I spent the day getting to projects I’ve been putting off for weeks, primarily in the kitchen. It seems that with all the extra time I’ve been spending in there, in hours-long cooking sessions in the pursuit of “clean eating,” it has made quite the mess of things — and it was time to get organized.
So I buckled down and set out the tackle the fridge, freezer, spice cabinet, and the whole pantry. It turned into an all-day project, being worked on in between baby’s nap schedule, kids’ school pick up and homework, and assembling snack bags for my son’s entire baseball team. (I forgot they had a Monday night game.) What initially was expected to be a 2-hour project, turned into about 7 hours with all the different distractions.
In the end though, when all was said and done, I discovered that I had plenty of flour — 8 different bags in total! — to last me through marathon holiday baking sessions, and 6 different bottles of various vinegars. I guess I have a thing for dishes with a tangy kick. I took stock of the frozen veggies and meats I had, and various condiments, and made a list of things I would soon be needing to stock up on, especially with the holidays coming.
One of the most startlingly glaring revelations for me though, was when I completed cleaning out and organizing our pantry, it was half empty. And aside from some cans of diced tomatoes, and a new jug of olive oil, I couldn’t really think of what else my cupboard was in desperate need of. This was indeed a first for us. We’re approaching 4 years living in this house, and I cannot recall a single time when our pantry had this much free space in it. Usually it is packed to the gills with various jars, cans, and boxes of food items, literally spilling out of it. If I had a nickel for each time something fell out on us, or when I had to get the step-stool out to rearrange items, in search of a jar of tomato sauce, I would be a rich woman. On top of this, we’ve added a 5th mouth to feed in the last year, who is turning out to be a very hungry little mouth. No longer on baby food, our 1-year-old is eating as much as our 6-year-old at each sitting.
So where is all of our food? We certainly aren’t starving, so how are we feeding ourselves?
Our refrigerator is a good place to start. Our produce drawers are now packed to the gills with loads of fresh veggies on-hand, and no more of those steam-in-bag type veggies, either. (Although those are awesome, just a bit more expensive.) We have a few different types of yogurt on hand — goats milk, cows milk, and greek — for all the different taste buds of the house. Various mason jars packed into the door compartments hold homemade dressings, a jar of homemade tomato sauce, and 2 dozen pastured eggs.
Our freezer holds lots of frozen fruits and vegetables as well: both once-fresh produce that had been frozen after some sort of cooked preparation, and store-bought bags. Pastured meats are plentiful, as well as 8 different types of flour, ranging from all-purpose, to whole wheat, to spelt. Any flour we need for any baking need can be found. Fresh fruit popsicles are plentiful as well, hoping to satisfy kids’ snack cravings, instead of salty crunchy crackers and chips. I even had 2 bags of breakfast cookies in there, which could be thawed out in minutes for a nutritious yet still sweet snack.
Our pantry still contains some canned goods, primarily different varieties of beans, diced tomatoes, and olives. We also have vinegars galore and 4 different types of cooking oil. We do have saltine crackers on hand for stomachaches, some popcorn, pretzel chips, and of course breakfast cereals. Oh, and we are well represented in the grains and starches department, with 3 different types of rice, quinoa, and several bags of whole wheat pasta.
What is missing, however, is jars upon jars of dressings, spaghetti sauce, and soups. Boxes of crackers and cookies are still around, but not in the same volume of numbers as before, and not a single box of instant potatoes to be found (a usual staple in our house just a few months prior). All in all, clean eating has been getting us further away from prepackaged foods and meals, processed snacks, and jars of food stuff we could just as easily make ourselves, including dressings and sauces, and more into fresh foods from the earth, made from scratch, whenever and however possible.
Sometimes I really miss the old days, and when I’m feeling tired or stressed, nothing sounds more convenient than whipping up a batch of instant potatoes. For the really hard days, I have some organic boxed mac ‘n cheese on hand, and the kids tolerate it, but would still rather eat the original orange cheese kind. Cranky, picky kids, and long tiring days sometimes push my resolve for a healthier lifestyle to its outer limits. But on those days, when I trudge forward and cook a meal anyhow, I feel the greatest sense of accomplishment, and I’m reminded why I made the switch to begin with. For my health, and the health of my family.
It’s not always easy to see the overall big picture, and feel like I’m doing enough to affect a positive life change. But when I look at this pantry, I’m reminded that I’m doing something right, and for now, it’s enough.