About a year and a half ago, I posted on an an experimental approach to food in Austerity Measures and the Simplified Pantry.
I had challenged myself to pare the contents of our pantry down to 35 items including herbs, spices and beverages. It still seemed extravagant in the face of this family’s meagre week’s worth of groceries. Having switched to a vegan diet for ethical reasons with comparative ease and a minimum of fuss 20 months earlier, I was keen to see what other possibilities opened up:
- To eat a nutritionally sufficient, wholesome diet at a much lower cost
- To eat a delicious diet without recourse to rare and exotic ingredients
- To align our diet to global norms rather than those determined by our gluttonous society
- To prove it possible to eat well on £15 per head per week
- To save money by buying ingredients in bulk that would definitely be used
- To cultivate an enjoyment of a simpler palette of tastes
- To remove fatty and processed foods from the menu altogether
- To flirt with the tantalising possibility of going fridge-free
- To minimise trips to the supermarket
I have to admit a number of additional ingredients and indulgences have crept back onto the shopping list in the intervening months due to bad habits and convenience, but not due to necessity. I also discovered a couple of new delicious dishes that didn’t fit the restricted pantry. Nevertheless, there seemed to be something attainable here that just slipped away.
Three particular areas were especially challenging:
Bread – I wanted to commit to only consuming bread that I had baked myself. The plan was to get a sourdough going that would not require yeast to be replenished as one of the 35 items. In reality, sadly my life is too hectic for sourdough and bread products on supermarket shelves proved irresistible.
Spices – These are relatively cheap and add instant variety, and 25g of most things lasts a good while, so the spice rack was never really reduced.
Staples – Under the heading of “rice”, I managed to sneak in four different varieties (that’s cheating), and I started exploring quinoa. I have since decided that quinoa is a “no-no” because it has become stupidly expensive and the poor Bolivians who grow it can’t even afford it.
I was recently summoned to view the multicoloured spreadsheet of household finances that my wife painstakingly keeps in order. It was there in black and white (or rather pink, green and blue) that I have failed on numerous promises to bring the wayward grocery bill under control. A few hours later, my reflection in a shop window provided an unwelcome reminder that the mirror on our landing is unreliable and distorts my wayward girth in a flattering way, too.
It is time to recommit to “The Austerity Pantry”.
This time, I am anchoring it to a rolling menu of eight or nine basic evening meals with porridge for breakfast and soup or jacket potatoes for lunch. For the curious, this is how it looks at the moment:
- Lentil hotpot
- Pasta and sauce (generally prepared with leftovers)
- Chilli beans with rice
- Savoury rice (pilau)
- Chick pea curry (type and strength varies)
- Roast vegetables with polenta or couscous
- Bean slop (this is somewhere between a soup and a casserole and goes well with leftover polenta)
- Lentil dal
- Risotto (with mushrooms or whatever vegetables are to hand)
In theory, this regime can be sustained on a monthly bulk-buy of pulses, staples and spices, supplemented with a weekly selection of local organic veg … and a fridge is not really needed …
- The Prudent Pantry: Whole Grain Alternatives to Rice and Bread (savings.com)
- Creating a healthy kitchen- the pantry (life-in-focus.org)
- Frugal Friday: Making the most of pantry and fridge leftovers (wfaa.com)
- Going fridge free was easy now I’m cooking without electricity (Where’s Neens?)
- Living without a refrigerator (Penniless Parenting)