It seems like my cupboards and freezer always get over-stocked during the holiday season with all of the cooking and baking that goes on. And of course in January, we are all pinching our pennies trying to make up for all that spending that we did in December. So... this January I'm going to kill two birds with one stone... or should we say "love-tap" two birds with one stone (I don't really want to kill them). Anyway, in order to get a fresh start in 2010 and save some buckaroos, I'm designating January as "Use-Up Month." The goal of this month, as the name implies, is to buy as little food as possible and use up all the food in my freezer and pantry. Then come February, we will have saved a good chunk o' change, and we will have freed up some space in the pantry and freezer too!
Obviously, I will need to buy some groceries, such as milk, fruit and other fresh items to keep my family healthy. But my goal is to buy as few ingredients as possible and work around what I already have.
To make "Use-Up" month a success, it's going to require a little creativity on my part and a big shift in the way I cook and plan meals. See, usually I go through my recipes and cookbooks, decide which meals I want to make and then purchase the ingredients. This month, everything will be backwards... I'll look at the foods I already have and try to come up with recipes that use those ingredients. I am excited for this fun cooking challenge. I feel like an Iron Chef! Just call me Mario Batali, everyone. I plan on getting a lot of inspiration from web sites like allrecipes.com, where you can type in the ingredients you have on hand and find loads of recipes that use those things.
For instance, I have several cans of mandarin oranges in my pantry, along with tons of rice... so I'm thinking of trying out this delish orange chicken recipe. I also have some evaporated milk and some boxed stuffing mix in my pantry, so I might try this recipe for chicken and stuffing casserole.
Even though it'll be use-up month, there's just NO WAY I can forgo baking for an entire month. These jam bars are a great use-up for the 12 gajillion jars of jam I have accumulated over the last 6 months. The recipe calls for apricot jam, but any old jam will do. (P.S. If you use blueberry jam, they taste exactly like Blueberry Oat Bars from Starbucks! My fave!)
Another item I have loads of is canned pumpkin. I have at least three large cans that I can see, probably more buried in back of the canned goods. I'd like to try this zucchini pumpkin bread, since I also want to make things healthier this month AND I have a whole bag of oat bran I need to use up! Also with pumpkin, I love making the pumpkin oatmeal and pumpkin coffee cake from from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (love this book!). These pumpkin cookies sound divine, and I have all the ingredients on hand already.
I have a few cans of white (cannellini) beans to use up, so I was thinking of making this soup recommended by my friend Gina.
Hopefully by the end of the month, I'll have a few new recipes in my repertoire. And all month long, I'll be updating my extensive readership with the ups and downs of "Use-Up Month," so stay tuned!
For now, I leave you with a "before" pic of my busting-at-the-seams pantry, hopefully to be followed by a much-less-cluttered "after" pic about a month from now!
It's embarrassing to show the extreme messiness of my pantry to the droves of you reading this... but I just gots ta keep it real, yo!
Finally, my dear friends and patriots, I invite you to join me on this adventure! Let's trek across this uncharted territory together.
Happy New Year from my embarrassingly messy pantry to yours!