From The Cupboard

Every few months I challenge myself to only cook and eat what I already have on hand. Sometimes the challenge will be for a week, or two weeks, even a month. I love these challenges because it’s a great way to save money, be inventive, and use up stuff that’s been in my cupboards or freezer for quite a while.

I’ll usually allow myself to buy a few staples like eggs or onions if needed, but the goal is to be creative with the food on hand.

I think it’s about time for another “no shopping” challenge.

Let me see…What do I have to work with? I have lots of dried lentils, brown rice, and quinoa. I have canned peaches, various gluten free flours, hot dogs, eggs, copious amounts of homemade sauerkraut. Time to get creative!

Speaking of sauerkraut – that’s an awesome way to use up veggies that are past their prime. I recently made my mom a small batch of sauerkraut from a couple of partial heads of cabbage, a handful of sugar snap peas that weren’t very snappy, a few partial bags of carrots, a red onion, and a few cloves of garlic. I have a feeling it’s going to be delicious!

So how do you make delicious nutritious meals with limited ingredients? Seasoning is key. It’s amazing what salt and a few herbs or spices can do to transform seemingly boring ingredients.

When I do these little challenges, I tend to eat a lot of Asian or Mexican-style dishes. Beans and rice are nutritious and a cheap source of protein – and a bonus of dating the guy who owns Black Market Hot Sauce is that I always have hot sauce on hand!

Another type of meal I lean towards is breakfast food. Pancakes, muffins, french-toast-in-a-bowl… all things that I can scrounge up with the random flours in my cupboard.

Google Search is my friend when I’m trying to use up stuff. Who knew there were so many different ways to use lentils?! If I can come up with a falafel recipe that uses brown lentils – I’ll be in heaven!

Usually one of the first things I run out of during one of these challenges is fresh vegetables. I’ll normally “splurge” and buy some kale or spinach – something green that packs a powerful nutritional punch. If you don’t want to spend extra money but still wanted the health benefits and variety that fresh veggies provide – you can grow your own sprouts! I’m not talking about growing vegetables from the ground up (although that is also an option), I’m talking about soaking and sprouting grains over a few days to get that added healthy green goodness. Lentils and quinoa both work, as do countless other grains and seeds.

Cooking from the cupboard/freezer can be challenging, and at times frustrating – but I think it’s worth it! It’s a chance to save some money and reduce kitchen waste. It’s a great way to learn how to cook new dishes and discover new food combinations that you haven’t thought of before. And it will naturally pull you out of any cooking rut you may have been stuck in!

So what do you think? Is this something you would ever do? Want to get creative and join me in a “no shopping” challenge?

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