. . . I think I may have to reward myself w/ an Old Fashioned apple fritter on the way back into the city.
Organic Gardening'
Like every other LTH'er, I love food. For me, a trip to the grocery store isn't just about stocking up on necessities...it's entertainment! As a consequence, I end up buying more than I need--a lot more than I need. And, I reluctantly acknowledge, stuff goes to waste.

After Thanksgiving last year, I made a vow: Until Xmas, I'd avoid the grocery store for all except perishable necessities. All of my at-home meals would be made from things already in the house. Not only did I save money, but I discovered that it was a bit of an adventure. I don't use many recipes, so I felt free to improvise with random ingredients in my pantry. I easily saved a couple hundred dollars, had fun doing it, and introduced several new dishes into my regular rotation.

(Disclaimer: This is a bit easier because I'm single and spend the holidays with relatives. And the holiday season may not be the easiest time for everyone to try this, particularly if you do much holiday entertaining, or want to cook dozens of batches of cookies, etc.)

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I'm going to try it again. Between now and Christmas, I'll only go to the grocery store for things like milk and fruits/veggies. Or if I've eaten through most of the major food groups in my kitchen. But off the top of my head, I know that I have a lot of stuff that can be eaten and combined into new dishes. (And I didn't stock up in anticipation of this challenge.) For example:

Frozen shrimp, leftover turkey, turkey coldcuts, canned Costco salmon tuna, peanut and almond butter, eggs, a few boxes of frozen Morningstar thingies, nuts

Cottage cheese, a couple cheeses bought at WF within the last week, a gallon of milk, some yogurt, ice cream

Grains and breads:
Pasta and more pasta, rice, quinoa, frozen naan, flour, bread crumbs, loads of boxes of cereal, oats

Apples, asian pears, several pounds of frozen fruits (strawberries, rasberries and blueberries), lemons and oranges

Carrots, scallions, beets, olives, frozen spinach, frozen corn, frozen peas, frozen green garbanzos, frozen edamame, frozen mixed green veggies, canned diced tomatoes and tomatillos, canned jalepenos, anned green chiles

Condiments and sauces:
Everything under the sun, including vinegars, mustards, mayos, olive oils, truffle oils, soy sauces, fresh, frozen and dried spices, etc.

Other canned goods:
A lot of soups

Anyone else up for the challenge?
I've somehow been grocery shopping twice since. :oops: And I have 1/4 cow headed for my freezer in a week

Mhays wrote:I've somehow been grocery shopping twice since. :oops: And I have 1/4 cow headed for my freezer in a week

I'll admit that I went to the grocery store on Saturday, so for lunch today I had leftover soup I made over the weekend. But, going forward, I'm pledging to steer clear!

1/4 a cow? Wow, think of how long that would last! (Of course, in my world it would last even longer, because I'd stare into the freezer and think, "I don't have a thing to eat for dinner," then head to the grocery store.)
What I wanna know is who went all the way out to the outbuilding fridge and opened a new bottle of heavy cream when there was a perfectly-good half-full one already in the kitchen fridge? Argh.

We've been steadily eating our way through the leftovers so I'm about turkey'd out. Instead, last night I got a craving for landjaeger and fresh mozzarella so now I've got *that* to eat before it goes bad. And, in eating our way through the fridge, I discovered three several day past-date yogurts...I'm still contemplating those.

I'm getting into a pozole or Texas chili mood, so gotta keep eating to make room.

"Johnny thought when all purpose had been forgotten the world would end this way, with a dance. He slumped back in a corner, drew his knees up to his chin, and watched."-Derek Jarman
Christopher Gordon wrote:What I wanna know is who went all the way out to the outbuilding fridge and opened a new bottle of heavy cream when there was a perfectly-good half-full one already in the kitchen fridge? Argh.

We've been steadily eating our way through the leftovers so I'm about turkey'd out. Instead, last night I got a craving for landjaeger and fresh mozzarella so now I've got *that* to eat before it goes bad. And, in eating our way through the fridge, I discovered three several day past-date yogurts...I'm still contemplating those.

I didn't open the cream!

Just-expired yogurt? I'd eat it. I figure, yogurt that the Bedouins carry across the desert doesn't have an expiration date. (And, by definition, isn't yogurt spoiled to begin with? It's sort of like, how do you know if the blue cheese has gotten moldy?)
I'm with you on the yogurt. If it doesn't smell weird or have green fuzz on it, I usually eat it.


" There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
- Frank Zappa
I hope you blog your progress here, chgoeditor - I've tried and failed at this kind of effort before. I'm curious to see if you come up with any new and exciting culinary combinations. (one wonders if this is how famous Chefs work...)

I grok the Bedouin thoughts(I bet Isabelle Eberhardt would eat the "expired" yogurt)...no mere Dannon's gonna frighten the likes of me.

...back on track...

there's also the massive recycling of Thanksgiving repaste glass and "aluminium" that awaits a trip to the local Walmarts bins...
Last edited by Christopher Gordon on November 27th 2007, 8:50am, edited 1 time in total.

"Johnny thought when all purpose had been forgotten the world would end this way, with a dance. He slumped back in a corner, drew his knees up to his chin, and watched."-Derek Jarman
I'm game for the challenge. So, I just cooked a big pot of seven grain cereal for the remainder of this week's breakfasts and made some chicken and black bean chili to eat for the rest of the week. There are a few lean cuisines left over from my serious dieting days. They'll have to be gone before I return to the store. And I always wondered when I'd eat that Frozen Asparagus Risotto that I bought at Trader Joes a couple of years ago.

Lots of pieces of frozen salmon and a frozen container of homemade corned beef hash.

|This could be an interesting couple of weeks.
Funny you posted this! I had forgotten I needed to make a tiramisu for a friend's birthday tomorrow... and just as I was about to leave for a grocery run, I decided to work with what I have on hand. The end result? Not exactly a tiramisu, but a chocolate chai trifle. I had enough excess for a small version and it was wonderful! I'm sure once the flavors meld overnight, it will be even better tomorrow.

I do my best not to shop and use what I have on hand to work with... but I often have dinner parties or events each weekend where I have to purchase groceries for my definitive menu. But usually during the week, I'll concoct what I can with what I have. Good luck on your challenge! From the ingredients you listed, I'm sure it will be easy to make it through Christmas!

Today's meals were a bit of a mish-mash because I was in a grazing mood. Plus, I have some leftovers that need to be finished before I can put a serious dent into making some creative meals.

Breakfast was oatmeal mixed with cottage cheese and pecans (it's a quasi-Zone recipe that I've stuck with in my post-Zone days)

Lunch was leftover, homemade "green minestroni" (saute onions and garlic, add chicken stock and any green veggies you have--I used scallions, zucchini, peas, edamame, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and green beans--plus a few spoonfuls of pesto sauce) and some prosciutto

Dinner was light...some leftover turkey, leftover bread and olives, followed by the last of the expensive sorbet I bought for 30% off at Eatzi's. Plus, I finished the last glass from a bottle of wine opened before leaving for Thanksgiving.

Snacks included some Das French Salt Caramels and popcorn. I drink a lot of water, but today I noticed a bottle of lemon seltzer that's been languishing in the back of the fridge, so instead I polished that off.

YourPalWill's post reminded me that I have a couple Atkin's Meal Replacement shakes that need to be eaten, as well as some Zone/Power/Atkins bars. Yuck! But on the bright side, I just finished reading Saveur and Food & Wine, and think I have all of the ingredients necessary for the following recipes (perhaps with a couple adaptions):
Spinach & egg drop pasta soup
Peas with pancetta topped with parmigiano and lemon
Double-ginger sugar cookies
Mac & cheese
Nut brittle
Cheese crackers
Salted fudge brownies
Today I managed to do a decent job at putting a dent in my larder.

Breakfast: Fiber One Cereal and milk (finished a box of cereal...now I only have 4 boxes remaining!)

Lunch: Salmon salad and crackers, edamame (finished off a can of salmon and a box of Ak-Mak crackers)

Snack: Salted Fudge Brownies from Dec. 07 Food & Wine (this required a a substitution because I didn't have enough sugar...I finished off all of my sugar and a partial box of powdered sugar, which was a substitute. I also finished off all but a couple tbsp of butter, which I'll use in a future recipe)

Dinner: Turkey (the last of my leftovers from Thanksgiving), cheese, a beet & parsley salad (finished off beets)
I made a lovely fruit cobbler this past week from left-over smoothy fruit hiding away in the freezer. Washed the freezer crystals off of half a bag of blueberries and a third of a bag of peaches. Cut the peaches into bite size chunks and sauteed with the blueberries in a generous amount of sugar. Stirred in some cut up fresh strawberries that were about to turn and topped with oatmeal/flower/brown sugar/butter and cooked in the oven until it bubbled.

It was really very good. I put salt in the topping which I should have left out.

I'd been eyeing those peaches for weeks.
Last night, deep in the recesses of my freezer, I found two wonderful pieces of Copper River salmon left over from it's very short summer season. I roasted them with a little blue cheese and garlic compound butter and had some roasted asparagus with them.

I preceded that with a bowl of Bob's Red Mill 7 grain cereal this morning. It is a mixture of the cereal, vanilla extract, splenda brown "sugar", nutmeg and cinnamon. Some morning I add a chopped apple or blueberries.

For lunch, I had a business appointment. Having had a root canal just yesterday, I ordered only the twice baked potato at Gibsons. I could only eat half of that garagantuan pound plus beast. But, I may have found a cheap new favorite lunch. I should have brought the other half home for dinner.

My meals were interspersed with some fresh chopped fruit salad from Whole Foods and a couple of protein shakes.
We had an extremely hearty soup last night I made from our turkey carcass, various vegetables, beans and pasta that I found in the cupboard. I actually made the soup on Monday and we dug into it last night. There is more than enough left for another meal.

My grandmother was a master soup maker. I think she would have been proud of what I served last night. If you would ask her what her secret ingredient was, she would always answer, "I put a couple of your grandfather's old socks in there." Then she would burst out laughing. I really miss her, but I think I was channeling her on Monday as I rummaged through cupboards, looking for possible soup ingredients.

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is making turkey soup with the carcass. It's economical and delicious, and with the wintery weather we are having, very welcome on a weeknight!


" There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."
- Frank Zappa

Pitmaster Emeritus
chgoeditor wrote:Anyone else up for the challenge?


I did not plan dinner in advance and was thinking delivery, pick up or go out, when this thread popped in my head. I rooted around for about 45-seconds and came up with a tidy little dinner. Bacon fried with garlic and red onion, sliced tomato, fresh cut red onion on corn rye bagel* for me and Bay's English muffin* for my bride. Served with a couple of carrot sticks and just-this-side of ok avocado, tea for her, Filbert's pineapple soda for me and ginger cookies for dessert.

Thanks for the inspiration.

I should note including Thanksgiving lunch and dinner 5 out of 6 consecutive meals were turkey based.


*Both straight from freezer to toaster

Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

Low & Slow
Tonight, I opened the vegetable drawer of my refrigerator to find some interesting root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, turnip, onions, garlic and shallots) which I placed in a pan with some good organic canned tomato, basted with olive oil, a bit of balsamic, some dried thyme, oregano and basil. I roasted these until the carrot, tomato and onion started to caramelize. Then pureed them and cooked them in a based of store bought chicken stock.

As I write this, I'm rehydrating some garbanzos, cannellini, and pinto beans which I'll cook in the broth tomorrow night along with some tube macaroni. Maybe a bit of chicken.

It will make several good meals on a cold weekend.
Alas, my challenge has been temporarily suspended, but I hope to resume it on Wednesday or Thursday. I ate out for lunch and dinner on both Wednesday and Thursday, then headed to Los Angeles, where I'll be for another couple of days. The boyfriend's LA kitchen is a bit sparse. His stockpile of ingredients leaves a lot to be desired:
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Maple Syrup
Balsamic vinegar
3 flavors of jams and marmalades
4 different cereals
2 English muffins
Cranberry juice

As it is, we had cereal for dinner yesterday, so I can't do a repeat of "breakfast for dinner." I think I'll have to head to the grocery store! Too bad I'll miss the Santa Monica Farmer's Market this week :(
I made a vegetable beef soup using my last-of-the-Farmers' Market turnips, parsnips, leek and tomato, plus a Wettsteins beef bone from my freezer. When it was almost done, I added the last package from a box of Polish barley (bought at Caputo's).

But when I was getting out the barley, I looked again at a package of Illinois Prairie corn chowder mix that's been lingering in my cupboard for a year or more and added it as well.


Worked fine and I'm set for the week!

Thanks for inspiring us, chgoeditor.
Although I've been a miserable failure at this project (and 129 lbs of cow are coming tomorrow!) today, I rifled my cabinets and came up with the following:

Three-bean stir-fry

1/2 package extra-firm tofu
2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 box rice sticks noodles
handful of green beans
triple handful of bean sprouts
splash of soy sauce
splash of fish sauce
splash of fresh lime juice

Soak rice sticks in boiling water off the heat for 4 minutes, drain, rinse in cold water and set aside. Cube tofu. Using a small amount of oil in a very hot skillet, fry the tofu until golden. Turn down the heat and add ginger, garlic (saute for a few seconds) and then remaining ingredients, including the cooked rice sticks. Stir thoroughly until all ingredients are coated and warmed, and serve.

Any ideas for savory uses of tapioca pearls? Not too keen on making tubs of pudding, unfortunately.
If you're talking about the instant boxed kind and not the kind you put in bubble tea, I sometimes use them as a thickener in pies, similar to cornstarch. I would imagine this could translate into savory uses, but I'd assume that you're going to get lumps...

I'm definitely attempting to take up this challenge, as well. As a hardcore recreational shopper who enjoys nothing better than discovering some new ethnic food emporium, I have vastly too many things in my cupboards and pantries, and even lined up along the counter. I don't have anywhere to put new purchases -- so I'm now only buying food on an as-needed basis, or if ingredients are required ("just add chicken" sorts of things) by some intriguing mix already in my pantry.

Wishing all those taking up the challenge the best of luck.

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

I buy and eat a lot of fish these days. When I see good seafood on sale, I'm not above above buying a larger piece, cutting it into portions, vacuum sealing the portions, and freezing it for later consumption.

Last night, I found a beautiful piece of blue fin tuna that had been in my freezer since late in the summer. So, off I went to the pantry where I found a couple of dried anaheim chiles, a dried chipotle, some garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. I hydrated the three peppers, removed the seeds and veins, then scraped out the interior the interior flesh which i usee as the base for a "crust" of peppers, cumin, garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper.

I smeared the rub on one side of the fish and quickly seared it in olive oil so that the middle was still cold and red ala a dish they serve at Mesa Grill in new York
Will, can I go shopping at your house?

Prospecting into the deep recesses of my freezer last night, I found several little Nigerian eggplants, stuffed with beef, chiles and huitlacoche. I've never claimed to make anything "authentic."

I'm happy that some fellow LTH'ers took me up on my challenge to eat things already in your kitchen. Now that I've returned from 5 days in Los Angeles, I'm ready to dive back into the fun.

I've never been one to make things ahead and freeze them. Or if I do freeze leftovers, then they tend to languish in my freezer until I eventually throw them out. But I spent Thanksgiving at my brother's house. He's a great cook--and puts his freezer to good use! On the day before T-day, he pulled a couple mini loaf pans out of the freezer...it was banana-blueberry batter that he'd made ahead and frozen. We ate it hot from the oven for Thanksgiving breakfast. Given all of the stuff I have in my kitchen, I decided that I should make a renewed effort to freeze cook and freeze some dishes.

Today I made Cooking Light's Basil Shrimp with Feta and Orzo. It's a great recipe, and I had all of the ingredients in the house (though was a little short on feta and green onions, so I added some chopped olives for additional flavor). I cooked it about 2/3 of the necessary time, then split it into several servings and froze it. It'll finish cooking when I reheat it, which will keep the shrimp from getting tough.

Looking through my cabinet, I saw that I had a lot of pastas and realize that these work well in classic casseroles (something we didn't eat much when I was growing up). But the cold weather makes them seem appealing, so since I had the ingredients, I whipped up a tuna-farfalle casserole (loosely based on this recipe). I didn't have alfredo sauce, so I used the classic--Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup--replaced the scallions with some onion, and added celery. I'll cook it for dinner and freeze the leftovers.

I also have a lot of rice, so in the next day or two, I think I'll make a mock paella. (I love paella, and have a recipe that's fantastic, but without all of the ingredients I hesitate to even call this paella.) Maybe it's better to call it a Spanish rice with shrimp. I'll use chicken broth, saffron, rice, tomatoes, shrimp, peas, a little New Mexican chili powder and some canned green chiles (more Mexican than Spanish, I realize). I just noticed that I also have some chipotle peppers in adobo and some canned tomatillos, so I'll probably use those in a second batch of rice next week. By then I may have to break down and buy some protein.
Last spring, when I took a mini-vacation to Charleston, SC, I decided to take one afternoon to partake in one of my childhood hobbies: sjhrimpoing with a cast net in the tidal creeks. It's a laborious process in which you can gather enough small creek shrimp to fill five or six pint containers headless in an entire afternoon. Historcially, my family always froze those shrimp is a little salty creek water so as to maintain the flavor of nature.

I've had that last pint container sitting in the back of my freezer for a few months. Tonight is the night that it becomes dinner. I'm planning on making a South Carolina style Shrimp Creole, sweeter and less spicy than it's Louisiana cousin, served over a little white rice.

2 strips bacon
1 medium oinion finely chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 green bell pepper finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 28 oz can crushed red tomatos
1/8 teaspoon dash of cayenne
1 tbsp white sugar
1 pint peeled, deveined headlss creek shrimp (mostly 51/60 count or smaller- tho the creek doesn't really measure them for you)
1 tbsp tomato paste

In a a large frying pan, fry the bacon til crisp, remove it from the pan and eat it while you cook the rest of the dish. In the bacon fat, sautee, the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic until translucent. Add the tomatoes, cayenne and sugar and simmer for one hour to allow the flavors to meld. Fold in the uncooked shrimp and turn off the heat, allowing them to cook in the heat of the sauce for 2-3 minutes.

Serve over white rice.
In the interests of saving money, saving driving, and using up many of those things in the pantry and freezer that I meant to use up before now, I'm going to try to meet this challenge. I'll call it "giving up groceries for Advent." Could be a new trend.

One question, can we count wine as a perishable necessity? Otherwise I'm going to have to make one more run to the store before I start the challenge.

Question #2, Mhays seems to have much more beef on hand than he can chew through between now and December 25th. If I go to beg, borrow, or steal some out of his freezer, am I violating the challenge rules?

Finally, a comment, I like the idea of the discipline of this challenge, but I think that stockpiled frozen foods are best reserved for times when the weather is just too bad to get the car out to get to the store. Or when you're just going stir crazy from cabin fever and need chicken tikka masala really badly.

One great thing about the challenge: There are no rules. If wine is a perishable necessity in your household, then by all means go buy some! (In case you're looking for further justification I think a liquor store isn't the same as a grocery store.) Personally, I have 8-10 cases of wine in the house, so I'm not even thinking about trying to use it up. I drink more wine than hard liquor, so I'm sort of proud of the fact that, since starting the challenge, I've finished a bottle of Campari and two bottles of creme-style dessert liquors (which had been lanquishing in the back of the fridge for a while now). There's enough vodka left for just one drink, so I'll have polished that off soon, too. I realize that none of these things go bad (well, maybe the creamy stuff), and come the new year I'll go out and restock the Campari and vodka, but there's still a sense of accomplishment at having the additional empty space in my cabinets!

I, too, am curious about what exciting dishes Mhays has planned for her beef. I'm not much of a beef eater myself, but maybe if you're really nice you'll get an invite! (I'm also curious about which 1/4 of the cow she purchased....it seems that some would be more desireable than others!)

Yeah, you could argue that making and freezing casseroles doesn't really accomplish the point of the challenge--after all, it's still in my kitchen, just in a different form. But yesterday and today I did eat the tuna noodle casserole (which reminded me why I don't particularly like canned tuna, but the noodles that got crispy were very good). And I had the satisfaction of finishing off a bag of farfalle, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and about half of my frozen peas. So there was a sense of accomplishment associated with it.

Does anyone remember that Food TV show called, "Door Knock Dinners," where Gordon Elliot(?) and crew showed up, unannounced, at someone's house and prepared a meal using only items found in their pantry? I think we're all channeling the spirit of that show!
Last edited by chgoeditor on December 7th 2007, 6:59pm, edited 2 times in total.
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