I am currently doing my annual clearout. This is something that started happening quite by accident when we lived in North QLD. Prices for fresh produce went through the roof every summer, you see. Things had to be shipped in as our local climate didn't make for very good growing conditions (most foods we eat don't like being under a foot of water or soaked for day upon day by torrential rain). Those foods that did make it up north were not terribly inspiring (such as the lettuce that was limp and slimy when I picked it up in the supermarket - it got put back down!). In our last year there I did discover a local market which kept us in fruit and vegetables at much better prices and quality (big, fat passionfruit, ladyfinger bananas, potatoes from the Atherton Tablelands, yum, I do miss them!). But I still found that we could use our ENTIRE month's grocery money just on fruit and vegetables. Not to worry though, I am a hoarder by nature, and had piles of food in the cupboards so I just decided that one month of summer (January, or March maybe) we would eat only from the stockpile of dry goods, meat and other saved goodies in the freezer and therefore have the grocery budget free for fruit and veges.
I am continuing the tradition. This year it is not such a big deal, with NZ summer produce being a little more affordable over summer, but I have still noticed that to get good quality fruit around Christmas and into January requires higher per kilo prices than I would usually spend the rest of the year. Most fruit has either finished it's season or is yet to start it. We have delicious stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, and peaches, as well as cherries) but these are a little more expensive, especially at the start of the season.
The other reason I've decided to continue the tradition is that it is a good opportunity to go through everything and use things up before they get too old. I have a slight tendency to 'lose' things in my freezer. Okay, so it's more than slight. I do get a bit carried away with saving food sometimes, that it ends up being wasted in the end anyway because I don't use it before it is past it's best. This is a concept that Simple Savings (www.simplesavings.com.au) utilises really well with their $21 Challenge - the idea is that you use up what is in your pantry one week and spend only $21 or as close to that as you can, instead of just mindlessly doing your usual shop. It is just great for anyone who shops weekly or even fortnightly - as I shop monthly this is kind of my version of it. Any extra money not spent on cherries will go towards a few other small items we need around the house.
So this month I am back to menu planning, focused around meals that use up things in the freezer and cupboards with as little new items needing to be purchased as possible. It is quite a challenge, and nice to get to make some different food from the very boring fare we've had since Munchkin was born. I am utilising a Christmas present, 100+ Tasty $10 Meals by Sophie Grey (Destitute Gourmet) to help.
What forgotten things do you have in your pantry that you could use to make a meal with this week? So far we've had 2 nights of meatloaf to use up some mince and breadcrumbs, a few meals planned that need chicken stock which I made last week from 3 carcasses I'd been saving in the freezer, a bean and sausage dish, and next week one that uses lentils with kumara (sweet potato).
Friday, 7th January, 2011