Spring Cleaning

by Laura on May 9, 2010

in Blog

The weather is getting a bit warmer, the rain has stopped (I hope), and I am itching to find some order in my home. Time to weed out the old, tattered and too small clothes for the kids, reorganize the toy room, go through that stack of magazines that has been piling up, and clean out the pantry.

Lately, my pantry organization has been less than ideal. And because of that, it has been hard for me to know exactly what is in there. As a result, I’ve been doubling up on items and not buying others that I think I have. I’ve bought the staples like orzo, rice, and canned tomatoes, only to find upon returning that I’m over-stocked on those items, but need things like syrup, brown sugar and potatoes. I’ve been avoiding organizing, but when I went to reach for my back-up maple syrup, I realized there wasn’t one, I knew it was time to re-take my pantry.

After breakfast, I decided that it was time to put off what I had been putting off for some time. I needed to do a bit of spring cleaning in my kitchen.

I opened cupboards, doors and looked into every nook and cranny to assess what I had on hand. Little by little, I rearrange my pantry foods so that I know what I have, and what I don’t have. Next up , the freezer. Since I’m not a bulk food shopper, I don’t have too much to wade through in the freezer, but what I do see is several single cuts of meat – a small amount of flank steak, or a single pork cutlet – oh, and there’s another pork cutlet, right by the three, almost-finished bags of frozen corn. The vegetable crisper in the fridge was filled with small amounts of various vegetables, and my back-up bulk foods drawer was kind of – well – bulky.

As I was organizing and taking note of what I had and what I didn’t, I decided to do something a bit radical. Something that would definitely add a bit of scrambling throughout the week, but something that just might feel a bit liberating. I would hold off from doing a full-on shopping trip this week and create meals from what I had on hand in the refrigerator, freezer and the pantry. I knew that I’d need to head to the store several times, but the trips would be quick, and focused.

It turned out to be a good exercise in creativity. Each day I took a look at what I had in the refrigerator, perused the pantry, then got thinking. In essence, I needed to make the most of what I had. I had to do a bit of creative meal making, food stretching, food magic to make it appealing – and filling – to the family.

Last night I came across two thick-cut pork cutlets, and not much else. With not much to work with, I was challenged to create a meal for six that would be filling. All I needed from the store was a pound of bacon, and I was able to prepare pork, bacon and vegetable skewers, served on rice, with a side salad. It was a recipe similar to the Pork and Bacon Kebabs I often make, only slightly altered so I could use what I had on hand.

Other ideas implemented throughout the week were theItalian Meatball Soup, using up meatballs I had pre-made and put in the freezer, Linguine with Grilled Lemon Chicken and lemon herb pasta using the one chicken breast I had in the freezer, and a Vegetable Casserole which let me use up those last few mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli.

I didn’t run short on ideas, but knew that if I lost inspiration in creating the right meal, I could always fall back on pasta, a frittata, or a grain salad. And if I became truly stumped on what to make, there is always the perc<mcescript type=”>ook.com/” title=”Blog” target=”_blank”>SuperCook website, where I could plug in an ingredient and find a recipe to make.

During the beginning of the week, the kids clamored for crackers as a snack. But, since I didn’t have any in the house, they got used to the snack mix I whipped together with small pretzels, peanuts, raisins and dried bananas; toast sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar; or the ants on a log (celery spread with peanut butter and topped with raisins). I got creating, and the kids enjoyed it – even forgot about asking for crackers.

Would I do this again? Yes, definitely, once every two or three month, so that I have time to accumulate things in the kitchen. Not only will it help me use the food I have on hand, it gives me a chance to organize the shelves The one unfortunate result of this, is that it has revealed how dirty the pantry and refrigerator shelves are. So please, excuse me, I must get back to my spring cleaning.

PS – My total shopping bill for the week was around $77.

As for my next food shopping adventure, I’m playing with the idea of heading to Walmart. After my local market experience, I’m thinking of trying the big box retailer that many locally owned retailers despise. So, I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing, I just know that it will be an adventure – Until next time.

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