Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Our cupboards are full...but there's nothing to eat!

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Our cupboards are full... but there's nothing to eat!

How often have you experienced this feeling? Your house might be full of food, but you just can't think what to make for dinner. It's as though everything we have put in our storecupboards and freezers suddenly becomes invisible.

I am a notorious stock piler - I have previously on this blog shared that I have a shop in my cupboard. I hate to run out of anything. I like to be able to cook anything from sushi and ramen to an Italian bean feast to a key lime pie at the drop of a hat. When I see it written there it seems a little ridiculous. I also have minor anxieties about "what ifs": what if we have friends over and there's nothing to rustle up a quick lunch? What if we're all sick and can't face going out to get food? What if we are flooded in or there is an oil crisis and suddenly we can't get to the shops for a week, or two? I believe strongly in family resilience... but has it gone too far? Am I officially a hoarder?

You see, what I have noticed this year is that we are throwing away food: because I've bought too much, because the kids don't like it, because the bulk-bought stuff had too short a shelf life. And if I'm being really honest, because I cook a whole lot less than I used to and aspire to - partly due to major child fussiness and partly my exhaustion.

So when this challenge came up, the "do no food shopping for a week and live off what you already have" idea was just what the doctor ordered. It was a good final hurrah to the Year of Enough of 2011, and a welcoming of 2012 Year of Abundance. And the biggest part of abundance is recognising the wealth you already have, and using and being grateful for it, rather than harking after more and more.

It was Christmas week, the time of plenty, I had done a large shop a week before, so this was hardly going to be a challenge... I thought! Just a simplification of my life. And so it has been a time of conscious consumption, of using what we already have. And I wanted to report that I haven't bought anything since... but that would not be true.

You see, I've bought milk, and bread, lots of bread...

I fully intended to make the bread myself. Because I always intend to. I can make a mean brown soda loaf. And we have a bread maker - how unchallenging is that. And yet, even this week, when I have committed to not buying anything, even though I love homemade bread so much more, even though it is so much healthier and cheaper for us, even though it has a timer setting so it can bake overnight and we can wake up to freshly baked bread -  I HAVE NOT BAKED A SINGLE LOAF. (OK, since submitting this piece I saw the error of my ways and baked 3 delicious brown soda loaves!)

And you know why - because to me, baking bread is one of my aspirations - which also feels like the straw that would break this camel's back.

Bread is what my children eat most of during the day. I am SO tired of most of what I make for them being rejected that if I don't have the reliable staple of crap white bought bread that I KNOW they will eat, and I have hungry, cranky children roaming the plains... the results don't bear thinking about!

And also I realise it breaks my sacred (and rather slovenly rule) of not entering the kitchen, where I spend a lot of each day, after dinner, to set up the blasted machine, it feels like an extra tie to housewifeliness.

So there we have it. We have eaten lots of tins of beans and tomatoes, we have made a dent in the frozen meat. Have turned festering veggies into delicious soup. Spent almost no money... But not a green leafy vegetable has passed our lips, nor a loaf been baked - and the tragic thing is our store cupboard and freezer look almost untouched.

I think we shall carry on for another couple of weeks - I might even get over the whole bread thang and just BAKE!  We can manage it fine, after a few kid staples are bought. And some brocolli. I miss my brocolli.
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. So intersting, I'm sure we are the same although I probably don't have much in store come to think of it. I lvoe what you wrote about abundance is mostly about recognising it...so true and it makes me really think. love and hugs x x

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a bread-eating child. Ah, well!

    We've done this same challenge several times, and it's always interesting what you end up eating as you get down to the dregs. (I think we have a smaller food storage space than you do, so the dregs come more quickly around here!)

  3. I think I pick up on the peripherals on many blogs - I might well miss the main points entirely because something in the corner caught my eye. For this post, I like your rule about not entering the kitchen after dinner. I think that's an awesome rule. I have a similar rule - it's that I can't bring work into the bedroom. This was especially important when I was teaching in a classroom. Lesson plans in the bedroom? Ooooo - bad bad bad karma. I shall adopt your kitchen rule.

  4. Isn't it funny, it would be broccoli I'd miss too. I didn't think to enter my 'no spend' post into the carnival, but I set it up on Jan first. I AM buying fresh fruit and veg ( I would surely growl without broccoli), but most stuff is coming from the cupboards and freezer. It's strangely satisfying, I'm saving a LOT of money and the slovenly part of me is enjoying eating from tins :)

  5. Mmmmm but homemade bread is SO yummy! Could you turn it into a mama/children project? At any rate - I'm inspired, I want to do this too! I got into the habit of filling the freezer while I was pregnant, now I need to empty it back out! ;)

  6. Do you know about Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day? Google them. It is a super, duper easy way to bake bread. You keep the dough in your fridge, so you see it and it keeps you going, rather than having to think about the fuss of pulling out all the ingredients each time you want a loaf. My husband bakes this bread almost everyday and my 20 month old daughters love all the different recipes.

  7. I often look at my pantry and say - well, I have almost everything I need to cook THIS and almost everything I need to cook THAT. . . my solution to that situation is to call up one of my neighbors and see if their family has my missing ingredient and wants to come over for dinner :)

  8. In my house it's completely the other way around! We have a tiny kitchen with almost no cupboard space, so we have to go food shopping almost every other day... it's a bind! But I have the benefit of deciding what we'll eat for the next two days and just buying what we need, with almost no waste. But even I end up with left-overs like bags of rice, pasta, lentils, etc taking up cupboard space and sitting there unused for an age until I feel like cooking something using them. I have to try to make the effort to plan our meals around what we already have in the cupboard to make some room! Ha ha.

  9. I still have a Christmas pudding from Christmas 2010 waiting on our store cupboard shelf! We'll get round to eating it one of these days..... Along with the tin of mushy peas, carnationilk and tinned mandarins we won in a raffle last year!!!

  10. Once again'I hear ya!' I know my cupboards are full of lentils, rice, noodles, things I know I can make meals outof but I open them and go 'nah, I wanted to make this or that not that' but funnily enough, first week of jan I was like 'enough already those lentils will make a mean dahl' and you know what ... it was the best ever. So I'm with you on this one, thanks for sharing!
    And the bread thang ... my aspirations are the same, I go through phases though and currently we are in a shitty shop bought bread phase because ... well ... because. Much love x

  11. It's nice to know someone else thinks f the what ifs! We live at the top of a Swiss mountain so for winter I felt compelled to stock up on alot of stuff just to be safe. I reorganized the pantry recently and made a list so I don't double or triplicate when shopping now! Great post! Enjoy your bread!

  12. This is just wonderful! I really enjoyed how honest and real you are! I know it's definitely tough to really stick out those challenges that you know you 'should' do! I have always wanted to bake my own bread!! Especially since Hubs only eats fresh baked bread, but always pays for the fancy bakery stuff. I'd love to see if I could save us some dough by baking our own! ;)

  13. Thank you all for your wonderful contributions. I was offline celebrating my new-born paperback book! What a proud new mama I am!

    SAndra - thank you for that, will follow up that link, ti sounds like a great solution.

    Amy, I love your idea. Unfortunately with 3 little ones under 7 an invite to our house for dinner is not much fun for the guests!!! After about 10 minutes they get a far distant traumatised look in their eyes- if they don't have kids you can see them making a mental note to ensure their contraceptives are working, and if they have had kids they are thinking, Oh God, I'm SO glad we don't have little ones any more!

    Thanks for the Tweet out Arpita

  14. MMM.... I'd love to hear more about your book, now I'm curious! :) On topic, though, I can relate. I used to buy in bulk, a lot. For similar reasons. I like to be prepared. I enjoyed reading about your journey... the ups, downs, baking bread before you posted and choosing to continue on a bit for fun.

    Then reality hit and I realized I can't be prepared for *everything*. SO we have a bin of emergency food - beans, rice, water, etc. And we have stuff that we use up regularly.

    Late last summer we went on a trip for a month and emptied out everything. Every last thing. Even gave away what was in the freezer that we didn't eat up. I decided when we returned to only buy enough for 1-3 days for a while just to see how it would feel. It was nice to see in the fridge. :)

    Now we do have some staples (flour, spices, etc.) on hand, but work to make sure our food is moving so it stays fresh. Have fun figuring out what works for you!

  15. this is so totally the experience i've heard from every mama who does the canning/hoarding/stockpiling food thing. there is definitely a time to put up, but then there is a time to dig in!!! (and december/january is THE time!) i love the feeling of going "shopping" in the pantry (well i don't have one but the makeshift way i have things stored all around my house sort of all together makes a pantry). i like to think of it in terms of seasons- i want my chest freezer empty and defrosting in may so i can focus on the new fresh greens... i buy sacks of dry goods in the fall when they're freshly harvested and i know we're about to be eating more baked things, but then i try to have them well used up by spring when new potatoes are abundant... and i support you 100% in not baking bread out of duty... i've got this thing about bread, you are putting your very skin cells in the stuff (less so with bread machine but still... your energy goes into the making) and yeah i will only do it when i am feeling ready to put nourishing peaceful vibes into that dough. :)oh and one more strategy i like to follow is- eat the best, most favorite things first! that way, you always get to go into the cupboard and choose your favorite, of whatever is left. so you're always eating the best! don't hoard the good stuff. :)

  16. Hey mb - totally ALWAYS the good stuff first!

  17. We have some particular staple foods we go through... and they are not the healthiest choices. I eat PB&J at least once nearly every day. I basically gave up cooking after my 1st trimester. I was having to eat too often and got burned out. I really need to take it back up, though! I do have some food things stored and yeah, if I used them I'd have more room! Lots of reasons to do THIS challenge. I'm glad you're seeing some benefit, even if it didn't go perfectly.

  18. I am just now doing the same thing--cleaning out my pantry and freezer. Since I started menu planning, I've thrown out so much less food than I used to. And I didn't realize how much flippin RICE I have in my pantry. I do miss the greens, too, although I have some half-grown lettuce, kale, and arugula in my garden that kind of stopped growing once the weather got so cold. So I can pick at that. I'm excited to pick away and be able to start fresh.

    But tell me: How did I end up with not one, but TWO boxes of powdered mashed potatoes? And what the heck am I going to do with them?



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