way. I tend to make the same meals because it’s what I know, and I don’t have to spend too much time thinking about it. When I do have to creatively come up with a meal, it really challenges me. Like it or not, I need to be challenged some times, and this is a gentle way of stretching my brain cells out of their comfort zones.

The Meals

We’ve only been at this a few days, but I can tell you we’ve had some of the best tasting meals this week.

I made beef nachos (a huge pan) and used some fading-fast avocados to make homemade guacamole, and they were the absolute best nachos I’ve had, maybe ever.

Another night, I used a pound of ground pork to make meatballs and I completely made them up as I went along.

Those meatballs were so delicious, I wrote down my made up recipe and they will be finding themselves in our meal rotation on the regular. Tomato sauce, parmesan, and a pita pocket, and those were the best meatball “subs” I’ve ever had. One pound of pork was not enough, for how much we all enjoyed them.

We had a ham dinner, because I needed some ham for something else. I’m taking ham, cheese, and potato soup to an event at church and I needed the ham for the soup. So I made an entire ham for our dinner. Naturally. I also overcooked it. But we still enjoyed it, and it will soften up in the soup, so… mistakes can still be enjoyed when eaten.

Something New

I have on the menu what I am calling “Beef Biscuits” which is my own rendition of trying to imitate… oh gosh, what is it called? Is it called a pasty? Friends of ours brought them to us once, on their way back from Michigan. They’re essentially a pastry stuffed with meat and whatever else.

Like a Hot Pocket, only you won’t feel like you’re dying after you eat one. (Jim Gaffigan clip, just because.)

I’ll make biscuit dough, roll it out and cut it into four sections (one for each of us). Each will be stuffed with browned ground beef, cheese, diced potatoes, and a few seasonings. I’ll fold the dough over and pinch the sides closed, bake it, and voila. Beef Biscuit.

I’ll let you know how they turn out, but I can’t imagine they’ll be bad. I mean – stuffed biscuits. With meat and cheese and potatoes. They’re gonna be good, no matter how bad I make them.

We’ll end the week with homemade chicken alfredo on Friday, our traditional biscuits and gravy breakfast Saturday morning, and steaks for dinner that evening.

Summary

The beginning of the pantry challenge is usually better than the end. We’ve got the good stuff to choose from first, and I have enthusiasm and energy to be more creative than usual.

The end of the pantry challenge (when I get tired of doing it) is a little rougher. Mostly because I’m mentally taxed from the experience.

Mostly, I’m thankful. I’m thankful I know how to cook for my family – from scratch – and how to put almost any kind of morsel to tasty use.

I’m thankful to not have to go to the store in the dead middle of winter (except for milk, cream, and root beer Zevia).

Thankful is the only word I have, but I’m not sure it does justice for the gratitude in my heart each year when we do this.

Every year I learn so much during this pantry challenge. It’s a reset, if you will. This is year five, if I’m remembering correctly, and I foresee us doing this for many years to come. Little Miss even commented on January 1st, “Oh, it’s Pantry Challenge.” The kids have come to expect it now.

Here’s to another year, and another pantry party. I won’t run into you at the store, but you’re welcome to join us at our table.

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