I might be alone on this one, but I often find my mind wandering to our pantry (I’m sure I’m not alone there) and pondering just how long AK and I could survive on its contents. In the past, it’s been books like the Tomorrow When The War Began series and The Road that inspired these thoughts – if I were a character in one of these books and some kind of apocalyptic disaster forced me to board up the windows and rely on the tinned goods and packet food that was left in my home, how long would I last? My love of zombie films and stories has further fuelled these thoughts. If there was a zombie apocalypse, what would we do? (pack our car, remember the guns and the dog, get the family, head for the mountains, bunker down). If we had to grab food from our cupboards to feed the group, would there be enough?
With this sentiment in mind, we challenged ourselves to a week of meals from only what is currently in our fridge, freezer and pantry. I’m not talking about doing a big shop and then cooking at home each night either, I mean we had to make all our meals based on what was there when we started. The last time we did a grocery shop was more than a week prior. The challenge conveniently coincided with booking our honeymoon so saving some money was definitely on the forefront of our minds. Obviously I’m making excuses here, but we both live very busy lives and often find ourselves eating out or buying take away for dinner during the week. And on weekends. And for lunch… Anyway, we hoped this challenge would inspire us to eat at home more often and not spend such an exorbitant amount of money on food.
We started on Sunday and I cooked up some vegetables from the crisper (capsicum, celery and carrot) with some chickpeas, lentils, stock and crushed tomatoes. This stew would serve as my lunch for the next 5 days and was frozen to preserve the vegetables we would usually allow to go off. I paired this with some quinoa and congratulated myself on such a healthy choice. For dinner, we dug out a frozen pie AK had bought several weeks (months?) ago on a whim and cooked it up. It turned out to be delicious – beef, red wine and mushroom. We whipped up a little side salad with what was left from the previous week’s sporadic shopping – lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Day one- a success.
Day two I had my stew for lunch and AK had baked beans on toast. With minimal fresh produce and meat to work with, we threw together a bolognese pasta bake – mince, pasta, pasta sauce, frozen peas, grated carrot and cheese. It was as simple as cooking the pasta and mince and then putting them into a baking dish in the oven, coated in cheese. Most pantries have pasta and pasta sauce and we just added what veges and meat we had. It would have worked without the cheese, but we’re a bit addicted and always have cheese in our fridge.
By day three, we were out of meat and that was where the challenge really began. I had my stew for lunch and AK had leftover pasta bake. Come dinner time we were both pretty hungry and ready for something decent to eat.. I refused to give in and just have beans on toast so we whipped up an impossible quiche (apparently this is what you call a quiche without pastry, so basically a baked omelette). We added onion, tomato, corn kernels and cheese. AK had to be convinced that you don’t actually need meat every day to get adequate protein, but I think he was impressed with the end result.
On day four AK got a pass because he had a dinner with some work people and so I stayed in and had a pretty sad-looking tin of soup. In my defence, there had been a rather sizeable morning tea at work and I was still rather full from all the cake.
Day five is where we really started to struggle – we were out of eggs, meat, legumes and vegetables. Oh my! The baked beans finally made an appearance on some toast, with avocado to make it just a bit more exciting. I could eat avocado every day and never get sick of it. It’s so delicious.
Friday night in – this would be our most likely time to indulge in a take out meal, but we soldiered on and had a very gourmet meal of pancakes… with lemon juice and sugar. We followed this with a bag of microwave popcorn and a movie. Not exactly a balanced meal, but our pantry was starting to look glaringly empty. I had vegetables and quinoa for lunch ok, give me a break.
This is where the challenge ended – we realised the importance of having a well-stocked pantry and freezer and made a mental note to prepare more meals at home. The quiche was a revelation – something so quick and easy to prepare with such basic ingredients will definitely be making a reappearance on our menu. And you really can’t go past keeping tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils on hand, plus some handy frozen veges and of course plenty of cheese.