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What do we buy when there is nothing in the garden to eat? Here is a picture of everything we bought the first time we went shopping after we finished our 50 day pantry challenge that started January 1st. We still have canned tomatoes and applesauce and frozen peppers and things but were out of fresh greens and fruit by the end of the challenge.
Here are the top ten lessons we learned from our pantry challenge and the things we are trying to change as a result.
1. We don't have a great way to store fresh root crops. We stocked up on potatoes thinking that they would last awhile, but about half of them sprouted by the end of the challenge, even when stored with apples layered with paper and stored in a dark box in the coldest part of the house. Gold potatoes stored better than russet potatoes, but I'll probably use frozen potatoes next winter if we do this again. We only ate half of the carrots I had bought. It turns out that you can store them and they are still fine to eat, but once they start sprouting, they do not taste very good raw. Sweet potatoes stored well, but we didn't eat as many as we hoped we would.
2. I missed greens way more than I thought I would. I don't normally eat a lot of salad in January. It doesn't taste as fresh as what we grow in our garden, but a lot of our recipes are improved by a little bit of green. One goal for this year is to build cold frames and try to harvest greens year round in the garden.
3. Some of our produce lasted way longer than I thought it would. We still have pomegranates in the fridge from our challenge and they still look great. We were looking for something to help keep the produce in our refrigerator keep longer and I think we found something that is helping. We bought an air purifier and ionizer for the refrigerator. It has really made a difference considering how much produce we go through. We just charge it and put it in the fridge, and it keeps the food longer and keeps the fridge smelling fresh.
4. We created less garbage. When we didn't go shopping for awhile I noticed that we didn't have as much garbage. Most of our staples are bought in bulk and the garden stuff doesn't have any waste. I decided I could do a better job of using reusable bags when I do go shopping. I ordered some reusable grocery sacks and committed to keeping them in the van so I have them when I go shopping. I didn't realize how much plastic I was still using though. I found some reusable produce bags online, and they are fantastic. They hold a ton of produce and don't tear and it is so nice to reduce the single use plastics to help out the environment too.
5. We ate a lot of soup. A great tasting soup that has simmered all day and a loaf of warm crusty bread is a real treat (especially if you put some homemade chocolate hazelnut spread on it). Add a bottle of chilled home-canned peaches for dessert and you have my favorite comfort meal.
6. Making our own plant milks and creams was a game changer and we loved doing it. Having the right equipment makes everything easier so we bought a soy milk maker (although it seemed expensive, the return on investment was only a couple of months and that doesn't account for the benefit of drinking milk without all the additives). It made making milks super easy - add soybeans or almonds, push a button and it dings when it is done. A good blender works fine for most milks as well. A good nut bag is a important too. It was a splurge, but I bought glass milk bottles to keep the milk in. They are reusable and very cute.
7. We did not waste much food. Knowing that we would not be going shopping soon helped us to make better decisions. I froze the grapes for a great treat instead of letting them go bad. I turned left over oatmeal into really good bread, left over almond pulp from making almond milk into cookies, and left over soy meal from making soy milk into meatballs.RSS Feed
8. Having frozen fruits and veggies in the freezer made a huge difference. Once a food was ready to eat, it didn't really matter if it was fresh or had been frozen. Frozen peppers made a big difference in soups. Frozen fruit made a big difference with cereal and in fruit smoothies.
9. We did not save as much money as we thought we would. It turns out I already do pretty good with the groceries, and all of the canning and freezing of the garden produce. We saved money by not purchasing any impulse buys. More importantly, we used the time we would have spent shopping doing more things with our family.
10. Planning works! We had about a month to plan for our challenge which gave us time to purchase needed items and to learn vital skills like making milk, learn how to store things, and plan in advance for birthdays, holidays, and every day meals.
Overall, I'd say the challenge was a success and we'll probably do something like it again next year....if we get the cold frames done. :)