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Klatsch: Don't Shop Now!


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Count me in!! This Klatsch came along at a good time, since I've been eating out quite a bit lately and haven't been inclined to cook anything in my pantry. This despite the fact that I have all these big plans to cook, and so my pantry/freezer are full of stuff for all the cooking projects I haven't done! However, last weekend I braised a batch of short ribs and made/froze a few dozen meatballs, so I do have some starting points for meals this week.

The past two nights I worked late, but resisted the urge to stop and pick up takeout on the way home. Instead I found some Trader Joe's black bean soup in the back of my cupboard, and stirred in some black beans, sauteed onions/garlic, and some chopped tomatoes to make a very respectable quick soup. With a squeeze of lime, a scoop of sour cream, and some cheddar cheese it was delicious!

I think I'll do short ribs over brown rice tonight, and I definitely can do meatballs/marinara over pasta. The weekend is when I'll have to get creative. Short rib quesadillas maybe?

Sarah Fernandez aka "mssurgeon81"

Philadelphia, PA

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I'm gonna join in on this one too. Since I bought a small chest freezer this summer I've been hoarding and filling that thing to the brim, I'm pretty sure we could eat well into next year from all the food I have in the house. The fridge is overflowing too and I probably have enough rice to give to future generations if I add it all up. I mostly shop at Trader Joe's nowadays, as my son goes to Karate right next door once a week. Safeway is for some fresh things, milk and Oroweat Whole Wheat English Muffins. If somebody has a recipe to make these, please let me know. They are expensive but my kids insist on them for breakfast.

So, I won't go shopping aside for a couple things like that. I might have to make something to bring along for Thanksgiving, but as that's an unusual event I won't count what I might have to buy. I also have a pile of new cookbooks and if I find that I need something like a special spice or ingredient to make a recipe using 90% or more of stuff I have in the house, I'll get that. And fresh salad.

Dinner tonight will be some kind of dish done with the two nice ribeye steaks I got yesterday. Most likely I'll put them in my new Big Green Egg. Have potatoes and salad, all set. There's a bacon curing (and two small pieces in the freezer).

I should probably make shopping lists, figure out how much the stuff might cost and then only take a fitting amount in cash with me, thus avoiding all the impulse shopping that I'm prone to. This challenge really comes at the right time, as I'm running out of space everywhere and thought about reducing and using.

There's also a whole bunch of flower to bake some breads, just got some sourdough starters last week. And I've been meaning to make pasta from scratch for several weeks now.

This will be interesting! If I find the time I'll follow this on my blog too.

Hey, it'll also give me time to head over to one of the last comic book stores instead of going wild at Trader Joe's! Not that I need any more books, I should probably do a similar thing with my reading materials.....

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Ok, day 3 of no shopping.

Monday's meals:

B: leftover salad from the night before (I LOVE leftover salad for breakfast); wholewheat sourdough toast w. homemade apricot jam, tea with milk.

L: leftover roasted root veggies from the night before, apple

D: smoked and fresh haddock chowder with coconut milk instead of regular milk. (made thus: Put a filet of smoked haddock (finnan haddie, bought from the fish guy in SouthWest Harbor, Maine, who sells fish from his truck 3 times a week) in water to cover, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Use the simmering time to chop an onion and some celery, and saute them in a soup pot in a bit of butter. Remove finnan haddie from poaching water and pull into shreds with your fingers or a fork. Add water to soup pot; add -in my case- leftover very coarse veggie mash from the night before: potatoes, celery root, and carrots. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so, and add the smoked fish. Add any other kind of fish you want (or not, that works too): in my case, a piece of broiled plain haddock and a half a pound of white Maine shrimp. Add as much coconut milk (or regular milk) as you want for the consistency you like, taste for seasoning and enjoy.) Accompanied by a freshly baked thin-crust 'pizza' from Iggy's bakery that I had rubbed with some olive oil and topped with garlic, hot pepper and the last remaining half of my summer tomatoes (actually, a picked-green tomato that made the transition to red and survived till now.)

Tuesday:

B: toast and jam, tea with milk.

L: leftover haddock chowder,leftover flatbread pizza from night before.

D: Thai-style red curry beef from the freezer, with some carrot shreds and coconut milk added. Veggie stir fry of quartered brussels sprouts, very thin-sliced rainbow carrot, half-moon cut onion, 6 sliced mushrooms, a slivered yellow chili pepper, and one remaining baby bok choy, sliced up. (made thus: heat a spoonful or so of oil till quite hot, add a goodly amount of chopped garlic and grated ginger, stir and then add the veggies. Stir around for a minute or so, and add a glug of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime juice (I only had bottled) and some more hot pepper if you like. Oh, and a small spoonful of honey.)

Steamed jasmine rice.

Wednesday: (today):

B: toast with really terrible 'lo-fat' President's Brie (but I had bought it and couldn't throw it out....), tea with milk.

L: leftover Thai beef and veggies, rice. 2 cookies.

D: not happened yet, probably something with squid.....

M: Too many free radicals. That's your problem. James Bond: "Free radicals," sir? M: Yes. They're toxins that destroy the body and the brain, caused by eating too much red meat and white bread and too many dry martinis! James Bond: Then I shall cut out the white bread, sir. -- Never Say Never Again

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Well, we were going to start this on Monday, with Sunday night's leftovers, but old friends were in town, so we went out with them. Just had snacks (Palisade's wonderful calamari strips), but it was enough for us to skip dinner and just keep snacking when we got home (corn ships and salsa). Then last night Doc had a meeting where they supplied dinner, so I just had a roast beef/cheddar sandwich on sourdough and a bit of salad.

Tonight we'll have the Sunday roast chicken and butternut squash risotto, finally. For Thursday, I found a package of frozen meatballs in the freezer, but of course I'm out of spaghetti sauce. I do, however, have cream and beef stock and some egg noodles, so Swedish meatballs it is. Friday night has become pizza night again after a long hiatus; it'll be a long, busy day so I'll pull the Trader Joe's wild mushroom and black truffle flatbread with mozzarella cheese from the freezer and we'll have that with a nice salad and some of the good wine.

Saturday we'll have fire-roasted tomato soup (I buy the boxed soup but jazz it up with whatever's handy - nuthin' fancy but we like it - this time I saved a bit of the salsa to add to it) topped with goldfish crackers if I can keep Doc and the cats from eating them all before then, and another salad (we ended up with two large containers of salad, not used on a field trip - I did what Fat Guy did, washed it all up and portioned it out - thanks for the idea!, and I've been piling it on the lunch sandwiches).

Sunday will be a challenge, since I usually like to make a big dinner. Hmm, I think I have everything I need for a nice big meatloaf, and there's a ton of small yellow potatoes. That, with something from the frozen veggie bin, along with the weekly no-knead bread, should do nicely! I'll save a couple of the apples and make a tart for dessert.

Breakfasts all week are scones or waffles from the freezer, or eggs (I learned from the last challenge to buy my eggs in the 18-pack!), and lunches are sandwiches (from the cold cuts we overbought for the field trip (don't worry, we paid for all this food ourselves!)or the rest of the chicken, and apples.

Since Monday and Tuesday probably shouldn't count, I think I'll keep this up thru next Mon. and Tues., and then Wednesday's the start of the Thanksgiving sides and dessert prep (Tuesday will be the big shopping day for that). I think that Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which I always take off work to cook up a storm so the day itself is not rushed, is just about my favorite day of the year. This year it will be just the two of us, but I'm doin' it all anyway!

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I’m in but won’t be able to skip my shopping day until next week as I did my holiday shopping just two days ago. I followed the week without shopping thread last winter and have kept my pantry and freezer from getting overloaded again. I keep a wrtten inventory of all the proteins in the freezer and try to plan meals with the idea of rotating the various meats and seafoods throughout the week. I watch the ads for specials but only buy more when I’ve used up what I already have on hand. When I make marinara or chili or soup I make them with the plan to freeze some portions so I label and date the containers and place these new ones at the back of the shelf that I have dedicated to just these types of items so that the older containers are usually at the front. During this week before Thanksgiving, I am trying to use up some of the items that have been hanging around since summer. The other night we had linguine (last of the open box) with hot Italian sausage (used the last two links bought in July) with roasted red peppers (from the freezer) and homemade basil pesto (made a big batch and froze it in August). Tonight's dinner will be baked potatoes topped with the last container of chili (dated 7/29). Thanks for doing this again!

Edited by robirdstx (log)
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The plan was to make breakfast, pack lunch and spend the day at the New York City Transit Museum in Brooklyn. PJ requested, for breakfast, a vegetable omelet. There were bags of corn and peas in the freezer so I decided to do an omelet with corn and peas.

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Then all hell broke loose.

First, it turned out that there was a broken egg in the carton of eggs I was using. When I pulled the carton out of the refrigerator, half the broken egg's insides wound up on the refrigerator shelf, dripping down onto the floor. So while the corn and peas were heating in the butter, I was addressing a confounding solid-waste disposal problem.

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Second, there was a surprise declaration that the departure schedule was being moved up. I was instructed to cook the omelet well-done and make it into a sandwich. I also had to pack fruit, pretzels, cheese, crackers, sandwiches and all sorts of other snacks and lunch items. Some time during this process, Ellen took the camera and threw it in the bag she would be carrying for the day. So nothing past the flipping of the omelet got documented photographically.

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For dinner we drew upon the lentil and salad reservoir. I also made rice, actually a mixture of brown and red rice as documented on the blending rice topic. We have a bunch of hummus to work through so we put that out for use as a salad topping, mixed with balsamic vinegar. I chopped up a quarter of a red onion (I'm down to 2 3/4 red onions now) and served rice topped with lentils, chopped raw onion and hot sauce.

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PJ prefers his rice and lentils segregated and without onions or hot sauce, so he got small, separate bowls of each.

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Now I have to think about what to pack for his lunch tomorrow.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It is so much fun to read about how people cook and eat on a daily basis! I'm discovering that week will hardly put a dent in our stash. We could probably live on lentils for a week, if necessary (and we've only lived in the house since late June!) I will keep it going as long as I can, allowing for purchases of necessary perishables, as well as everything for Thanksgiving.

I must confess, Reverend Mother, Patrick bought milk today (mainly for coffee, though I will use it for cooking as necessary,) and a Hershey bar that he had for lunch (despite there being delicious leftovers in the fridge.)

We both had store brand Cheerios for breakfast today, which I later supplemented with cardomom glazed carrots & parsnips and gorgonzola polenta leftover from the Winemaker's Dinner I worked at last week. (These were side dishes to some amazing braised short ribs. Sam Izzo is a genius!) I may try to recreate the polenta for Christmas. It was beautiful.

I found a dying cauliflower in the back of my fridge, which I had been meaning to roast. Unfortunately, no time for that today, so I made a big batch of Curried Cauilflower soup. I foolishly added too much water, but in a blaze of inspiration I added the pureed root veg leftover from Sunday's braised ribs. Both are good, so the combo shouldn't be bad. I'll have a bowl for dinner, topped with a dollop of yogurt, and pasta/sausage/kale leftover from last night. Pat is having the one remaining rib and maybe some soup as well.

I am working all day tomorrow, so we'll see how I do under those circumstances. I am defrosting some lump crabmeat that my mum sent up from Maryland.

Corinna Heinz, aka Corinna

Check out my adventures, culinary and otherwise at http://corinnawith2ns.blogspot.com/

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I also am participating, but out of pure serendipity - I didn't know about the challenge until I stumbled upon it this morning. I had bought a leg of lamb on Friday during my last shop, and it formed the basis for two meals - Sunday and Tuesday. The basis for Monday's meal was straight out of the freezer. I'll post what I've done so far to catch up to today and then will update.

Sunday night I roasted the leg of lamb. Originally I was going to serve it with some giant beans I brought back from Spain this summer but I had given a cooking lesson on Saturday on knife skills and had an enormous amount of leftover cauliflower in the refrigerator from the lesson. So I decided to do a duo of cauliflower to go with the lamb. I posted to this on my blog under the title "Sunday Roast."

Here's the bad boy before his trip into the oven. I slit the meat using a vegetable knife and worked a paste of garlic confit, salt, and herbs all over the meat and into the slits.

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Here's the leg after a 75 minute roast.

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I served the lamb with a purée of cauliflower enriched with housemade crème fraîche and roasted cauliflower, and a syrah pan sauce mounted with butter. We also had a salad - frisée and a sherry vinaigrette with walnuts and maytag blue out of the cheese drawer in the refrigerator.

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Monday night, I reached into the freezer and pulled out a Taiwanese braised beef soup base that I made the week before when, roaming the meat department in the local Korean supermarket, I found a perfectly rectangular brisket that weighed exactly 2.00 pounds and was compelled to buy it for reasons of pure mathematics and geometry. I know that's weird. Once I got it home I had to cook it, so that's what I did. I posted the recipe here but everything up to the point of cooking the noodles I had done the week before. I brought the frozen chunk back to a simmer and heated it all the way through. Cooked some Chinese la mian wheat noodles, blanched off some gai lan that were in the refrigerator from the weekend, and found a can of preserved mustard green in the pantry. Here we go:

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Tuesday, it was "recycle the lamb" day. In fact, my blog post that day was called Recycling is Good." I turned about half the leftover lamb into a ragù. First browned it off with a soffritto and some pancetta, added some wine, and then simmered it off with San Marzano tomatoes from the pantry and chicken stock from the freezer. I finished the ragù with grated pecorino off a block in the cheese drawer, and some mint and parsley from the garden (we haven't had a first frost yet).

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After the ragù, we had an arugula dressed in olive oil, then drizzled with balsamico tradizionale and some shavings off a block of Parmigiano-Reggiano from the cheese drawer.

Last night I went out to do a wine buy and shop for a catering event for this weekend so we had pho out at a great place in suburban Virginia. But tonight it's back to the fridge!

So that's it so far! Breakfast is always housemade yoghurt with preserves from the summer stirred in for my husband, and an egg on an english muffin for me and lunch has been leftovers. Will update as the week goes by.

Edited by kitchengrl (log)

Simplicity is the sign of perfection - Curnonsky.

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One of the lunch-making strategies revealed over on the bentos topic is to utilize small bits of leftovers for a child's lunch. Portions too small to make a meal can be a component of a lunch. The other day, I made ravioli and five of them went uneaten. Will PJ eat leftover cold ravioli as part of his lunch? We'll find out today. It doesn't really matter, as he's in no danger of starving given all the other stuff in his lunch: a hard-boiled egg molded to look like a bear, two types of cheese (cheddar and mozzarella), tomatoes, cantaloupe, crackers and pretzel rods.

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For his breakfast, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich packed in two separate halves, to be eaten on the walk to school. PJ sometimes sits and eats his breakfast at home, and sometimes likes to eat it while scooting/strolling through Central Park. Today he wanted a portable breakfast.

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In thinking about peanut butter and jelly, I think we have enough of it to eat for about a month. I'm not a major consumer of Trader Joe's products -- most things they have there, I feel like I can get better elsewhere -- but I do think they have the best peanut butter available in any mainstream store: Valencia peanut butter with roasted flax seed. The stuff is amazing. Because I go to TJ's so rarely, I buy four or five containers of it. In addition to the one I've been using this week, there are two more in the cabinet. That Sarabeth's jam is also something we have a surplus of. My mother-in-law found it on clearance at TJ Maxx and stocked up.

Then there's the matter of bread. One of the great perks of teaching at the French Culinary Institute/International Culinary Center is access to the bread from the baking program there. The students take such care with the bread, and the instructors are so good, that the FCI bread kitchen is one of the best bakeries in New York. You can't buy bread there, but if you're in the building around 3:30pm you can get bread for free. I often come home with a loaf or two -- or six. My freezer is absolutely jam packed with sourdough, multigrain, raisin bread, baguettes and brioche from FCI, in addition to various bagels, rolls and breads of unknown origin. I don't know how it all fits. Of course I'm also capable of baking bread. I doubt we would run out of bread even over the course of a couple of months. And that's not counting things like crackers and crisps, which our cabinets are full of.

For the adult breakfast I made a fruit smoothie. I'm trying to prioritize the fruit in order of perishability, so I haven't yet dipped into the frozen-berry supply in the freezer. That will be for next week. Right now I have a lot of plums, bananas and cantaloupe that are on their last legs, so those are the fruits I used today. Plus a couple of tablespoons of flax meal.

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I noticed, when packing PJ's lunch, that the mozzarella is approaching its sell-by date. I'm thinking maybe that means I should do pizza or something related this evening. I'm bummed I didn't think of it last night when I could have started a preferment for dough. But I'll consider pizza or a pizza-like project this afternoon. Maybe instead of making dough I'll do something with the bread in the freezer. PJ loves French-bread pizza. That's one option. I'm thinking about it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Okay, now it's time to address some concerns I've been hearing. Last time we did this, and this time, I can't tell you how many emails and other comments I received saying "This is a cool idea but I can't possibly do it..." I've made a compilation of some of the most common issues here.

Why You Can and Should Take the Don't-Shop-Now Challenge

Until you take the challenge and emerge victorious, you’ll have lingering doubts. I know. I've now seen scores of people work through the challenge, and there's no substitute for actually doing it. Once you get through the week -- or in many cases once you get through just the first couple of days -- your perspective will start to change. I'm not asking you for seven years in Tibet, let alone 100 years of solitude. I'm just asking that you not buy groceries for a week.

Yes, you’re hesitant. At the beginning, many people told me I was crazy for undertaking this challenge. Society members, several of my closest friends and even my wife had long lists of objections, excuses and rationalizations. All of those will be refuted as we progress through this week and beyond, but a few common doubts and fears can be addressed here:

"We have no protein other than what we buy fresh for immediate use. If we take this challenge we won’t get enough protein."

This is what one friend argued when I proposed the challenge. So I went over to his house.

When I looked around his kitchen I found: about ten cans of tuna, almost two dozen eggs, several pounds of beans, a little cheese, a pack of bacon and some frozen pigs in blankets (miniature frankfurters wrapped in puff pastry) – surely enough protein for a couple with two children to survive for a week without suffering a deficiency. Digging deeper would have yielded more discoveries, but once I started holding up products and shouting, “Aha!” my friend shooed me out of the kitchen.

A lot of people, especially in the West, make large hunks of beef, chicken and pork the centerpieces of their meals. We buy, eat and think about meat by the pound. But healthy, happy, totally un-deprived people in many other civilized countries eat just a couple of ounces of meat at a time -- as strips of meat in stir fry, as chopped meat mixed with beans, as meat in a pasta sauce, as bits of meat in fried rice -- or no meat at all. A mountain of scientific evidence demonstrates that this is simply a better way to eat if you want to live a long life. Not to mention, even though meat is relatively cheap, rice, beans and pasta are a lot cheaper.

“What about fresh vegetables?”

A couple of years ago in the New York Times, the great chef Michel Richard sent food snobs into a panic when he confessed that his renowned sautéed Brussels sprouts were made from frozen Brussels sprouts. His rationale: they’re better.

Every supermarket in every town across America has fresh produce year-round, shipped in from the far corners of the planet. I don’t mean to take anything away from that accomplishment when I say: fresh vegetables are overrated. Those flawless-looking fruits and vegetables in the supermarket are often weeks old when purchased. Many are grown half-way around the world, from plant stock selected for attributes other than flavor and nutrition, then picked young and ripened artificially -- sprayed with noxious chemicals in the holds of enormous cargo ships. Meanwhile, many frozen vegetables (and fruits such as strawberries) are picked in season at the height of ripeness and frozen quickly in nearby facilities, locking in their nutritional value.

Several recent studies have shown that, on average, frozen vegetables and fruits are more nutritious than out-of-season, shipped-in produce. Personally, I’m a big fan of frozen peas (and so is Mario Batali). The frozen peas I buy are better than the fresh peas I can get any time of year, except maybe a few fleeting weeks in season. Ditto for the frozen berries. I mostly use frozen spinach in any dish that requires cooked spinach. Frozen broccoli and corn, too.

It’s also possible to freeze a lot of items yourself. Early in my challenge back in February, I had a box of mushrooms in the fridge that looked like it wasn’t going to last much longer. So I sliced them up, sautéed them, put them in a pint deli container and froze them. Later, I added them to tomato sauce. They were great. I also added frozen basil to the sauce -- basil I’d washed and frozen when I had a huge bunch that I couldn’t use all at once. When I added it to my tomato-mushroom sauce, my home smelled like an Italian restaurant within moments.

Speaking of tomato sauce, freezing is not the only way to preserve fresh produce. Most professional chefs will tell you that canned tomatoes are better than fresh most of the year, and to me, the new tomatoes in foil-lined aseptic paper boxes are even better.

Not that all fresh produce needs special preservation. Fresh produce is a lot more durable than most people think. Potatoes, onions, garlic and shallots can last for months in a cool dark place. Apples can last for weeks or months in the refrigerator. Oranges and grapefruits do fine just sitting on the counter for a couple of weeks. At the beginning of my February challenge, I had a small head of radicchio in the refrigerator, already a couple of weeks old. It survived the entire month; every time I took it out to make a salad I marveled at the stamina of this little vegetable.

"We live in the Bay Area and have great access to the farmer's markets, so we just don't keep much around in our kitchen. No canned food, no frozen food, no packaged food other than pasta."

Some friends in California made this claim, so I asked them to photograph their freezer, refrigerator and cabinets and email me the photos. Their claims were false. The produce in the refrigerator, if rationed, would easily yield small but sufficient portions of fresh produce for two people every day for a week. They had a walk-in pantry full of comestibles, including many products in jars (how is that not "canned food"?). And, get this, there were steaks in the freezer! Grass-fed, no doubt.

“Our milk/eggs/juice/butter are going to expire.”

No they aren’t. This is a common misconception people have about the dates on food packages. Take a look at what it actually says: in most places it’s called a “sell by” date or equivalent. That just means a store isn’t allowed to sell the product after that date. Very often, the local laws require that food be safe to eat for at least a week after the sell-by date.

Even so, food doesn't rot on a precise schedule. While milk is usually safe to drink for a week after the sell-by date; it's more important to make sure it hasn’t started to smell bad (which I've also seen happen before the sell-by date, in cases of improper handling/shipping). Eggs are often reliable for many weeks after their sell-by dates, so long as they don’t appear spoiled. And many foods, when they’re approaching their sell-by dates, can be frozen in order to extend their lives. Milk freezes almost flawlessly. So does juice. We always keep our extra butter in the freezer.

“But my baby needs formula!”

We're not trying to harm anybody here. If your baby needs formula, or you're caring for an immune-compromised person who really needs a specific food item every day, then of course you should make an exception and buy it. But before you define everything you buy as an absolute necessity, give it some thought. For example, just because you're the kind of person who eats the same thing for breakfast every day doesn't mean you'll be harmed by eating something else for a few days.

"My kids are picky eaters."

So are everybody's kids. Many, many people who have taken the no-shopping challenge, myself included, have young children. Try to involve them in the adventure of the no-shopping challenge, if they even notice that it's going on. If that doesn't work, and if they're really going to go hungry without some supplemental purchases from the grocery store, then make those exceptions for them -- but not for yourself.

"We have company coming."

Great. This is when you'll really learn what's possible during your no-shopping week. Pull out all the stops. Prepare a feast. Your guests will never notice the missing ingredients; they'll only notice it's the best meal you've ever served them. It's just not necessary to spend a lot of money entertaining guests. In the poorest countries in the world, people extend hospitality whenever visitors come. In the richest countries in the world, where most of our members live, we should be able to do it without an expensive trip to the grocery store.

+++

I'm not saying 100% of our members can take this challenge. If you live in a tiny apartment or dorm room, you may really have no inventory. And many people, even in a time of plenty, struggle to earn enough to feed their families.

But if you're not living in poverty (or college), before just giving up, take a good look around. Do you have a pantry? A cabinet that's like a pantry? Even one overhead cabinet full of food (as I do)? Do you have a garden out back? What about the refrigerator? Think about everything that's in there. A basket of root vegetables? A braid of garlic? A bowl of fruit? Do you really know what’s in your freezer? Do you have a second freezer?

I live in a New York City apartment that is tiny by the standards of American homes. A suburbanite would consider my Maytag refrigerator-freezer puny. My root cellar is a plastic bin on top of said refrigerator. One two-door overhead cabinet is my so-called pantry; two other cabinets hold things like olive oil, condiments, pretzels and crackers. No walk-in pantry. No second freezer. Nothing like that. My family is in a fairly low percentile of per-person square footage for the U.S., and we had no problem going without shopping for a whole month. The only challenge was to see just how well we could eat.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Is anybody going to be brave enough to step up and do a Thanksgiving dinner without shopping?

Me, I'm going to be a guest at someone else's house for Thanksgiving. Three houses, actually, on both Thursday and Friday. But I'm sorely tempted to create a Thanksgiving meal without shopping. Turkey wouldn't be part of it because I don't have a turkey in the freezer. But I could put together a nice meal I bet.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Is anybody going to be brave enough to step up and do a Thanksgiving dinner without shopping?

Can't do it, because I'm using up all the fresh vegetables this week, and I do want a turkey (although I did order it last week, so maybe that would count as pre-challenge shopping? Hmm, we could have turkey and . . . potatoes six ways). But I'm really happy about the timing of this no-shopping challenge, because the fridge will be practically empty, ready to receive the turkey when I do pick it up on Wednesday, and then there will be room for all the T-day leftovers!

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I spent most of yesterday adding to the set-up for my holiday baking routine. Measuring and segregating the dry ingredients, nuts &etc., into plastic bags for several more batches of cookies, some traditional "English" cakes, as well as quick breads and a couple of experimental items.

As is usual in these situations, there were some things that resisted discovery and I spent more time than expected in digging into the far reaches of the pantry for items that have not seen the light of day for several months.

My meals were, with the exception of breakfast (a Dutch-baby pancake), pretty much catch-as-catch-can. For lunch I consumed the remains of some paté that I had prepared for lunch last Saturday.

For dinner I tossed together some salad greens, defrosted baby peas and some smoked trout that was getting near its use-by date.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Is anybody going to be brave enough to step up and do a Thanksgiving dinner without shopping?

Not exactly, but I'm going to go halfway. We're flying to LA (cross-country, in other words) for Thanksgiving with my brother, and I'm cooking. I'm doing five courses, people are bringing desserts. I plan to make the first couple of courses with food I already have on hand, freeze it (or refrigerate it), and take it out with me, or just bring the raw materials I have on hand and do it up out there.

* First course is celeriac soup - I'm going to use up the two celeriac in the fridge, with the onions and leeks and the chicken stock in the freezer

* Second course is a braised pork belly, with roasted apples and turnips - I have about six pounds of belly in the freezer already trimmed so I'm bringing that out, with the braising stock, demiglace, and some turnips.

* Third course is a salad, a take on the green bean casserole. Green beans I'll get out there but the salad dressing is based on a soubise so I'll make that from onions and milk on hand. Also, the giant white beans I'm bringing from home.

* Fourth and fifth courses are based on turkey that my brother will have on hand for me. Fourth is sousvide breast on butternut squash puree, brown butter, fried sage, cranberry gelee. The gelee I will make the base in advance from cranberries I have on hand; squash puree I already have the raw materials in the pantry, same setup as the celeriac soup, more or less. Maybe I'll do some brussels sprouts and potato puree family style for the table. Fifth course is a milk-braised turkey thigh with mozzarella, served as panino.

So that's how it's going down - I'd say about 60% of the meal will be advance prep out of the pantry/freezer.

Simplicity is the sign of perfection - Curnonsky.

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I think I can manage a no-shopping T-day. I have, at last count, 4 turkeys in the freezer. I was planning on cooking the smallest of these, anyway. I have canned and fresh pumpkin galore, thanks to both a great find at Big Lots several months ago, of canned organic pumpkin, and the purchase in October of fresh pie pumpkins to try making pumpkin pie from scratch. I've been busily rendering lard and making stocks to empty the freezer of stock stuff.

I think I pretty much have all I need for Thanksgiving dinner, and I usually only shop to stock up on stuff, anyway, unless it's for fresh produce. I'm not currently in need of fresh produce, and I think I can get by on the frozen through next week, although I will have to buy more after that.

I have no intention of diminishing my stores of food "just because," because for me, they are an emergency fund of sorts. I was laid off in April, and because of my food stores, I have been able to get by. I did shop on Sunday, I believe, because I needed some celery, but other than that, I haven't really been shopping in several weeks, as it is.

I'm not very imaginative, when it comes to meals, so I probably won't be chronicling what we eat, unless it's something I'm particularly proud of.

Tracy

Lenexa, KS, USA

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Lunch today sort of did not happen. It has been a writing day and I've been noshing on whatever is around: a plum, some pretzels, some chocolate, etc. Maybe dinner will be a real meal worth reporting on.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Dinner last night were the two very nicely marbled ribeye steaks from Trader Joe's. No photos, forgot to take any. Hot cast iron pan on stove top to brown one side, flip and stick in oven. Roasted beans in the oven before and sauteed a pack of crimini with butter, red onion, garlic. Turned out great, not much of a challenge though, as I had bought the stuff for that dinner.

Lunch today is a piece of Sülze - roast turkey and veggies in chicken broth based aspic is probably the best description. Made that Monday and it came out great. More of it is left over for more lunch or even dinner.

Dinner tonight is going to be something pork tenderloin - not sure yet what I'll do with them. Two in the package, one for tonight, one either made along and cut for sandwiches or I'll put it in the fridge and maybe try something asian.

This challenge makes me realize just how much food we have in the house, I really think we could live a month with no problem. Would not have salad, but there are frozen and canned things, rices and beans, potatoes and lots more.

Now I'm thinking about setting up a simple proofing chamber and start feeding my sourdough starter so I can bake some bread this weekend.

Hopefully I'll think of taking some photos along the way :-)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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This challenge makes me realize just how much food we have in the house, I really think we could live a month with no problem. Would not have salad, but there are frozen and canned things, rices and beans, potatoes and lots more.

I'm going to add this quote to the list of quotes I've been keeping since February. It's amazing to see the light bulb go on in so many people's minds. Everybody has a different experience, but almost nobody is left unchanged by attempting the challenge. Here are a few things your fellow members said last time around:

“If you had asked me three weeks ago if I had any lasting thoughts about going a week without shopping, I don't think other than reminiscing about vague family memories, I would have come away with many more thoughts about my week of cooking without shopping. But in the three weeks since, I've found, somewhat surprisingly, that the thoughts that were provoked during my week now carry with me every day. Every day I think about not wasting food, not wasting time or money, and making do with what I have. I think about the rough times others are going through, and I'm thankful I have a freezer, refrigerator and cupboards full of food. I think about how wasteful I was in the past, and I challenge myself to remember that. I think today should be the start of another week of going without shopping, and it will be.”

“I have learned, been inspired, and have been motivated.”

“I feel less weighted down by stuff, both in the kitchen and out.”

“I've realized that I can maintain my standard of quality of cooking while using only what's on hand…. This has been loads of fun.”

“There is more space in our refrigerator, pantry, and freezer. I am now able to see most of what is in each - and plan the next meal accordingly.”

“My fridge looks better than it has in ages…”

“I have enjoyed the challenge of creating something exceptional with what is on hand.”

“Planning makes it so much easier to have the right things prepared when I come home starving and with no patience.”

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This challenge is already starting to effect the way I think.

Today I decided to stop agonizing over what wine to serve at Thanksgiving. There are several choices amongst the collection of bottles that I hoard that will be splendid. After all, isn't this one of those special occasions I've been saving them for?

I needed a greasy breakfast today: a hot italian sausage patty (must use them up now that I've defrosted the pack!) and a couple fried eggs. (Gosh the eggs are running low!)

I took leftovers to work: kale & sausage pasta and some cauliflower, etc. soup. Crabcakes tonight!

Corinna Heinz, aka Corinna

Check out my adventures, culinary and otherwise at http://corinnawith2ns.blogspot.com/

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Will PJ eat leftover cold ravioli as part of his lunch? We'll find out today.

The answer is yes. He ate four out of five of the cold leftover cheese ravioli. Another fringe benefit of the no-shopping challenge: by attempting something I wouldn't normally have attempted, I discovered that cold cheese ravioli are a potential inclusion in PJ's lunches. For those of you who make school lunches for kids, you know what a score it is to find a brand-new item that meets all the criteria of packability, convenience, etc... and that your kid will happily eat.

It was just me and PJ for dinner. Ellen has a speaking engagement and will probably have some soup later or something, so for the father-son dinner I decided to make a pizza-like toasted cheese item: slices of FCI sourdough topped with Pomi crushed tomatoes and melted mozzarella cheese. PJ helped prepare the toasts, we cooked them in the toaster oven, and we served his on his "Little Man" plate.

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For dessert, some rugelach that Cousin Jane gave us a while back. These are going to come in handy for school lunches next week, if they hold.

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I also wanted to take this opportunity to give a tour of our "pantry," just so we see what we're up against. This is the primary pantry cabinet in our kitchen:

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We have another cabinet where a couple of shelves are devoted to things like flour:

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Elsewhere, the cabinet with all the oils, vinegars, salt, pepper and such:

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On top of the refrigerator, three plastic bins holding onions, potatoes, cans and boxes of tomato products, various crisps and such:

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Also part of a base cabinet is devoted to snack foods:

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No idea how we're going to tackle some of this.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Great pictures, Steve! Some day I hope to be brave enough to expose my cupboards to the world.

Slightly O/T, but in the spirit of efficiency in the kitchen, could you show us/explain how the pans and utensils are hung above your fridge? I'm currently struggling to come up with a similar system in my (also small, but not by NYC standards) kitchen. Thank you!

Corinna Heinz, aka Corinna

Check out my adventures, culinary and otherwise at http://corinnawith2ns.blogspot.com/

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I have two pot racks suspended from the ceiling, one directly above the refrigerator and one next to it.

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The two racks are the same make and model, but different colors -- the choice had to do with a clearance sale that made it cheap to do it that way. The proximity of one rack to the fridge limits the size of pots that can go on that one, and where. I also hang a lot of non-pot utensils (strainers, colander, ladles, etc.) off the racks. It's all pretty tight. But incredibly efficient. I can't even imagine how much cabinetry would be needed to hold all that stuff. I keep the pot lids on the grids above the racks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Very helpful. Thank you, Steve.

Our plan is to put a pot rack above the sink, so they can be washed and hung to drip dry. That classic style pot rack looks great and very functional; I will have to keep an eye out for clearance sales (though I can't think where would sell them, Loews?)

I am waiting on some recess lights to be installed before making any final decisions.

Another pot rack above the fridge is now a definite possibility. :)

Corinna Heinz, aka Corinna

Check out my adventures, culinary and otherwise at http://corinnawith2ns.blogspot.com/

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I found a small insulated container at Target that I use to give my son warm food for lunch. Left over pasta or the occasional microwave mac&cheese, rice, etc. I heat the container with hot water while heating the food to just good warm, not blistering hot. Seems to stay warm enough for him to eat.

BTW, I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to post pictures of my diverse food storage areas, :laugh:

Dinner plan for tonight had to be changed, the pork tenderloin I thawed had a distinct rotten smell, even after washing. A bit grainy and sour smelling. Odd, as I froze them a day or two after I brought them home all vac-sealed in the processing plant. I've had this happen before, I think from now on I will unpack any sealed meat and check it, then reseal it myself. At least then I could return it for refund. There are two to a pack (CostCo) and I had to throw both of them out. That strikes my idea for tomorrow also, unless I find an other one in the freezer. Oh well, there's more stuff in there and we'll just have to eat Trader Joe's frozen truffle/mushroom flatbread with some arugula salad. probably add some of the gigantic avocado I obtained from the Asian market :-)

And while I'd have rather eaten it, there's already more space in the freezer :biggrin:

Edited by OliverB (log)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Rough life, Oliver. :rolleyes:

I'd had a pound of lump crab mead from MD in my fridge since late August. I put it in the fridge to defrost since last night, and it still wasn't close to defrosted when I got home from work today. I was hesitant to defrost in the microwave, but determined to have the crab cakes tonight. I zapped it in 20 sec intervals and after a minute or so, it was thawed enough to squeeze out and mix with the seasonings (I used the Chesepeake Crab Cake recipe on the Old Bay website. It worked very well.) I served the cakes on a bed of romaine. The lemon vinaigrette used up a half of lemon in my fridge, but was a little too oily. Will work on the balance.

I missed with the beautiful, buttery Chardonnay I paired with this dish. We would have been better off with a nice, crisp (dry) Riesling. That'll teach me to second guess Dornenburg & Page. :smile:

Corinna Heinz, aka Corinna

Check out my adventures, culinary and otherwise at http://corinnawith2ns.blogspot.com/

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