When was the last time you cleaned out your pantry?
I mean really cleaned it out. Seen the back corners. Emptied every tub of flour or sugar.
Yeeahh… Me too.
This is what I learned by looking my overstocked pantry in the eyes:
::Sigh:: “I don’t even have anywhere to put these oats.”
That’s the sentence I huffed right before I realized I had a problem.
It’s not an eating disorder, it’s not an addiction to sugar, and it’s not even an addiction to food blogging, although I might have that too. I’m talking about my addiction to the idea of the perfect pantry. I know, it sounds pretty harmless, but let me explain.
Anyone who is a “foodie,” or even anyone who has ever picked up a cookbook, has probably noticed a section at the beginning about stocking your pantry. These are all the spices you need. Never run out of this type of rice. Always have a stash of canned beans on hand. If you can stock your pantry to the brim with every spice and legume you can imagine, THEN you will have the perfect home, the books imply.
And I get it. It makes sense that we would think a stockpile of ingredients is the key to sanity. When your kitchen is stocked with everything from chickpea flour to salt-packed capers, you’re in control. #prepared
It’s especially true for people trying to eat a certain way. Over the past couple months, I’ve adopted a mostly whole-foods, plant-based diet. I invested in pastes and spreads and brines and mixes, certain I needed mountains of resources at my fingertips to cook the complicated recipes my new diet required.
But when I got home from the store the other day with 3 bulging bags of groceries and no shelf space in sight, I realized something: the perfect pantry was not making me happy. It was bursting with exotic-sounding varieties of rice, 10 types of dried pasta, 4 types of canned beans, 2 bins full of baking supplies, and cartons of stock stacked up to the ceiling. I had spent nearly a decade trying to get here – a college degree, a happy home, a stable job, plenty of food in the pantry – and I wasn’t as satisfied as I was supposed to be.
This was the meaning of the word “plenty,” right? Billions of people in the world are hungry. I should be happy to live with this kind of excess, right?
But it felt like a burden. I didn’t know how to use up all the yellow grits going stale at the bottom of a plastic bin, or the flax seeds I had bought in bulk. I just covered them with bags of almond meal and packets of cacao nibs and forgot about them. Each week, I bought more, and each week, I poured soup down the drain, dumped cereal into the trashcan, and ordered out for Thai delivery.
And I wasn’t just wasting food. Lately, I’ve been spending at least $120 every time I go to the grocery store, and anywhere from $25-50 at the farmers market each week. Ouch.
I’ve always had a million excuses. I’m too busy, we didn’t like that soup anyway, dried beans are cheap, but I NEED more coconut oil.
But this year, I’m going to try something new. Instead of wasting food and money trying to create the perfect home, I’m only going to buy only what we need. When that’s gone, I’ll buy more. Revolutionary, right?
I know that for this to work, it has to be SIMPLE. No more stockpiling, no more 20-step recipes.
So here’s the plan: 1 week, 10 recipes, 10 ingredients or less.
For now, I’ve got to use up everything in this pantry. That’s right. I want to get to Pantry Level Zero, or as close to that as possible. I’m sure there’s a point at which you can’t use another ounce of fennel seed.
What about you? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your pantry rather than comforted? Do you have stacks of ingredients that have been there for weeks? Months? Years, even?
The Waco Vegan is no longer updated. You can find me over at RandleBrowning.com instead.