Cupboard love day 3

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2014 at 8:45 pm


It’s so interesting to read in comments (and on Facebook and Twitter) how many of you also have groaning pantries, yet still keep buying food.

Also to hear something I didn’t know about one my best pals (yoohoo Miss Nicki Davidson…) that she clears all her cupboards once every three months using this method. And she’s a caterer, so she knows from food and says she has fun making tasty meals from whatever’s there.

Particular thanks to Golly Gumboots (who blogs here for putting me onto The $21 Challenge by Fiona Lippey and Jackie Gower.

This Aussie duo came up with the idea of eating only cupboard love style – plus $21 (about £12) to spend on a few extras to make your meals work – one week each month.

They claim families could save $3,600 (£2000) a year doing this, which would be a great bonus on top of the feel good eco factor I’m getting out of it.

I struggled with the poor graphic design of the website (a magazine editor’s eye never leaves you…) and testimonials mentioning powdered milk, but it’s worth a look.


Here’s what we ate today.

For me, my usual Bircher-style muesli with oats, grated apple, cold milk and yogurt. Peggy had a tortilla with grilled cheese and an orange.

Leftover kidney bean burger from last night in a pita with lots of chili ketchup, and a side salad including beetroot.

The roast chicken, gravy and frozen peas. We had a bit of a disaster with the mashed potato. I peeled every potato I had with the idea of having some mash tonight and then using the rest tomorrow (the most versatile of leftovers…)

Peggy wanted to do the mashing and unfortunately I left her to it, only to turn round and see she had put half a pint of milk in it. So we had a thick potato soup.

I haven’t binned it, I have an idea to make vichyssoise, but I think part of the problem was the nasty potatoes I’d bought in Morrisons (a second rate UK supermarket, without the sick thrill of the Euro budget chains Liedl and Aldi). The last lot of mash I made with them was also pretty yuk. So I’m going to have to decide whether it would be throwing good food after bad to try and rescue it.

Memo to self: never buy anything ever again from Morrisons apart from branded goods.

squirrel nuts

For pudding we had something verrry unlikely, semolina.

I found a big jar of it at the back of a shelf, leftover from when I made roast potatoes Nigella style, which involves tossing the parboiled spuds in the stuff (not worth the effort).

It’s quite mellow here tonight and not really semonlina weather, but with a blob of jam it was a novel treat – which I was pleased a 21st century child was prepared to try – but I think it will take a while to finish that jar.

So far, including the off piste biltong and pork scratchings I’ve spent £4.95 ($9) on food this week. That’s less than my lunch normally costs me.

  1. Now that my kids have left home, my pantry is looking pretty good – as the last one left, I packed up all the ‘excess’ food and gave it to her to take! Now the pantry only has what we like to eat in it. Ditto the fridge. I shop at Woolies online once a month – so I do end up with 6 tins of tomatoes, and 6 tins of coconut milk, and 12 tins of salmon, etc., but by the end of the month I’m down to one and I start all over again. The best thing about doing it online – besides that they deliver it right to your kitchen – is that you’re not tempted to buy stuff you don’t need, as you can’t see it. Most days I call into the local organic shop for meat, chicken and veg on my way home. Don’t I sound SOOOO organised. That’s my perfect world – but it doesn’t always happen that way. I, too, buy stuff I never use; eat out two or three nights in a row and the stuff I’ve bought goes off; try to make a meal plan, but never stick to it; and buy more veggies (because they’re good for you) than I could possibly, realistically eat. Really enjoying reading how you – and everyone else does it.

    • Yes, the ‘meal planning’ idea… it is the basis of all the food economy systems as far as I can tell and it’s just NEVER going to happen in my life. I’m going to aim instead to be more of the French housewife, buying one or two key ingredients each day as I need them.

  2. I am a terrible “food hoarder” and it’s usually when I go shopping without a list. I think “Hmmm, I’m sure we need more tinned tomatoes / lentils / salami / tinned tuna / etc etc” and stock up, only to discover that we have plenty already at home. Repeat this sort of action a few times a month, and yep, we really don’t have to go shopping either.
    I do like to do a cupboard “audit” every three or four months too (only because we have such a tiny food cupboard…) but one thing that we have been using for a few years is an under sink compost system called a bokashi ( It has really made me aware of our food consumption and how much we waste. It’s helped me make sure that we use up all our fresh food before we go and buy new things – and like you have found, it feels quite inventive to build a meal around what you have, rather than think what you feel like, and go out and buy based on that.
    (and the bokashi is great as we drive the bucket down to our community garden and pop it in their giant compost bin – so much less land fill waste than chucking it in the bin!)

    • I always take a list, so I’ve got no excuse! But then I get tempted by ‘interesting’ things like that huge jar of sauerkraut I bought in an ‘I love Germany’ moment in Liedl. We have a big ALdi opening near us this month. I’m soooo excited.

  3. I think it’s definitely worth stocking up on canned goods when they are on ‘sale’ or special offer. I do this with baked beans, tomatoes, peas etc. as I use those a lot. I also do this with kitchen roll and toilet paper, and peanut butter, and jam, although I usually buy jam and marmalade from Lidl or Aldi now as it is so cheap and nice. But, I am at the moment going through all my cupboards and making meals from what is there, and using up the different pastas I have bought. I have a pointed cabbage in my fridge I need to use and am wondering what to do with it. Some of the ideas include potatoes so I better make sure I buy some that are good for mashing, as one idea is Rumbldethumps, cabbage, mashed potato and leek or onion, mixed with grated cheddar. I have spent about £5 on food this week which includes milk, free range eggs and some kale.

  4. I have a theory that we tend to overstock our pantries because we learnt from our mothers who (in my case) were children of the Depression and then had to manage teenage years during the war on the food ration system. It took a couple of years as an empty nester to reduce my non-perishables to a single (albeit very deep) shelf in my pantry. Most of what we eat comes from the growers markets in inner city Sydney and, yes, it’s quite expensive but the fresh produce lasts at least twice as long as stuff bought in supermarkets. Any leftovers go into the worm farm He of the House takes care of and our tiny courtyard garden is thriving. Best of all, we have reduced our supermarket shopping only once a month – this I find most liberating! Donna

    • I totally agree. My mother grew up with rationing – and then I grew up in a household with at the least 6 people in it, often more, so when I left home I used to shop for 6! I can feel myself changing behaviour at a fundamental level as I do this, it’s really fun.

  5. *Ahem*

    May I refer you to this page?

    Yes, it’s my site, my work. It’s the advice I give to all readers who know their food spending is out of control, but who don’t exactly know where to start. Trust me when I tell you that knowing what’s in your pantry, fridge or freezer is only the beginning.

    Oh, and I could do far better things with semolina as well. Gnocchi. An orange drizzle cake. But that’s for another time.

    As for supermarket product placement, it is a Dark Art. Supermarkets want you to be as disorganised and spontaneous as possible. They want you to come in only wanting milk, bread and loo paper, because that’s what everyone wants, so they place those products at three different ends of the supermarket and make you go past another $50 of products you will grab along the way.

    Then there are those maddening 2 for 1 specials, all the pretty things placed at eye level, the pre-packaged and over priced products within arm’s reach of two items you don’t want but will grab anyway and before you know it, stuffed pantry.

    You’re not a hoarder Maggie. You’re an unconscious shopper. Most of us are and that’s exactly how supermarkets want us.

    • Great stuff, Sandra. I’ll mention you in the next one. I never go to the supermarket without a list and it’s even written in the order of the aisles!!! That’s my way of trying to avoid exactly the traps you describe. I’m going to have a better look at your excellent site. I do know my own frailities though and I fear planning meals for a week is just never going to happen. xx

      • … And that’s fair enough. Many people find menu planning unwieldy. However, the only real alternative is to be as inventive as possible and to commit to using up what you have first. Happy to chat with you about it in greater detail whenever you like. x

  6. I found a trick with too much milk in the mashed potatoes, pop them back on the stove and cook for a bit longer, the milk will evaporate and the mash will be a bit creamy but not too bad.

    • I think that would have worked if a) daughter hadn’t then beaten it with a fork, releasing all the starch and creating a form of wallpaper paste and b) they weren’t dreadful potatoes to begin with… I’m facing up to binning it and wish I knew someone with pigs I could give it to.

  7. Just after I read your blog last night I noticed my husband rifling through a cardboard box. Long forgotten bottles of assorted alcohol from when we did the big move two years ago.

    Here is a sample: organic cabernet sauvignon from 1980; sickly sweet fejoia liqueur from a wine tasting; home made honey mead and chilli liqueur from a long winded food and wine festival.

    We ended up tossing most of it but it was fun playing “do you remember?”. All bottles were bought thoughtfully, but for whatever reason (deep shelves), overlooked.

    I become so irritated and disgusted with supermarkets and their manipulative ways. They are HUGELY convenient which is part of their seductive quality, but I love it when I can choose to buy decent produce, fresh and packaged, from local “small” retailers or producers.

    Good luck with your quest, Maggie. So much food does get wasted, and even with our new, slimline pantry and mini fridge/freezer we still have very contented worms in our compost heap. This week has been pretty good, though: tonight is leftover chilli and rice for me and a lonely porkchop and stray veg for the man.

    • I’m beginning to understand how this is all part of the bigger picture of our consumer society. Next thing I’ll be living off grid like you! (are you off grid? I’m increasingly fascinated by the concept…)

      • Yes, we’re off the grid – only by about 1km. We have solar panels and a microhydro that runs off the dam in winter – it keeps the panels topped up. Don’t ask me how…

        We buy in LPG bottles for the fridge/freezer, gas stove for summer, and for our hot water (hopefully going solar on that, too), but mainly cook on the slow combustion stove and fire for winter – that also feeds our hydronic heating. This will be the first year we (the royal we – I don’t go near any type of axe-like implement) have fully stocked our woodshed from the property – dead trees/fallen branches and trees*. So we’re feeling a bit smug about that.

        It’s challenging at times!

        * but we leave plenty for the echidnas/possums/assorted birds and *shudder* snakes to shelter/forage in

  8. Oh Maggie – you have opened my eyes to my food hoarding habit in the same way as you made me realise i have a white T-shirt hoarding compulsion!

    I still went and did an enormous food shop this morning – and got my $20 voucher too, which will be used for milk and yoghurts when we next need them*. But i am also going to work my way through the pantry and use up all those bits and pieces lurking at the back, and am wondering when i will next have to do a major shop. A month sounds easy at this point, but it will be interesting to see how it goes. I’m already buying my bread, veg and eggs locally and am vegetarian so no need for trips to the butcher. I’ve also got veg in the garden. I bulk bought toiletries, cleaning products and the dog’s food today – all things that would normally make me think i need a trip to the supermarket.

    *And i solemnly promise to go in with blinkers on and only buy what we need. I’ll be spending $20.05. That’ll teach the evil empire to try and fool me with their dastardly plan!

  9. I try and do one or two meals a week from the pantry, or freezer, with no extra shopping which works well for my daughter and myself but the man of the house wants a “real” meal. Don’t know the answer to this, suggestions welcome.

    • How can he tell which is which?!

      • The pantry meals tend to be pasta or rice or cold roast chicken or pita bread(as you describe) so he thinks they are “a cop out”. I definitely like to use up whatever I have, my parents and grandparents taught me not to waste anything, as they had come through the depression.
        If I have an odd ingredient to use up I often check Beverly Sutherland Smith’s bible and come up with an idea. Made a cauliflower risotto the other night with everything from the pantry or garden. And it was after working all day! Family thought it was great.

  10. Ah yes we have just done ‘cupboard love eating ‘ for a forthcoming month long trip to Europe ( it’s a long way from Melbourne and we are now in Spain) …I too have a foodie background so it was no hard ship … It made me feel very virtuous.

    Re the mash … You can just boil off the milk – and add cheese at the end ( cheesy mash mmm)

    All the best

    • I fear it’s gone over the stage where boiling off the milk would be possible. Realising her error she then BEAT the mash releasing all the starch – you know what happens when you put it in a Magimix? – which has binded to the milk. But an even greater problem was the fundamental nastiness of the potatoes, so I’m still weighing up whether to risk wasting leeks, cream, stock etc. Probably best to fling the sorry mess!

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