Well, here it is. Our Cupboard Cleanout finale. We did a week -- 21 consecutive meals for two (and one meal for four), almost entirely from pantry items we already had on hand.
And how do we feel about it? Really great. Our cabinets, fridge and freezer haven't been this clear in years. We no longer have to unpack an entire cupboard to find what we're looking for.
We're also a bit relieved, honestly. This week of intensely focused cooking has required far more planning that we typically do (and we do a lot of meal planning as it is), especially because we couldn't just run down to the corner store when we needed an item. So it's nice to have the pressure off and to be free to go to the supermarket several times a week.
So what did we learn?
We have too much stuff in our cabinets. We by no means think this problem is unique to us, but writing The Bitten Word often requires us to pick up ingredients we don't have on hand, and small amounts of those items are typically needed for a recipe. So we end up with an excess of items like Chia seeds or bulgur wheat.
We could keep going. We could probably get nearly another week's worth of meals from what's left in our cabinets. It would be a total carb-fest and not nearly as enjoyable as the past week, but looking at our list of what's left, we could do it. But we've had enough for now. We're ready to go buy some proteins and some fresh vegetables.
So here's what we ate to round out the week.
Day 8 Breakfast: Multigrain pancakes with homemade jams; sausage
Cupboard Items Used: Part of a multigrain pancake mix that was a gift, the remainder (finally!) of our instant oats, the remainders of three jars of jams in our fridge (Meyer Lemon Ginger Marmalade, Fig Vanilla Cognac Preserves, and Peach Rosemary Preserves); four links of breakfast sausage from the freezer.
Degree of Difficulty: 3 out of 10
Verdict: When we make pancakes, we typically make a sweeter version and serve them with syrup, but we liked this multigrain version with jam. If we'd had syrup on hand, we definitely would have doused them in maple.
Day 8 Lunch: Mustard Chicken; Inedible Rice; Sad Bean Casserole.
Cupboard Items Used: 2 chicken thighs from the freezer, 1 jar mustard dipping sauce (we literally have no idea where this came from), the last of some dill we had rolling around in the fridge crisper, 1 can green beans, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, slivered almonds, arame and bonito flakes, a bag of miracle rice.
Degree of Difficulty: 3 out of 10
Verdict: For our final Cupboard Cleanout, we pulled out all the stops. Which is to say, we threw a lot of very questionable ingredients together and ate them (or tried to). The chicken-in-mustard-dipping-sauce was pretty good -- cooked in a cast iron skillet, then smothered with the mustard sauce, which we augmented with some dill. It was perfectly fine chicken.
The other two items on the plate were absolutely awful. We've had this bag of Miracle Rice in our pantry for months. Do you know this stuff? It's actually not rice, it's this...fiber...that's made from a...root? Whatever, it's zero-calorie and zero-carbs. You can read about it here. Zach's mom brought us a bag and we hadn't had the chance -- or the nerve -- to try it. It's actually good, in the sense that, like white rice, it essentially has no taste. We'd totally eat it again. The problem was, we tossed it with leftover arame and bonito from when made Umami Burgers. (You can read about both these ingredients in that post.) We each took one bite and deemed it inedible.
The green bean casserole -- can of green beans, can of cream of mushroom soup -- wasn't quite as bad, but we still didn't eat it. It was amazingly salty and thick, and the absolute opposite of this Green Bean Casserole we liked from Thanksgiving.
Day 8 Snack: Arnold Palmer Crystal Light Granita
Cupboard Items Used: Tea bags, a packet of Crystal Light
Degree of Difficulty: 2 out of 10
Verdict: We loved this granita, and it was simple to make. Mix lemonade and tea in equal parts (in this case, our lemonade was a bunch of single-serve Crystal Light packets, and we steeped 3 tea bags in hot water). Pour the liquid to a shallow glass dish and place it in the freezer. Once frozen, scrape the ice with a fork. Obviously, a frozen dessert is more of a summer thing than an end-of-February thing. But we thought it was refreshing and tasty, and a very nice way to cap off our Cupboard Cleanout.
So that's the week! Thanks for sticking in there with us, and for cheering us on through your notes and comments.
We joked a lot over the weekend about what we looked forward to eating once this is complete. But we spent the majority of yesterday afternoon planning what we're going to cook this week, and what we're going to buy at the supermarket in order to do it. So the restock is on, but with a bit more moderation this time around.
What kind of shape are your cabinets in after this week? Surprised by what you could use? Depressed by how much is still left?