Pantry Clean Out and a Two Week Meal PlanPosted: January 18, 2015
M and I are on the hunt for apartments. We have a few top picks that we have checked out externally, but we still need to book tours with the leasing offices. While we coordinate those tours, in the meantime, we are starting to shift into the early stages of packing mode: sorting through clothes to donate or keep, collecting packing containers, and (my current priority) clearing out our pantry. I like to keep “the basics” in our pantry, which gives me the freedom to change up our meals easily, or to cop out of a more intensive dish on nights when I decide I do not want make anything more difficult than pasta. I also keep an eye out for deals, especially on meats, and stock our freezer. Needless to say, these “basics” can easily add up, especially when one is sharing pantry/fridge/freezer with roommates. When M and I returned from vacation, our cluttered shelves in the pantry were a huge eyesore. On top of our usual collection of basic ingredients, we also had leftovers from holiday cooking (chocolate chips, nuts, chestnuts, peppermints, etc), leftovers from the snack food we picked up on vacation (we are pretty notorious road trip snackers), and the 5-6 lbs of chocolate and GF goodies that M’s mum brought back for us from England (I’m not complaining–both are so much better in the UK). We had no room left and I couldn’t even begin to think about trying to sort through it all.
Instead, I took stock of what I could see and sat down to plan. First, I made the list on the right: a list of ingredients we had. I pulled out the proteins to a separate columns so that I could build meals around that. And then, looking through the food I had to work with, I began to construct dinners. I was hoping that what we had would provide us with two weeks of meals, and I managed that, at least on paper. The final extra dinners were built in as insurance, provided an earlier dinner did not pan out. The list on the left, obviously, is the dinner list. I had some ingredients for general breakfasts, and the goal for each dinner was to provide about 4 servings, so that M and I could eat leftovers for lunch. The leftover road trip snacks and chocolate could fill in for snacking, at least for these two weeks.
This project is primarily for the purpose of clearing out our pantry, though there is the bonus of frugality. I do suspect I may have to do some spending, but, in theory, our grocery runs should be minor, if not nonexistent, for the next two weeks. It’ll save us some money to put towards an apartment deposit and give us less food stuffs to pack up and move! Win-win! It all looks good on paper, though I am a little concerned. I made this plan spontaneously, and it is very pantry-based. While we have some vegetables and fruits, we don’t have nearly as much as usual and I know that fresh produce is pretty key to me feeling satisfied with my day-to-day diet. I guess we will see how it goes.
My plan for dinners in Week 1:
- Soup Leftovers/the Udi’s GF pizza in the freezer (leftover from our vacation)
- My Shepherd’s Pie–-this is always guaranteed to be satisfying and provide leftovers. I will pare down from the main recipe. I only have 1 lb of beef, which I would like to get me through 2 different dinners. So I will be making it only with 1/2 lb of beef and doubling up on carrots, onions, and peas, as well as adding celery. The potatoes will also be simpler: mashed with milk, butter, and some parmesan.
- Tom Ka Soup + Veggie Fried Rice–I have a GF soup mix I picked up at Wegman’s. It only calls for coconut milk and water, but I will substitute chicken broth instead of water. I plan on adding some sliced mushrooms, onions, and cilantro to the soup as well.
- Pasta with Sausage in Sauce + Kale Salad–I brown up crumbled italian sausage with diced onions and some garlic, add a can of plain tomato sauce and some spices, then let in simmer while I cook the pasta.
- Bean and Potato Enchiladas, Chips + Guac
- Annie’s boxed GF Macaroni and Cheese, with Peas and Sausage
- Bean Puttanesca + Homemade French Bread–beans, tomatoes, artichokes, olives, capers, garlic, and herbs served warm and bruschetta style over fresh bread. Our favorite meatless meal. It is one of those meals that I can always prepare at a moment’s notice, because it can be made almost entirely with canned/jarred ingredients. This should really help to clear out my pantry! I will have to go back and find the original recipe to share with you soon.
My plan for dinners in Week 2:
- Roast Chicken with Chestnut Stuffing and Cranberry Sauce–I picked up a whole chicken for super cheap and it has been sitting in our freezer. We also have a bag of dried GF stuffing mix that someone gave us before Thanksgiving and I have chestnuts that I intended to use in our Thanksgiving stuffing, but nixed when our nut-allergic friend decided to join us for the holiday. We also have cranberry sauce that I picked up (again) for Thanksgiving, just in case it was not present on the table (that happened one year and it was horrible. Cranberry sauce is a must). The sauce was already there, so we did not end up using our cans.
- Tomato Soup–The poor man’s riff on My Favorite Tomato Soup. I’ll roast the bones from the chicken and crockpot it overnight to make chicken stock, which will replace the tomato juice. I’ll use a Tablespoon or two of dried basil, instead of fresh, and I will also cut down on the butter and replace the cream with milk, in order to use ingredients that I have on hand.
- Fried Polenta with Braised Tomato Chicken–I have such a distinct idea for this dish in my head. I keep wanting to call it Moraccan chicken, or chicken tagine, but I do not think it is truly either. Anyways, it’ll be the chicken that I picked from the roast, in a slow-simmered tomato sauce with onions, garlic, and warm herbs: cinnamon, a little bit of heat, maybe smoky cumin, and some sweetness–possibly some raisins. I’m still in the process of figuring it out, but I’ll keep you posted!
- “Korean” Beef with Rice + Green Beans–I don’t think it is truly so Korean in flavor, but this asian beef dish is super simple. Tamari, a bit of sugar and some spicy make a sauce to pour over a mixture of ground beef and onions. This will be the last of my beef. I will also make some rice and green beans to round out the meal.
- Chicken Taquitos + Guacamole–this recipe will be coming to you soon! It is a super easy, delicious way to use up cooked chicken leftovers.
- Chicken Tenders + Fries + Green Beans–quick and easy, with the extra chicken breasts in the freezer
- Corn and Potato Chowder–I made this ages ago and a portion has been in the freezer for months. M and I are both running around in separate directions all day. This will be easy enough to reheat when each of us has time.
I was very impressed that I could make so many meals! I am pretty bad about utilizing my pantry stores, so this was a great exercise in creating meals that were inspired around the base ingredients, rather than the protein. I will do a check-in after two weeks to let you know how it goes! Good or bad, hopefully my pantry and freezer will be clear!