Last week, I announced that I would be leaving New York in a month (now more like three weeks) and that, in my remaining time, I hoped to use up as much of my squirreled away food as possible. And, as you could probably tell from the list I made on that post, I have a lot of food squirreled away. So, I decided to test myself against eGullet’s “A Week Without Shopping” challenge, in which, basically, you give up shopping for a week and live off what is already in your pantry or fridge. (You can read the full rules on my previous post, or on the eGullet site.)
Here, in brief, are the things I learned:
1. I do not own enough Tupperware for a challenge like this.
2. Making a giant amount of curry for one is never a good idea.
3. Sliced almonds and edamame are both more versatile ingredients than I would have expected.
4. You can never have enough cheese or eggs.
What I really learned, plus my day-by-day rundown, and a few recipes (including the most amazing cold edamame salad) after the jump…
So, while this challenge did make me realize that I need more Tupperware, it brought me to a few greater conclusions about my shopping and cooking habits as well.
For one, it seriously jolted me out of a cooking rut. Cold edamame salad? I would never have considered it if a commenter hadn’t suggested it, and it was great. Similarly, I had all kinds of condiments laying around that I never managed to use. Green jalapeño jelly on leftover chicken enchiladas? Of course. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?
For two, I learned how to shop in a much more focused, efficient way. Per rule #3 (don’t make yourself miserable), I allowed myself to shop, but only for specific products that I already knew how I would use, making my grocery trips much faster and cheaper, and making the results much less likely to turn to rot in my fridge.
For three, I realized how many ways you can re-make something. The tomato/onion sauce I put on polenta on Day One? Added to the chicken enchiladas on Day Four. The polenta I ate when it was soft and creamy on Day One? Fried up to be caramelized and crunchy on Day Nine (don’t give me that look – polenta keeps fine). The downside of this is I also realized that no matter how different chicken enchiladas look depending on what sauce you put on them, etc., you still get tired of eating them the third time in a week. I don’t even want to think about the giant Tupperware of curry.
For four, I saved a lot of money. It may or may not seem like it to you, depending on how much you’re used to spending. But a day with $0 spent on food is a remarkable day for me (especially since the cafeteria at work usually sucks up about $10 a day for lunch). You’ll notice that I was much better about sticking to the plan both at the beginning and on weekdays. So be it. I still didn’t buy more groceries. I just bought nice drinks at PDT.
Would I do it again? Certainly. I’m not sure that’s even the right question, since I think a lot of the “lessons” from this challenge will be incorporated into my everyday shopping and cooking. It was a little boring at times, and a little tedious. I got pretty sick of some of my food, and there was one day I really wished I could just order take out. But overall, it structured my week in a really interesting and kind of fun way and did a (decent) job of getting rid of my food. I still have 2 of the sausages, plus the pasta, mac & cheese, Thai Kitchen rice noodles, 1 bag of edamame, and lots of chicken stock – but that seems like just enough for 3 weeks, along with much eating out as I bid farewell to this fair city and my fair borough.
Read on for my results, plus recipes.
Day One – Sunday: $0 spent
Breakfast: piece of toast (from freezer) with goat’s milk butter and raspberry jam, coffee
Dinner: polenta (cooked with chicken stock and ricotta salata), tomato “sauce” (very chunky blend of sautéed onions and canned whole tomatoes, slightly broken up, with some dried oregano added), hot Italian sausage (cooked in red wine), toasted almonds sprinkled on top
Day Two – Monday: $0 spent
Breakfast: yogurt (purchased), pear (purchased), rice cake
Lunch: chicken enchiladas, ½ can black beans (with cumin and chipotle chili powder added), green jalapeño relish (not on my list, but I found it in my fridge)
Dinner: the other ½ can of black beans (with chopped red onion and 1/3 avocado on top; avocado was purchased), some flatbread, cheddar cheese, martini
Day Three – Tuesday: $13 spent
Breakfast: yogurt (purchased), pear (purchased)
Lunch: all purchased: medianoche, octopus salad, maduros, and café con leche from Margon – total cost: $13
Dinner: curry: sautéed onion, carrots (purchased), red bell pepper (purchased), 1 bag edamame (thawed and shelled), tofu (purchased), all the curried cashews, ½ the raisins, all the frozen curry sauce. Over rice, with mango chutney.
Day Four – Wednesday: $0 spent
Breakfast: yogurt (purchased), dried mango, rice cake
Lunch: leftover curry and rice, with a good scoop each of curried sauerkraut, plum chutney, mango chutney.
Dinner: “Migas” (fallen-apart enchiladas w/heated up tomato sauce from day one), arugula salad (purchased), fried egg on top, sliced avocado (purchased), chopped red onion
Dessert: Rice pudding with leftover rice from day three, milk (purchased), rest of raisins, ½ of dried persimmons, toasted almonds + rum, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg. Vague recipe at bottom of this post.
Day Five – Thursday (system failure day): $47.10 spent
Breakfast: yogurt (purchased), rice cake, coffee (purchased, bc I lost my travel mug) – total cost: $1.60
Lunch: soup (purchased) – total cost: $3.50
Office Snack: leftover rice pudding
Dinner: drinks and hot dogs at PDT — total cost, with tip: $42. Oops.
Day Six – Friday: $21 spent
Breakfast: mini-bagel with cream cheese and tomato from the caf – total cost: $1
Lunch: last of leftover chicken enchiladas, with last of avocado (purchased) and last of green jalapeño jelly
Dinner: Japanese food, out – total cost, with tip: $20
Day Seven – Saturday (another system failure): approx $32 spent
Breakfast: coffee (purchased, still no travel mug) – total cost: $2
Lunch (?): day of food in Flushing – probably about $15, lost track
Dinner: sausage and beer at Radegast – total cost, $15
Day Eight – Sunday: $15 spent
Breakfast: coffee (at home), cereal, milk (from rice pudding)
Late Lunch/Early Dinner: tacos at place down the street – total cost, $10
Late Snack: flatbread and cheese, with roasted artichokes (purchased that day from Russo’s — $5)
Day Nine – Monday: $6 spent
Breakfast: leftover rice pudding, heated up; coffee from home (new travel mug!)
Lunch: intended to supplement curry from cafeteria, but ended up just getting lunch – total cost, $6
Dinner: Best yet! Both components of this meal turned out so well I could have eaten either on its own and been totally satisfied.
Main dish: Fried polenta, sausage, and cauliflower, topped with a fried egg. Took 1 sausage out of casing and heated it in pan to render fat, added diced firm polenta (leftover from a week ago…yikes), sautéed whole business until everything was crisp (could have gone longer, but I got impatient). Meanwhile, roasted cauliflower florets (from a purchased head of cauliflower — $2.50) at 400ºF for about 40 minutes, added those to pan for another 10 minutes or so of cooking. Fried an egg at the end and draped
Side dish: On a suggestion from 19thandFolsom, I made a cold edamame, red onion, and mozzarella salad (the mozz was my addition, also from Russo’s, about $5). Vague recipe below, but let me say here that it was so so so awesome. If nothing else has been gained from this week, this recipe has been. Crunchy, tangy, really satisfying. And pretty surprising that the mozzarella worked so well, but for some reason I just knew it would. I served a scoop of this on top of arugula (purchased).
Day Ten – Tuesday: $13 spent
Breakfast: yogurt (purchased), rice cake
Lunch: Shake Shack – total cost, $13
Dinner: Leftover edamame salad and leftover polenta “scramble” from night before
Leftover Rice Rice Pudding
Makes a lot of rice pudding
Loosely adapted from The Hungry Housewife
– 2 cups cooked rice
– 2 cups low-fat milk (this will be richer/creamier if you use whole milk, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that)
– ½ bag raisins
– several slices dried persimmons, sliced up and rehydrated in a little warm milk (I think these added kind of a musty flavor…not sure I’d do them again; then again, they also added some nice textural variation in the final product)
– ½ c. sugar
– 2 tsp. vanilla extract
– a couple glugs of rum
1. Combine all ingredients except spices in an uncovered pot over medium-high heat. Bring milk to a boil. Turn heat down so milk is barely simmering, cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until milk is fully absorbed, about 30 minutes. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and adjust “seasonings” (sugar, vanilla, rum, spices) to your taste. Serve hot or cold, with toasted sliced almonds on top if you want/have them lurking in your pantry.
Cold Edamame, Red Onion, and Mozzarella Salad
– 1 bag TJ’s edamame in shells, shelled (about ____ oz.)
– ¼ red onion, roughly chopped
– 10 mini balls fresh mozzarella (you could also probably use about ½ one of those big balls of fresh mozz, chopped up in large-ish pieces), quartered
– extra-virgin olive oil
– red wine vinegar
– salt and pepper
1. Combine shelled edamame, onion, and mozz in bowl. Drizzle olive oil over and add vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Amazing!