The time I couldn’t go to the supermarket for a week…

I am a self-confessed control freak who plans my meals to a tee but something out of the blue happened a few weeks ago and I suddenly could only prepare meals with what was “leftover” in our fridge, freezer and pantry. To cut a long story short I survived, here’s how…

Ok so it might shock some of you to learn that more than once in my life I have been called a drama queen/ exaggerator. Over the years I have learned to embrace this personality trait and brush off comments like “really, you had a thousand unread emails today?” or “Suzie, is there a point to this story?”, the latest in-joke with some of my friends is that we’ve just named our trivia team “to cut a long story short” which stemmed from the irony that I say this about a hundred times a day to people whilst I’m telling them an extremely long winded story. So, you’re wondering why I’m telling you all of this? (get to the point Suzie!) HA, just to set the scene for this post, I know avoiding the supermarket, markets, butcher, corner store for a whole week may not seem like something out of the ordinary for some people but for me this is a BIG DEAL. Good news is I survived and now I want to explain how and what I learnt from the experience.

Initially avoiding the shops was not born out of choice… we had just come back from an AMAZING but rather expensive holiday and for the latter part of our trip we took unpaid leave, then within days of getting back we were hit with an critical/emergency bill (everyone is okay) and had to drop $1,200 on the spot and thus we were broke until pay day (10 something days away). This is not a habit I like to get into but shit happens, we had a great holiday and being broke for a bit wasn’t going to be the end of the world. This lack of cash-flow meant that my week’s worth of groceries and food were going to need to last an extra 5 days. When I first realised I wasn’t going to be able to head out for my usual weekly shop I FREAKED OUT. After the initial heart palpitations and even possibly some tears, fight or flight kicked in and in usual style I decided to take on the “challenge”. Now before I disillusion anyone… I did have $20 spare which went towards some petrol and going to Aldi (for the first time) to buy a dozen eggs, some washing detergent and a stainless steel shower caddy. I am sure you are thinking this was a weird emergency shopping list but I knew the reward yielded from these purchases (haha 100 loads of washing later) was going to outweigh the tiny investment (ok maybe the shower caddy wasn’t an essential purchase but at $2.99 how could I not???, Aldi is dangerous!!!).

First step was to assess the damage and see what I had lurking in the fridge, freezer and pantry, then I had to rejig our meal plan in the most creative way possible. Things weren’t too bad after I realised what was “hiding” in the freezer, some leftover mince portions from weeks ago and a few frozen chicken breasts. I also had more than enough fresh vegetables to get us through but it just meant I couldn’t be as liberal with variety and we’d probably have to settle for at least one vegetarian meal (was by far the best one I created – see below!!). We didn’t have any eggs left and I knew I would need these to help with breakfasts (hence the sneaky trip to Aldi) but resigned to the fact that I probably wasn’t going to be able have my usual bacon for brekkie so swapped for steamed veggies instead. Luckily I did have plenty of staples in the pantry like coconut milk, tinned tomatoes and herbs/spices so I knew whatever I whipped up would at least be flavourful!

In the five or something days that I had to get thrifty and creative, we never once went hungry or without nutrient dense food. We maybe didn’t yield as many leftover meals as normal, we added some jasmine rice to a few meals to expand them out and definitely had the same medley of vegetables for about 6 meals straight but we in no way deprived ourselves.

This whole experience showed me that I actually waste a hell of a lot of food. When you’re cooking everything from predominantly fresh ingredients it is easy to not use something and then leave it in the fridge to only realise days later that it has gone rotten. This has always really bothered me so I do everything possible to extend the life (storing in fridge smart Tupperware containers or freezing) and I only buy what I know I will cook but still this hasn’t completely solved the problem. I had set such a routine of weekly shopping that I tend to always buy a whole new round of food rather than first forcing myself to finish up what I have left. Since the experience I have tried to adjust my shopping cycle to 1 and a half shops per fortnight rather than weekly and this is in a way forcing me to think outside the box for recipe ideas and also has meant I’ve incorporated more freezer leftovers into our dinners – yay for less cooking!

For me, it all comes down to enjoying food so the best thing out of the entire exercise (besides winning and proving I could do it to myself!) was that I came up with a heck of a good throw-together-whats-left-in-the-fridge-healthy-healing-yummy-filling-recipe and I also get to tell myself that it cost me nothing.

The below recipe uses chicken stock that I cook up from scratch every few weeks to have loads in the freezer all the time, head to my Facebook to see how easy it is to make for yourself. I also incorporated turmeric and garlic which have fantastic healing properties – perfect for the winter months. This soup was very smooth and creamy and we enjoyed it as a main meal but you could easily stretch out the portion sizes to serve as an entree with some crusty bread. Also, you can sub out the chicken stock for home made vegetable stock which will make it fully Vego! Enjoy!

P.S – the stainless steel shower caddy is already rusty and it’s less than a month old, I guess you get what you pay for…

Pumpkin Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp cooking fat (ghee, coconut oil, butter)
  • leek/onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh turmeric, peeled and minced/grated (you can use powdered spice if needed)
  • 1 qtr of a medium-large pumpkin, diced with skin off
  • 1 half of a medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock, warm
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp coconut cream (use a tin of coconut milk and refrigerate it for at least an hour in the tin for the cream to rise to the top)

Method

  • Heat the fat in a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic and turmeric and cook until soft an fragrant
  • Add the rest of vegetables and stir these regularly for about 10 minutes until they have softened
  • Add the stock, water and salt and pepper and bring to the boil, cover the pot, turn down the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes
  • Put a stick blender in the pot and process until the soup is a smooth consistency. You can transfer the whole lot into a food processor and blend that way if needed (beware it will be HOT)
  • Just before serving stir through the coconut cream.

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