Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

A Pantry Challenge

My pantry is full of the fruits of my labors.
A couple of weeks ago I started receiving seed catalogs in the mail & I began dreaming of this season's garden.  Recently my good friend and frugal blogger, Sheila at FMCheapskate, posted that she was taking on a Pantry Challenge in which she was going to eat from her pantry for the next month.  I thought of my overflowing pantry and freezers that are stacked with grocery store deals and garden produce I preserved last fall.  I garden because I love it and I love being able to provide fresh, healthy food for my family, but all my time and energy are wasted if I don't use what I raised and preserved, so I decided to join Sheila in her pantry challenge.  Here is how I will attack my challenge and make room in my pantry for this year's produce.

1. I surveyed my pantry and freezer and made a mental record of what I have in my stockpile.

2. I created a meal plan for 3 days a week for the next two months.
          Over the last several years I have done several month long meal plans.  I keep them stored away in my freezer cooking cookbook for future reference.  I also have a list of favorite family meals.  I took these two lists and my mental notes from the pantry survey I did and used that information to create a meal plan.

Here are a few pointers in creating a meal plan.

-Be flexible. The plan is not meant to create more work & stress in my life; it is meant to give guidance and ideas to help me use up what I have on hand.  It took me HOURS to create my first ever one month meal plan because I stressed about the perfect timing of each dish on the calendar... the reality is I don't know what the details of my life may look like by Friday let alone three Fridays from now!  Be flexible in creating and using the plan.

-Put the plan on a calendar. (Google 'free printable calendars' for a blank calendar to write on if you don't have one or check out this free editable calendar I recently found.)  The calendar will include days I know we will not eat at home (holidays, birthdays, traveling, etc.), days we will/may have guests, AND days to eat leftovers.  For me, it works best if I schedule a fresh, home cooked meal Monday, Wednesday and Friday that may occur either at noon or in the evening depending on my day.  Weekends I leave open to chance as we don't have a regular schedule on those days.

-Search out just one or two new recipes to try out during the challenge... variety adds a little spice to life if it is done in moderation, but I am sure to include lots of well loved, tried and true family favorites! 

-Don't forget the goal is to use up what is in the pantry!  Shop only for dairy, fresh produce and missing ingredients needed to create the meals in my plan.  This being said, I won't walk past a stock-up priced grocery store deal just because I'm in the middle of a pantry challenge!  In all things I try to use my best judgement, and will do my best to clear some room in the pantry for the produce that I will bring in this summer by the time my pantry challenge is done.

3.  Make a list of items in the pantry and freezer that can be used for snacks, treats or other 'meals'.  All the apples, pumpkins and squash I froze this fall will make some great quick breads and muffins for breakfasts and afternoon snack time.  I also don't want to forget about the crust ready apple pies I have in the freezer!

I challenge you to join me in my pantry challenge and make the most out of all the energy you put in last year's garden before you start planning this year's garden.

Happy Garden Eating!!! :D

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