Eat From The Larder Challenge

In February I wrote a post called Food Storage For People Who Don’t Hate Food. Most of the feedback I got on that post was very positive, but a few readers seemed skeptical of my claims that eating from the pantry for six months was reasonable, even if one had the food stored.

This floored me – eating from your food storage is part of food storage, to my mind. But two readers sent in such similar emails I had to share them and respond:

Melissa wrote:

I recently got through a big personal trial when my husband lost his job and I had to keep the family fed while not spending more than we had to. But I do not know if you have ever really been in that kind of situation because it sounds like the way you are doing everything is to spend money by buying a lot of things that are supposed to be put aside to eat later. That is fine if you think the world is ending or you have a lot of extra money but we are just now starting to get out from the debt we built up when my husband was unemployed. So we do not have a lot of extra money to buy food to leave just sitting around.

I know you are a chef and have a big garden so you probably know a lot about how to combine things together but it seems not realistic for most people to spend money to eat that kind of food, and still have good food and take care of their dietary needs and everything.

Christine wrote:

I was hoping to get some ideas for how I should I actually cook for my family if we need to live from our “larder” for six months. In 2009 my husband was unemployed for over a year. Even if I’d known that this was going to happen and had six months of food stocked up I don’t know that I’d have been able to come up with meals without buying a lot of extra food anyway. (I can’t make beans and rice every night!) So is there a menu plan that I should use that goes with your pantry shopping list? Or is there a cookbook you could recommend?

Both Melissa and Christine are really saying the same thing: even if you do have food stored, how do you really use it to mitigate the impact of a protracted emergency. (And let’s not kid ourselves, for most people longer-term unemployment is a protracted emergency.)

Cooking Is A Basic Skill

How do you cook from your pantry? Well, the answer is actually is really quite simple: practice.

The ability to cook – I’m not talking gourmet multi-course affairs here, just putting dinner on the table every night – is a basic skill of resilience. If you are unable to chunk out meals even when surrounded by good, wholesome ingredients, then you have a skill deficiency, not a food storage problem.

I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, honestly, but the entire point of that food storage post was that you store food for the way you already eat. And if the way you eat doesn’t allow a food store you can tap into when you really need it – in the form of a pantry, a garden, a deep freeze or whatever – then your food choices are way too brittle.

If I understand these emails correctly, Melissa and Christine are also questioning the idea that eating exclusively from the pantry in tough times is even possible.

Well, that sounds like a challenge. So, okay, darling readers, challenge accepted.

Eat From The Larder Challenge

Eat From The Larder Challenge

Join me this April and put your food storage to the test, save money, practice pantry eating, get creative and make some room on your shelves and in your freezer before the big 2014 harvest and food preservation season starts.

I eat primarily from the pantry about this time every year, simply because I don’t want to go into a new harvest season with a bunch of old food. If you fancy yourself a productive homekeeper, a planned period to eat down the pantry just makes sense. Even if you have the best larder-building estimates going, some food stuffs have been under-utilized and some have been over-stored.

Maybe you had a bumper crop of winter squash, maybe you made a bad decision at Sam’s Club in the ramen aisle, maybe the kids unexpectedly boycotted applesauce, maybe your partner turned up pregnant and, defying all stereotypes, decided she hated pickles.


We all have pantry items that linger. We all have canned goods that are rolling over into their third year, we all have packages of mystery food in the freezer.

The Eat Down The Larder Challenge is your chance to get creative, use what you already have, save a bunch of grocery money and make space for the new harvest.

I really hope you join me!

The Rules

These are the rules I’ll be following:

  • From April 1st – 30th, all meals and snacks have to come entirely from food I already have on hand. No additional groceries will be purchased. No meals will be eaten out. I will spend $0 on groceries.
  • I can use any food already on hand or grown on site. Food from the garden, foraged foods and items in the pantry, fridge and freezer are all fair game.
  • There will be no last minute purchases to “stock up” before April 1st, although I will be buying milk in the next few days because I need it anyway.
  • I will do weekly posts in which I share what we ate while cooking from the larder.

Those are my rules but you can modify these rules to suit your needs. If you have a smaller larder, maybe you want to “allow” certain purchases like dairy, or bread, or whatever. You can opt to give yourself a certain grocery budget to work within (like No Spend Month) that’s challenging but doable.

You can define this Eat From The Larder Challenge in whatever way works for you, so long as the primary goal is to use the food you already have and challenge yourself.

I’d love to have you join me! What do you say – are you in?


  1. Sara says

    Bravo Erica.
    A challenge is always good for the mind, to make those cells work better and this is an excellent one. I, too, am extremely fortunate that I grow fruit & vegetables and even in the depths of winter there is always a green leaf of some description to be found. And I grew up a very long time ago when bottling and preserving were the norm. It is not difficult to make a pantry out of dried stores, bottled or tinned food.
    I ‘accept’ the challenge and let’s see how many others of your fans (you write a ‘very mean’ Blog for which I and many other people thank you.

  2. says

    Hi Erica,

    Love your challenge for April! I try to ‘eat from the larder’ at least one week a month, as you say there are always things ‘lurking’ in the fridge or freezer.

    Will be following along with you.


  3. Jenn says

    Great challenge.
    My husband and I already eat over 90% of our meals from food stores and it will be intersting to see how we get along without the additional 10%
    I’m gong to miss my morning banana!

  4. sharont says

    Hmm well I haven’t canned stuff and put it away like some have BUT I do have quite a bit of meat and frozen veggies in the freezer. I can handle not having fresh veggies for every meal and use the frozen ones but I like to eat salad for lunch every day. Not sure how I can get around it. I do have some lettuce growing in pots but I am not sure it’s enough to sustain me for a month. I suppose if I started another pot of lettuce today, I would have some ready close to the end of the month. I usually buy a container of mixed greens from Costco and just supplement it with the pot I have growing. Also, I have the food saver canisters and last time I vacuumed sealed lettuce in one to see how long it would last, it kept for two weeks…

    so.. I think I just talked myself into the April challenge!

  5. says

    We did this in March. Not no shopping, but a serious slash in it. We did it to go through some of our stores, but also to sock away a little extra money. I bought only fresh produce (even that is slim pickings for local this time of year by me) and some dairy. My family didn’t even realize I was doing it until the third week, and even then, only because I told them. This exercise made me so much more confident in our ability to rebound if something happened with my husband’s job or we suddenly had to lower our budget for some other reason (replace the roof, whatever). I applaud and approve, for what it’s worth :)

  6. says

    And if the way you eat doesn’t allow a food store you can tap into when you really need it – in the form of a pantry, a garden, a deep freeze or whatever – then your food choices are way too brittle.

    Bravo! to you for saying this flat out. I challenged myself this year to cut my food spending in half and a big part of that is eating from my pantry/fridge. I’ve already had people tell me that they couldn’t possibly do that because of all the things they “can’t” (read: won’t) eat or prepare.

    I also agree with you about the skills deficiency.

    I find myself more and more frustrated with (and honestly more and more intolerant of, although that’s something I probably need to work on) people who cry “I can’t” or “You don’t understand” or “It’s different for you” regarding basic things that 2 or 3 generations ago were not just common but the way of life. 100 years ago most people in the US didn’t have air conditioning, were still cooking using wood stoves, there was no 24 hour convenience store or grocery store nearby, and yet most people were feeding large families daily. Multiple meals.

    • says

      Cheers to that. “I can’t” is so often code for “I don’t want to” – which I often substitute for people, to their chagrin. The way I see it, we all make our choices. If they don’t want to cook for themselves, ok, fine, that’s their choice. But no whining to me that you “can’t” live any other way. It might take changing some things, including some BIG things, about the way they live, and it’s ok not to want to make change, but NO WHINING to me that basic skills like making a pizza are “impossible”.

      People don’t really like hearing that, but at least they stop whining at me that I live an impossible life.

  7. sharont says

    I think the only amendment I will have is to buy fresh lettuce every week, other than that I have everything else we would need.

  8. Kristen M. says

    I accept! This will be especially good since I seem to have two problems:

    First, I work at a Thai restaurant and am able to bring something home at the end of my shift. This has dramatically reduced the amount of food I have cooked since I started working there. (On the other hand, as much as I love the food, there is only so much pad kee mao, tom ka, and pad kapow a girl can eat. This is where cooking from the pantry comes in handy.)

    Second, there seems to be certain canned items that I seem to think need to be savored on “special occasions.” I guess that means I’ll just have make larger batches of those items this year!

  9. Emmie O says

    You go girl!

    I understand how overwhelming it can seem if you have never had to live from the larder before, but really, it’s no big deal. I had to do it for almost 6 months, and I still had plenty left over. Yes, I bought milk and eggs during that time, but that’s about it.

    Stocking up is easy and doesn’t have to be expensive. Every time I buy groceries, I make a point of buying up a few things that are on sale whether I need them or not, and then I just stash them away. It has to be a deep discount – 65% off or more. Also, I don’t buy anything processed, I just stick to ingredients I can use to make a meal – beans, rice, pasta, canned goods, flour, meat I can freeze, etc. That processed junk really adds up and in most cases isn’t that good for you anyway. I also recommend books like “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when that one came out! The bread is delicious and requires almost zero effort to make. Do the math on 1 bag of flour vs a processed loaf of bread and you’ll see how quickly the savings add up – plus it’s healthier and delicious.

    I really encourage everyone to try this challenge. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your life style choices, and it’ll help provide a completely different perspective on how to do things.

    • says

      I got that book as a gift (after introducing my mom to Erica’s “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read gift paradigm) and I concur. Life changing. Home made pizza? Sure, because I have a bucket of flour downstairs, canned tomatoes from the summer (or a sale), and shredded mozzerella in the freezer (also from a sale day). People think I’m a wizard but it’s just not so :)

  10. mb says

    This is so funny – I dreamt about making bread last night and I cringe to say that I haven’t done that in a few YEARS (used to make it all the time). So, the time is come and it’s perfect timing because we have a ton of stuff we so virtuously froze, canned, and dried that is still mostly there. Collards, pickles, applesauce, zucchini, beans, loquats….even fresh (albeit a bit wrinkly) apples….plus we have a bunch of stuff in the garden – onions, celery, kale, sweet peas. Yay! Thanks for this fun challenge. I LOVE it. I hope you do updates on how it’s going and ideas for what to do with some of the stuff folks might have too much of still. Get on that, would ya??? :) We’ll all be fat by the end of April. What is everyone going to do with all their pickles??? Mine turned out a bit mushy (also too vinegary) so not sure what to do with them.

    • Alaina says

      I agree…so many pickles! We had a glut of cukes from our CSA last year and there are only 2 of us, so I am so many pickles…I just don’t know what to do with them all!

      • Ellee says

        Chop 1 or 2 (depending on size) into tuna salad along with the celery & onion. That’s pretty tasty & my kids like it (2 & 5). Also, we just started eating them with sandwiches, etc… as a side, which we don’t typically do (also did this with the beet pickles I made & even the kid who doesn’t like beets ate a few!). Mine were a little soft on top, but got crunchier further down in the jar.

        Another idea would be to add one (or some of the juice) to a sloppy-joe type dish. I had a zillion green tomatoes that I picked to save them from late blight and made green tomato chutney, which until then I hadn’t tried. It’s really excellent for sloppy joes. Or for dill pickles, adding a few chopped to a cheeseburger casserole might be good too. Chopped for a “special sauce” for regular hamburgers (sorry for all the meat ideas vegetarians!) would be similar to, but not the same as tartar sauce. Hope this helps!

    • Gabrielle says

      Same here. I’ve planned to try to use he in tartar sauce (or variations thereupon) for seafood and sandwiches, and also maybe as an ingredient in veggie slaw? I’m trying to think of it as a vinegar + solids ingredient.

    • Tanya says

      Could you make them into relish? I only ask because my kids love sweet pickle relish on eggs but my pickles didn’t turn out (read: went horribly wrong, first time I’ve failed with pickles) and I can’t find pickles without food coloring and/or weird preservatives in order to try my hand at making my own relish (all of which I’ve found pre-made also has food coloring and/or weird preservatives).

  11. says

    Fantastic idea. I was already planning to eat as much of what I stored away to make room for next year’s harvest. I’ll still be buying milk and eggs (from a farm) and need to grab another 25lb bag of whole wheat flour (also from a local farmer), but other than that I think this very, very doable. Yesterday my grocery list was: toilet paper, diapers and avocados. That’s it. It was awesome!

  12. ranger says

    I don’t want to live without fresh stuff, and I’m skill-deficient in freezing veggies & fruits, so I will modify to purchase those items and eggs. I’ve already bought into an egg share, so that’s fair, right? Eating down the larder is an awesome April ambition.

  13. Barb says

    I openly admit that I’m both larder deficient and shorter on cooking skills than I would like to be, especially for putting together meals from scratch using pantry basics, but hey, admitting it is the first step, right? Since finding your blog about a year ago, I’ve been taking my baby steps.

    I do understand “Melissa’s” dilemma, however, …if you’re already in emergency mode, and struggling to just put three meals on the table TODAY, it would be very hard to justify buying more to put in the pantry. But I feel its really a “mindset” that you have to change – buying the materials for making bread will keep you in bread for a month! This is the reason that we should all be building out our pantries BEFORE we’re in emergency mode.

    • Jennifer says

      I understand that mindset – but baby steps (there is a Pinterest page that takes about building up your storehouse $5 a week – and I bought some stuff we use already and its a huge difference). We switched from store-bought dishwasher & laundry powder about a year or two ago and we haven’t looked back – this week, instead of making just a month’s supply of each, I made way more…stockpiled it so I wouldn’t have to slow down and remake in a few weeks – my job gets busy over the summer.

      My kids also don’t look at the bottom of a can, bag, etc, before mentioning we are in need of something – we have a second on hand, when that is opened, it gets added to our list…no more last minute “we’re out of milk (toilet paper, etc)”.

      I love addibg to our “storehouse” :)

      – single mom of four, under-employed but plugging away at the groceries and household chores like those are my other part time jobs… ;)

      • Barbara says

        Jennifer, I am curious about making your dishwasher/laundry detergent. Will you share “HOW” you make it?

        Thank you ever so much.

  14. Val Rogers says

    Great challenge! I’ll have to try it next year though because I’ve been eatin down my larder for the past couple of months already. I have an older freezer and had a big problem with frost buildup earlier this year when the door didn’t close tightly one time. I chipped enough away to make the door seal, but am aiming to empty & defrost the whole thing ASAP.

    Agree about the skills deficit. It takes creativity and TIME to cook well this way.

  15. Tia says

    Perfectly timed challenge, thank you. I’ve become a bit of a food collector with a picky eater toddler and me at the beginning of my pregnancy, our usual meals have not been appealing. I know there are a bunch of ready made meals in the freezer from this fall that are best eaten now, and the freezer is full of ingredients too. I’ll be utilizing some of our frozen fruit to make healthy breakfast muffins. In the past when things were slim we’ve gotten creative with frozen veggies and eggs from our chickens to make the frittata of the day. I’m fortunate to have fresh herbs and greens growing under cover in the garden. Maybe this is a good opportunity to refresh our emergency 72 hour food supply too, I usually try to do that twice a year . I often use online resources to search for meals by ingredient when I need a recipe idea to use something up, this may be helpful to folks who don’t feel comfortable winging it.

  16. kathi says

    Challenge accepted! Posting menu plans would be inspirational, if you could.

    I have a deep freezer that’s packed to the gills with last year’s garden, and some random chicken, pork, etc. Time to pare it down to make room for this year’s harvest!

  17. Emily T. says

    As a family with five young children and a husband just starting out building a career, my husband’s salary was just enough to pay all our bills. Food and any extras came from monthly commission. When commission was plentiful I bought extra food. When commission was scarce I shopped from my pantry which included an extra freezer. We ate the same foods either way. I’m not understanding the push back from your advice. If you normally eat pasta once a week, then buy some extra pasta and sauce for your pantry. And if you eat pork chops or shrimp, then store those items. Or if hot dogs and baked beans are more your style or budget, then store those! The only things this really doesn’t work for is fresh produce. Frozen and canned can substitute for these if a garden isn’t an option. Or if you just “can’t” eat frozen or canned produce, then set aside some money just for produce.

  18. STH says

    This is good timing for me, too. I just finished my last exam for my last class yesterday, so I’m now officially looking for work and short on money. And every time I open the freezer, I think about how I really should get some of that older stuff out of there and defrost it. I live in a condo and don’t have a garden, so I’m still going to have to buy veg, eggs, and milk, but I’ll see what I can do with the rest.

  19. Anne Figge says

    I’m in. I’ll need to buy bananas and raw carrots. My DH is a creature of habit and *must* have these in his lunch. I’d love it if you and readers would post favorite larder recipes. I’m always looking for new ideas.

    • Kate says

      I thought that was so funny seeing your post cause that’s exactly the challenge I was seeing with this, down to the bananas and carrots. We’re already part of a csa though so going to try and convince him to use the other fruits and veggies we get instead of getting bananas extra. Wishing the both of us luck!

      • Donna Ferguson says

        *chuckle* just discussed this challenge with hubby & had also decided to first buy bananas & carrots (and eggs). Hope we are all successful! Count me IN, NW Edible, and thanks for this challenge!!

  20. Alaina says

    We accept! We chatted this morning, and it really needs to happen anyway. We have so much frozen fruit and veggies from last summer, and we also have lots of chickens still. I also went a wee bit overboard on the pickles and tomato products last summer. We have a lot left because we moved, started going out to eat a lot, and need to quit the habit because that is what it is…habit. For us, I will change a few things. We get a raw milk delivery each week from a local farmer, so I will continue that. Also, I only have 2 onions, and I am not living without onions! So, I am going to purchase onions and mushrooms before starting. My major concern is cheese…we eat so much cheese…I am going to have to figure out ways to eat small amounts of it or something. This will be so fun! Cannot wait for your updates!

  21. Jessie says

    I can’t be that strict since our pantry has taken a hit all winter during a severe slow time at the shop, but I am in as far as no new meat purchases and as little else as possible. With 5+1 on the way, milk will be required,as well as fresh fruit and veg, but no canned goods or dry goods until they run out, and no meat until the freezers are empty! The latter will take longer than just April, I suspect…

  22. Teresa says

    I’m not going to “officially” join the challenge in its original form because what we have left in our larder is a bit eccentric at this time of year. (Why did I make THAT much peach jam? We like it, but there are only two of us.) But setting a challenge to check what’s there first, and use some of our stored grains and legumes, among other things, is a good one.

    • Jennifer says

      My daughter is dying for Peach Jam…we have an overabundance of Raspberry Jam :) – wanna swap? Samantha is 7 and helped make 12 half-pint jars last summer and then practically sat down and ate a jar of peach jam a week – we held one back and gave it to her for Christmas…she was thrilled.

      She is counting the days (as are the rest of the family) that we can find peaches locally to make jam – this year twice as much :)

  23. Gabrielle says

    Perfect timing! We started doing just this mid-March. (We listed our house and would rather not move all the stored food, especially the glass jars!) And a sparse pantry looks huge. And now that I’ve used all the obvious, easy recipes first, I can get inspiration here!
    Caveats for: fresh milk and eggs, depending on whether girls can keep up with demand.

  24. Angie W says

    We just cleaned out a lot of our freezer since we had meat in there that needed to be rotated out so we’re restocking it this weekend. However, I have been struggling with how to keep the larder stocked with non-frozen food. I have Celiac disease, so I can’t eat gluten, and on top of that, I have food intolerances to soy (it’s in everything), dairy, gums (again in everything), corn, and fish. In addition, I can’t eat much rice or beans without starting to react to them, so they are only an occasional treat for me. I don’t have much space for a garden, so I can only grow things that I immediately eat with nothing to can or freeze. We eat almost a full paleo diet simply because of my food problems, not necessarily by choice. And I react so much to gluten that I can’t just buy food that has no gluten ingredients, instead it has to be certified gluten free, which is SO much more expensive. A large bag of normal all purpose flour to make bread is so much cheaper than my little bags of gluten free flour. So stocking my larder in a large way where we could survive for several months is much more difficult due to the excessive amount of money I have to spend on all of my food, in addition to all of the normal staples people use that I’m not able to use due to my food problems. I have some things well stocked, but struggle to find cheap food that will last for a long time in my cupboards that I can actually eat.

    • says

      You definitely have a bigger challenge. I know that my local walk-in restaurant supply store, Cash & Carry, has Bob’s Red Mill GF AP Flour for $34 for a 25 pound bag. In your situation, if there ARE things you can store, I’d look at bulk options, if only for the money savings. I’d also consider looking at pressure canned meats if that’s something that makes sense for you.

    • Karen says

      I don’t know where you live, but if you’re anywhere near Portland OR, I recommend a visit to Bob’s Red Mill Outlet. We stumbled on it a couple of months ago, and it was like visiting Disneyland for me! They have everything in bulk, and a ton of gluten-free stuff. A bunch of it is way cheaper than you’d find in the grocery store. They also have an online catalog. They process their gluten free stuff in a completely different mill, so there’s no risk of cross contamination.

    • Ellee says

      I have several people in my family with similar issues. Sometimes on Amazon they have good deals on those kind of gluten-free staples. Also, making your own gluten-free baking mixes is often less expensive than buying them pre-made. Then you can also leave out the rice flour or garbanzo flour to help reduce reactions. You can also use chia seeds or flax meal to get a similar effect to the gums in baked goods.

      Also, FYI, one of my aunts reacts to corn & has stopped taking over-the-counter pain relievers since they have “starch” in them that’s often cornstarch. Your doctor can write a prescription for a pharmacy to make some for you that are starch free.

      • Angie W says

        Thanks for the ideas guys! I do buy Bob’s products on Amazon and stock up on those to make my own flour mixes, but I haven’t gone to the outlet. I’m up in the Seattle area but head to Portland every so often, so I’ll make sure to check it out the next time I’m down there. Thanks for the heads up Karen!

        Erica, pressure canned meats are actually a good idea. I’ll have to look into that.

        Ellee, thanks for the note about the over the counter pain meds. I don’t take much of them anyway because they contribute to leaky gut, but it’s a good reminder that corn is in them. I’ve had to stop using medications in the past because I reacted to the fillers, but sometimes I just forget when I have a headache and want relief. Thanks!

    • Ceri says

      Have celiac disease too and can’t do mixed equipment. Food is definitely more expensive. I am meat free but do eat milk and eggs which is a different set of challenges.
      Can you do fruit? I make and can, my own salsa and applesauce, pickles and jam so I don’t have to worry about contamination. If you have access to inexpensive local produce dehydrating fruit and veg can be another good way to preserve.
      I find I can eat raw nuts but can’t do any roasted nuts so I buy raw cashews at Trader Joe’s and raw almonds and walnuts and almond meal (cert GF) at costco. Nuts keep well in the fridge or freezer and you can use them to make nut butters too.
      I get some bulk stuff from azure standard, they will deliver to places along their truck routes and carry large bags of teff flour, sorghum and amaranth etc. Their repackaged stuff (smaller bags when they carry 25lb bags) has cross contamination issues but they can be a useful resource for those of us who can’t buy from the bulk bins.

  25. Rhapsody98 says

    I buy a month of groceries at a time, and rarely go to the grocery store for “one or two items”. I’m just recovering from back surgery, with a side effect that my entire family wanted to feed me this month as often as they could, so I’m coming up on grocery time with a half full freezer and mostly full pantry. So my grocery list this time was incredibly tiny. (Which is great, because so was my paycheck, because of time out of work.) I think my version of this will be to just eat from what we have for as long as I can and see how long we make it. I’ve estimated three weeks or so anyway.

  26. Stacy Thomas says

    We continuously eat from the pantry. Last summer, we had a garden going and got notice that we had to move by the end of August. We lost a HUGE amount of what we were planning to can. Thankfully, we found a place in the right location, where our new landlord is all over us gardening and keeping the chickens. The garden is going in and we are so excited! We had to buy things like beans, canned tomatoes, and more… we cook big batches of beans, sauces, etc and eat them continuously. We rarely end up with much left over by spring. I will admit that some years we can enough that it lasts 2 years, and for those things, we either don’t grow that item the second year OR we don’t buy it to can.

    If you are not eating from your pantry, you have to figure out where the issue is. It’s most likely that you grew what you don’t eat. Why are you growing and preserving foods you don’t want to eat? If all you preserve is jam, then acknowledge that and realize you can’t “eat” from what you store, but you love jam. If you don’t use jam, don’t make more than you can give away or sell. For us, it makes sense to grow a TON of tomatoes because we use tomato sauce all year long for several dishes (spaghetti, marinara, pizza, lasagna, etc). It makes sense for us to can pickles and peppers because we eat a lot of them. We can beans and eat them instead of buying canned beans. We can garbanzos to make hummus. etc. If we don’t eat it, we don’t can it. I don’t think “hmmm, I’m going to grow some rhubarb and can 50 jars” because we honestly don’t eat the stuff. I might stick ONE plant in the yard, but if we don’t eat it, it’s only going to feed the chickens.

    Bottom line – figure out what you eat before you grow and store!

    • says

      Exactly! These readers are so intelligent. I grew too much zucchini… But I think everyone does. Couldn’t stand to even look at it after the season was done. Not storing that. Blech.

      • Janet says

        For extra zucchini I tried drying it in slabs, but didn’t like the reconstituted end product in a casserole, so I just stick with shredding it in 1-2 Cup clumps that I thaw out and mix into patties for frying with egg, garlic, bread crumbs and cheese. Marvelous!

      • says

        Oooh, even with lots of zucchinis this year I wish there had been more to freeze! We stopped buying bananas for a long time because who needs non-local banana bread when you can have zucchini bread?!

      • Kristen M. says

        Either last summer or the year before, Better Homes & Gardens put out canning magazine with a handful of recipes for zucchini pickles and relish. I made the relish one and it turned out awesome! Its great on/in anything you use sweet relish for. I even used it last night in tartar sauce for fish tacos. Yum!

        • Janet says

          I also used some leftover small summer squashes in the dilly bean jars. It was an experiment and they were good.

    • Donna Ferguson says

      I’m not a rhubarb fan myself, so what I don’t cook fresh in season for hubby to eat, I cut into 1 inch pieces & freeze. I blend a few frozen chunks of rhubarb into my morning smoothies & can’t even tell it’s in there–seriously! (bonus is added fiber\nutrients)

      • Lindsey says

        I make homemade applesauce and about a third of each batch is rhubarb. My family doesn’t even know it is there and it saves us money by not letting it go to waste.

        • says

          Lindsey, thank you for that reply…it will definitely be tried here this year! So cool the way the internet connects us and allows this sharing of information. I’d never have thought of that combo.

  27. says

    “If you are unable to chunk out meals even when surrounded by good, wholesome ingredients, then you have a skill deficiency, not a food storage problem.” BRILLIANT. You get five gold stars. This is the quote of the day. So true.

  28. says

    Yep, I’m in with a few amendments. I will be buying milk. With two little ones and lots of cooking we go through a lot. I might end up buying flour if I find it on sale in bulk. I’m about out of my last 25 pound bag. I have a 10 pounder, but only 10 pounds of flour in the house makes me nervous. Long time pantry stocker-upper here. I know I have a bunch of whole chickens we need to eat, some corn on the cob from last summer, and I probably still have a bit of shredded zucchini that needs baked into breakfast bread. I also have oodles of quinoa. I ended up with a very large bag and we just don’t eat that much of it so I need to find some ways to incorporate that into my meal plan.

    I think this last grocery trip pretty well stocked us up and replaced things I was out of. I’m getting down on the frozen veg other than the corn and I didn’t really can any so I’ll be buy fresh veg toward the end of the month. Not much though since we just stocked the fridge. I buy groceries more or less once a month anyway so this works well. It will push me to use up those chickens and clean out the back of the little freezer and bottom of the big one.

    And you are sooooo right. In order to eat this way I think cooking is the key. It is hard to prepare from scratch foods if you don’t know how to cook. Ever so slowly I’m getting better. Lots of practice is what it takes.

  29. Jennifer says

    Another great idea is swap among friends – I’ve noticed if you can, you tend to know people who do too… ;) Do a swap of a couple things (like my over abundance of Raspberry Jam ;) for someone else’s what-they-have-that-we-eat) ;) Stretch that larder further :D

  30. Lindsey says

    Having been desperately poor at one point, when I read Christine’s comment that you cannot serve beans and rice every night, my immediate thought was, “Well, then you have never been hungry enough or poor enough, because if you are either of those things you are thankful that you have beans and rice. This reminds me of people who say they have no money but, hell, no, they cannot live without a smart phone because a $10 per month Air Voice contract with no data is not doable.

  31. Toña says

    My mind first jumps to what we can’t do without (dairy, fresh fruit, coffee). Then I give up before even trying because I know my husband will not agree. But I love challenges and won’t give up that easily! I do all the shopping and cooking anyway. Perhaps we can compromise and each choose one item to purchase through the month. (I’d choose milk to make yogurt and cheese, he’d choose coffee, my eldest would choose bananas and my youngest apples.)

    We are vegetarian. We have chickens which give us 2-4 eggs per day. We have a full and cluttered pantry. Our garden is established, but not producing much at this time of year.

    Will definitely appreciate any menu ideas and other encouraging inspiration throughout the month!

    Thanks for your awesome site.

  32. Janet says

    I can hardly believe my husband said he’s in! Mostly he just wants to use up food at the bottom of the freezer so that’s good. About once a week I’ve been cooking from the dry goods that I stockpile and then do nothing with, and I have learned to soak and sprout the favas and black beans, etc., before cooking. It seems to help with the “aftereffects”… Last week’s fava dish was pretty good. I was practicing to see if it’s worth keeping (easy to grow here) protein packed dried favas for an emergency, but decided the dish is not something I’d make again unless we *had* to This next month, when the last frozen chicken and the canned tuna run out, we may just have to! I’ve been fasting once a week to support a family member lately, which has been a good exercise, and I thank you for the nudge to challenge our thinking and behavior in other ways as well (however, we may both get pretty grumpy by the end of April eating jam and bread for every meal)!

  33. Dave says

    I find that preparing tasty and nutritous meals with only the ingredients on hand is fun, creative and very satisfying. When it all comes together you can yell “VOILA!” with a big smile and give thanks for what you have.

  34. Jo'Ann Godshall says

    I have a small store of home canned goods and a small chest freezer. So, I accept your challenge in part. I have a toddler in the house, so not buying dairy is NOT an option. My rules that I will follow are as follows:

    1. eat from canned goods 3x a week, min.
    2. use freezer food, do not buy more in April. goal, defrost freezer April 30.
    3. use pantry goods as must as possible. goal, rearrange, organize pantry.
    Thanks for the challenge.

  35. says

    We did this right before we moved—we had maybe a month of dried goods stockpiled. We only bought fresh produce, which forced some serious creativity.

    I’d love to participate, but we’ve pared down to 1 week of pantry storage for only items that we can’t purchase within 10 minutes of our house. We have very limited storage (two shelves, and the bottom half of a fridge) for two people… someday we’ll have a larder!!!

  36. ms says

    I think this is doable for us, with the exception of milk (my breakfast every day is homemade yogurt) and bananas. We alternate every few months between visiting an out-of-the-way but excellent butcher to load up on meat and an out-of-the way but excellent fish monger for fish. Then I seal-a-meal the meat / fish into meal-sized portions. We’ve got scads of potatoes, buckets of rice, and several boxes of pasta for starch, tomato products, unopened condiments, and a freezer stocked with frozen veg.

    Looking forward to the weekly posts – and the additional inspiration from you and from the community!

  37. Gillian says

    I love it! Why is panty management so exciting? Thanks for the comprehensive on “Par”. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to accept your challenge now. We’re not so well prepared and our stores are lean after the winter… Still, feeling inspired to to stock up on our staples, and clean out the freezer to make room for all the goodies from the next season. Please give us a frozen shredded zucchini recipe ! I just don’t know what to do with it :)

    • Elizabeth F says

      Using the extra zucchini is easy. Just thaw it out, squeeze out excess liquid and use in zucchini bread or muffins or a quiche. Or drop as is into cooking spaghetti sauce or chili. Add some flour and eggs and seasonings to squeezed zucchini and fry up into savory pancakes. Make a chocolate zucchini cake. Soooo many things.

    • says

      I hide a ton of it in my fried rice. It really stretches the yield, adds extra veg and helps reduce the glut in my freezer! My single zucchini plant yielded 70 lbs this summer, not counting the monsters that escaped us.

  38. says

    Thus Erica single-handedly launched a national run on milk and bread on March 31…bystanders wondered if they’d missed a weather emergency alert.

    Seriously, I’m glad you called those commenters on the carpet. What are you eating that you can’t afford to buy a little extra when it’s on sale?* DH just collected a 50 lb sack of organic oatmeal for $45 from the yuppie food store. That’s at least 150 breakfasts for the two of us. Do the math people. 15 cents a serving. Mix it up in milk the night before, take out of the frig and heat in the microwave. It’s no harder than making a bowl of cold cereal. But it doesn’t cost $5 for a box because it hasn’t been advertised to death on Saturday morning. Once you get a bit ahead, you can afford to take advantage of a sale and get even further ahead.

    When I see photos of other people’s food storage, boxes upon blue boxes of faux mac n’cheese and cans upon red & white striped cans of sodium water labeled as soup, I give thanks to my mother, Irma Rombauer, Julia Child and Mollie Katzen for teaching me how to cook real food. They invented this thing called cooking classes if you can’t learn from a book.

    *I respect those folks who are dealing with extreme fiscal limitations, but they aren’t whining about having to eat beans & rice either. And if you can’t fix beans & rice three different ways, you aren’t trying very hard.

  39. Joshua says

    The point about money the original emailers make seems to miss the point. Yes, there is a certain amount of money that is necessary to preserve the harvest (assuming you’re buying the harvest, not growing it yourself). But then you should be spending way less later on, *because you have a larder.* There are plenty of things we pay for now and enjoy later (e.g plane tickets). Still, the cost is mitigated somewhat as buying in quantity often opens up price breaks so you spend less overall. We paid $40 for a bushel of organic peas, shelled them ourselves and froze, and haven’t bought any frozen peas. Through our CSA we got so many winter squash we still have some beauties left, and I haven’t bought a single squash all winter.

    I love the challenge. We have so many pickled beets left, other canned goodies, etc. I think one of the challenges is that some common preserves, like pickles, aren’t something people tend to cook with. So some of the larder challenge is in being creative in uses, which simply takes practice, as mentioned. I look forward to cooking as usual, with foods from the larder, and getting inspired / creative to really use up a lot of the larder too.

    So thank you for the added inspiration to use up the larder in April!

  40. says

    I’m in. Sort of. I mean, I will adapt this to try to eat up the food in my larder that needs to be cleared out before this year’s freezing and canning explosion. If I tried to only eat for a month using food on hand, I would wake up dead. Not because there’s not enough food, but because .75 of the household would have killed me.

    But at least this will force me to do something will all those blackberries and random jars of things.

  41. Elaine says

    I would add that making a weekly menu plan helps to save money, use what is on hand and what is on sale at the grocery stores. I often look in the freezer or pantry for inspiration and make a menu around an item. I made a menu planner form when I was first married that I still use today. In 44 years of marriage that is a lot of weekly plans! But a few minutes planning after you look in the larder can make the daily “What’s for dinner?” less burdensome.

  42. says

    I’m in. We have been joking that we need to go on a “hungry gap” backyard diet to shed winter weight (which in our case would mean subsisting on snow, chives, thyme, and eggs, ha!) But at least in the pantry we have tons of staples left, so all we would need is a bit of dairy (and I’m in WI, so I can stick to the farmer’s market for that). And maybe coffee. Will definitely meal-plan around the freezer and jars though. Thanks for the inspiration.

  43. Rachel says

    Love the challenge! I’m in ;0) I plan to only purchase milk, fresh fruit and veggies during the month of April!

  44. Nancy says

    I’m in! Great idea and thanks for inspiring us all. I do sympathize with the original letter writers and ask folks to remember that this perspective comes with a lot of privilege. We can insist that it takes planning, organization, and money to invest in food stocking– true. But 36% of americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Buying a $45 bag of oatmeal might be fine for those folks that are already ahead, but this could represent a whole week’s (or more) grocery budget for many folks. For one food item. Not to mention that many urban dwellers don’t have cars and have to thing about also getting said 50# of oatmeal home on the bus or subway.

    • says

      Agree. I forgot to add too that while I get both the questions and Erica’s response, the process from learning to cook to efficiently stocking a pantry doesn’t happen overnight. I’m really glad I had the interest/desire to cook before I started gardening, which led to preserving. I could never have learned to do them all in one season, or if we were under financial/time pressure. If you are starting from the beginning, just building skills of cooking from scratch will save money, don’t stress about the stocking up part.

  45. says

    This challenge is coming at the perfect time for me! I’ve been really uninspired with cooking the last few months (I’m in my first trimester, so I’m cutting myself a lot of slack), but we’ve been spending a ton of money on bulk foods and not eating them down much, so April was already planned to be the Eat From the Larder month! It’s nice to know that others are doing the same. I’m going to continue to buy eggs and possibly milk, though that might just be until my pregnancy cravings pass, if they do. I’d be happy to eat from my giant bag of oatmeal, but I can’t stomach the thought of not eating eggs for breakfast! And we have lots of rice milk and coconut milk on hand, so we might not need milk, it’s just nice for the kiddo to have. It helps that I’ve stopped drinking coffee too, so we might not have to shop for much else.

    We have a roommate-free house for the first time in three years, so that helps too. While we might be okay eating only root vegetables and canned tomatoes for weeks on end, our roomies didn’t buy into that plan so much, and like having fresh veggies and variety.

  46. Elsa says

    Eating from the larder is just plain normal for us. We work really hard with our garden for the four months of growing season we have. We have a very large garden area, an asparagus bed, pumpkin/squash patch, for berry bushes, grapes. I keep charts that go back 30 years for this house. I can and freeze and dry. I only preserve what I know people will eat. Occasionally I will add something new…this past year I discovered Asian plum sauce and hot pepper jelly and added those to the chart. I now also know I need to make triple the amount for this coming year.

  47. Ellee says

    This is great inspiration for me! I’ve been trying to reduce our food budget & have quite a bit here on hand that I just haven’t used due to poor planning and too many “I don’t feel like cooking” nights. I’ll probably buy milk, some eggs (we get some from a friend with chickens, but these don’t usually last us very long!), & some fresh produce. Looking forward to the challenge! :)

  48. Emma says

    I’m really keen but with a bit of a twist. My plan for April was to take all the raw ingredients from the freezer pantry and garden (autumn here) and fill the other freezer with ready meals for when I return to work. May need to get some additional staples to do so but as I hope to make a couple of months worth of meals that should be fine. I would live the recipe ideas though. The first time I read your blog and the prudent housewife I thought there is no way someone can live solely from their pantry. How silly is that especially since we have a massive garden and orchard, chooks for meat and eggs, sheep and even cattle for meat. Now I know I have enough food on hand that I should only be buying staples and still have heaps to share. It is just coming up with recipes and getting out of the habit of buying food. Now whenever we think we need to go shopping urgently we deliberately wait a few days and it’s surprisingly easy to ‘find’ food. Just have to start pushing that out longer.
    If you could comment with your recipe plans which would be good for freezing that would be wonderful.

    • Margaret says

      Check out for good freezer recipes. Personally I only freeze ingredients, not all made meals because that’s what I cook/eat best.

  49. Margaret says

    Another great reason to do this is you will quickly see the holes. I tried for February. It didn’t take long to realize my ratios were all out of wack. I have enough flour and dried beans to last months, but ran out of oil, peanut butter, and coffee in a few weeks. This lead me on a web search to your excellent stocking up post and I’m now in the process of evening out my stores to better reflect what we eat. Could I get by on what was there? Sure (well my husband might revolt if we ever ran out of peanut butter) but I’m excited to get a better balance. This time of year is pretty thin as last years tomatoes are almost gone, we are getting to the bottom of frozen fruit, etc.

  50. says

    I’m in! If only just because I have to move in August, and I don’t want to take things with me. I have just recently gotten into canning, so I don’t have any home-stored food unfortunately. But I do have store-bought canned goods and frozen veggies/meats that need to be used. I think I’ll buy eggs and dairy (future hubbs can’t quite break his cereal habit). Something I’m not looking forward to – I was silly and bought imitation crab meat – ick! It’s been in the freezer for a while and now it’s time to use it… I’m thinking crab cakes, spice the hell out of them to cover the fake flavor. It was something fondly remembered from childhood that did not transfer over to adulthood. I really just want to throw it in the compost, but I’ll stretch my imagination just for the practice. Thanks for the idea!

  51. says

    Wow, that was alot of posts to read through. Seems like people could use some fresh fish and vegetables to go with their stored food. How about an Aquaponics system that you build yourself from parts off the shelf?
    I’m a disabled person (read we live on Social InSecurity) with two small kids and a wife that won’t, yes, I said WON’T eat decent food. So I grow food in the garden and fish and veggies in the AP system(s) but have to cook meat and potatoes for the wife. I swear I about fell out of my wheelchair when she took a bite of broccoli!!! So, as for the challenge… jeez, why did you have to start it during planting season?… I’m up for it.

  52. says

    This is a wonderful idea! Unfortunately I am ahead of you by one month because my husband and I had a short-term, time-sensitive, money saving goal. Now my larder is dwindled down to about a dozen jars. Poor timing in the whole timeline of the “hunger gap” and the gardening seasons – my garden won’t be producing enough to feed us for several months. I am with you in spirit ;)

  53. Jenny says

    Like most other people, I’m in and excited but will have to accommodate for my husband a bit by purchasing a few items. We are fortunate- we have a half pig and a quarter cow in our extra freezer, so meat won’t be a problem. What WILL be tough is figuring out what to do with all the zucchini relish I canned last year; I’ve only opened one jar of the stuff! I don’t have any tuna fish… Any brilliant ideas on what to do with all the relish?

    • marci357 says

      I use a homemade carrot zuke relish on my salads – and on top of cottage cheese –
      just love it – instead of dressing. Also use with eggs and cheese in a tortilla roll=up. Anyplace you would use pickle relish works great…. like in potato salad, macaroni salad, on sandwiches :) Enjoy!

  54. M Jarvis says

    Erica- If you are still listening for comments on this post, I have a question for you and homebrew hubby…

    Can I use my malted grains for making bread? I keep meaning to try it out but was curious if you knew if the malting process made brewing grains (mostly barley, some wheat & other) made them unsuitable for bread or not…

    I’ve got several hundred pounds sitting around the place…

  55. Ruckusbutt says

    I accept the challenge, with some personal variations.

    We learned years ago to use our preserves (canned, frozen, dried, etc) *all the time* throughout the winter because we ended up hoarding our own food (it seems so precious!) which defeated the purpose. So now we do the rotation of stored goods pretty much as you described in an earlier post.

    I will endeavor to take up this challenge but I will not cancel my bi-weekly local produce order, something we have done for years. I will likely need to buy other fresh things but I will think in the next couple of days about setting parameters around that.

  56. Colleen says

    Okay. We are in. I will purchase nothing in April and we will eat from the larder. Confess that I will purchase some olive oil and a can of coffee before the first but then think we can do this and eat pretty well from the freezer. Time to make room for next years garden and of course the chickens will be glad to keep us in eggs.

  57. says

    I’m in! I love to stock up, and even after a winter of eating out of it, my pantry and my freezer is still full! How does that happen? Simple, I think–falling back too often on easier choices than what is put away from last year. This will be fun!

  58. Jane says

    Thank you Erica! I’m looking forward to see what you’re cooking each week. I’ve been a grocery store shopper my whole life and the idea of not going to the grocery store is hard to imagine. But, I am thinking about following the challenge for the month of May after I see what you’ve done. Thank you for setting a great example!!!! For this and your other ideas.

  59. says

    Half-in. Eggs and dairy still come regularly from the store, but otherwise I think we do pretty well eating out of the pantry. However, I have lots of fruit in the freezer (because I always pick too much on our u-pick outings!) so the challenge for April is to Make More Smoothies. Not berry picking this year isn’t an option, so better make room now!

  60. Val says

    I’m out because renting a room makes keeping enough veggies on hand tricky. But I’ve done three weeks without shopping earlier this year. Got very rice and lentils -centric towards the end. I will be watching for recipes because I’m planning on renting an apartment with the boyfriend this summer when my contract here is up. And he’s all for stocking up on food. (I remember he got all excited by your earlier food storage post) . So I guess what I’m saying is please please do follow-up posts.

  61. Linda says

    I like this idea of clearing out my pantry and freezer to make space for 2014 stuff. We have food things given to us at Christmas that I need to see if we’ll eat or should I send along to the Drop-In center for someone else to try.

    We’re making smoothies for breakfasts. I have some rhubarb from last year I want to make compote and try it with with my blueberries and strawberries.

    Looking forward to seeing what others are doing as well

  62. Elise says

    Love it – I’m in! I will be supplementing with limited groceries. As someone who is limited-income (I’m a grad student AND a farmer), I try to keep my larder stocked by preserving foods I know I’ll eat when they’re in-season (read: available in huge quantities for very very little money because they’ll spoil!), and buy the few things I don’t make from scratch, like rice or quinoa in bulk (again, cheap!) It’s not always easy to do, and when we have a large financial setback (like my other half being unemployed last year), the larder gets eaten down pretty far. But I know that spring is coming and soon I’ll have a whole new freezer and pantry-full of fresh foods to put by for the next year. The trick is to be open to new foods, and preserve things that you love to eat, in portions that are easy to cook with – and then to spend the half an hour a day to prepare good home-cooked food. I find that’s a good time to listen to music or catch up on our day. When all else fails, soups made from frozen veggies or dried beans can bubble away on the stove without requiring my time or attention, using up ‘extra’ food and providing us with a healthy meal at the end of the day. Thanks for the post, Erica!

  63. Lynn D. says

    I have tons of things in the pantry and freezer that I can eat (including some lamb liver that I keep pushing to the back of the freezer!) and a beautiful bed of escarole and a row of Swiss Chard in the garden. This will be a fun challenge. One thing I am having trouble with this time of year: onions and garlic. I’ve long gone through what I grew myself and what I buy in the store now is often soft, moldy in spots, and sprouting even when I buy them at high end grocery stores. I don’t recall this problem to this extent in years past. Any tips on storing these items?

    • says

      I peel and chop onions, then freeze them spread out in a jelly roll pan so they don’t freeze in a solid lump. When they are hard I put them in old plastic ice cream tubs and keep in the freezer in case my basement stored fresh onions have all gone bad. I do the same with celery root which I use in place of fresh celery all winter.

    • Janet says

      I’ve also been content to use fresh chives in any recipe that called for onions. Not the same texture, but the flavor still gets in the dish.

  64. Carolyne Thrasher says

    Ha ha ha! So do you have any good recipes for beef tongue, liver, and heart? We just used the last of our beef (except I still have some bones for stock) except for the organ meats because…well…you know. Anyways, these would HAVE to be on the menu for me to take the challenge. Not that I’m making any commitments here. Still it would be nice to know if I can possibly attempt to foist these things off onto my family. Already tried liver and onions. Didn’t go over much.

    • says

      Beef liver is strong. Much stronger than lamb or chicken liver. Honestly, I don’t care for it except for maybe once a year. If your family isn’t used to the minerally quality of liver, beef liver is a hard place to start. The best way I do know to cook it is to soak in water or milk (milk preferred but do you want to use a gallon of milk to try to make liver maybe palatable?) for several hours, pat dry, cut into slices about 3/8″ thick, dredge in flour, pan fry to medium in butter, then remove the liver and make a whole grain mustard pan sauce with cream. Serve liver and mustard sauce with something starchy to soak up flavors – pasta, rice, etc. If that’s not gonna fly, you will make the family dog (or your friend’s dog or whatever) very happy if you slice the liver and dehydrate it into liver jerky snacks. Or just give the liver to your dog fresh.

      Tongue and heart are easier – both are primarily muscle fiber like steak, not whatever kind of squishy fibers are in liver and kidney and spleen. Both are actually really good. For tongue, blanch it and peel it, then slow braise and shred. I’d recommend mixing with barbecue sauce for a barbecue beef sammies. Peeling is key, though!

      The biggest issue with heart is that it is tough as hell – hardest working muscle in the body, after all! I typically soak heart to in salted water remove excess blood, go through it and trim out anything that looks weird, like a rubber tube or not like muscle, and grind. It’s a great extender for chili, taco, etc. mixed with more traditional ground beef or pork. It just tastes like really meaty meat. You can also trim and slice very thinly and sear or grill like for kebab or stir fry. But slice thin and don’t overcook. Something acidy like a vinaigrette or lemon juice is nice with the super meaty flavor of heart.

      • Carolyne Thrasher says

        Thanks for the ideas! I never thought to make jerky for the dog out of the liver. Now I’m excited to try out the tongue and heart.

        • Janet says

          I also just read a blog on taking frozen “iron pills”. I bought chicken livers, but the blogger says beef is the best. Cut it up pill-size. Freeze individually for about 20 minutes, then freeze together in a bag or container. The blogger said she takes about 4 per day. I’m up to 2 per day when I remember. Washed down with OJ in the morning I can’t taste a thing, but still get all that great raw liver nutrition. Of course our dogs are jealous! I would think you could do this with any of the healthful organ meats. Not exactly a meal idea, but at least it’s a way to utilize what’s in your pantry.

    • marci357 says

      Tongue and heart both grind well in a grinder. Add some mayo and spices and make a meat sandwich spread – similar to potted meat or deviled ham. My kids love it, especially if in a toasted cheese sandwich dipped in soup. Liver is great sliced 1/3 inch thick, soaked and rinsed several times in water or tomato juice if wanted. Then I like to make it chicken fried and spicy :) Somefolks like it swiss steaked – with tomato juice poured over it after chicken fried, and allowed to simmer… V8 juice works well for that also. The heart is also awesome slivered or diced, cooked, and then used in tacos or enchiladas, etc. For tongue, pressure cooking it makes it very very easy to pull the skin off of it :) Then just cool, peel, and slice it :) Delicious!

  65. michelle priddy says

    I hear what Melissa and Christine are saying. Women’s Ministry at our church has a “Start Chart” we use as a fund raiser. It is a series of charts to help a cook pick from each column to make a soup, a casserole, beans and more. If you are interested let me know, I’m on facebook at I also make recipes for our food box clients. We serve a hot dish each morning we hand out food.

    My challenge? In order of priority?

    1. It must taste good.
    2. Use food stuffs the clients get ALOT of (this month it is carrots)
    3. Make it a hot dish with complete protein without using meat. (our clients eye light up when the dish it hot)
    4. The recipes must use very basic ingredients so our clients can reproduce the dish for themselves without having to spend extra money. I can not use internet recipes because, well because most chefs are not making recipes for clients like ours, so I make the recipes myself.

    This month’s recipe (Supplementary protein = potato + milk)
    Simple Carrot Potato Soup

    1-3 TBS oil
    2 cups carrot medallions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    1 cup potatoes diced in 1/4 -1/2 inch cubes
    1 TBS diced onion or 1/2 tsp powdered onion
    1- 1 1/2 cup water
    1 cup milk or milk product (yogurt-cottage cheese)
    1/4 tsp cumin (optional)
    1/4 tsp ginger (optional)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Saute carrots, potatoes & onion with oil in sauce pan. When still tender crisp, add just enough water to cover veggies, let simmer until potato and carrot are able to be pierced easily with a fork, add water as needed but do not let add to much water as the milk will add ‘soupiness’ to the dish. Add milk or milk product, allowing some of the potatoes to mash and thicken the soup.
    Stir. Add cumin and ginger if you’d like. Salt and pepper to taste.

    (My son actually likes this soup- so I know it is good- he’s a picky eater)

  66. says

    Okay, I’m in. I need to make a few exceptions–our monthly buying club produce box (since I am committed to the group), a biweekly milk run (to a local farm at least) , white eggs (the brown we have in ample supply don’t take natural colors) for Easter dying (’cause the kids would squawk) and our Easter restaurant brunch. Since I’m feeling a little guilty, I will make the candy for the Easter baskets to make up.

  67. Karen B. says

    This is great! I used to do it about once a year to clean out the cupboards and start fresh. Now I live in a very small condo and can’t store anything that we don’t eat. I guess I could get about a week out of our stores so I’ll join you for one week. I’m just going to get milk too, and eggs.

  68. Katrina says

    I’m in! Luckily we can modify the rules some, cause I truly don’t think I would have enough for a month solid, although I am striving to build a food storage that would last months if needed. (Hence why I’m learning to garden and put up my own food.) My goal will be to simply build my menus around the food I already have to clear it all out. I plan on taking a detailed inventory of my freezer and pantry, plan my menus, and if I have to supplement with store bought food then that’s okay.

  69. Pat M says

    I’m traveling for work next week, but I’ll give it a shot for the rest of the month. I’ll need to pick up a couple fresh things, like potatoes and milk, when I get home but will otherwise work with what I’ve got. Looking forward to the menus and follow-up from everyone.

  70. marci357 says

    Great minds think alike… actually started this a week ago – while sick and rained in :)
    Going to allow bananas and oranges tho for personal health reasons. 2 freezers full and canning cupboards that need rotated/emptied.

    I find what works best for me is to just set on the countertop a dozen cans, boxes, bags, etc out once a week, and make myself use them in some way …. If I look at them long enough setting out there, I’ll use them :)

  71. L says

    Hi Erica,
    I love this idea and am glad you’ll be posting about it. Something that I think might be useful to go along with it and the skills deficiency idea is some more posts with time-saving tips for the kitchen. For example, your post a while back about how to chop onions. I know for myself, and probably for others, that it’s not lack of ingredients or lack of creativity, so much as lack of time and energy when I get home from work, and little tricks like that can make the difference between cooking something interesting and having eggs. Again. For the second time that day, and tenth time of the week. (Yay chickens!) I know I can do freezer meals and the crockpot, but I don’t always plan that far ahead :-)

  72. says

    This is a great idea for April since I need to clean out the freezer and pantry to receive the new products of this upcoming summer season. Plus, I’m overwhelmed with work this April and allowing myself to dip more liberally into what I’ve stored will save me time as well as money. It just requires a bit of planning. I even started a few days early: Saturday’s homemade pizza night was a great chance to work through some old stuff: anchovies, olives, etc. Thanks for the great spring cleaning idea!

  73. treatlisa says

    Following along for the most part with a eye on using up some stragglers in freezer and pantry… Love the post. And the inspiration. Thanks!

  74. says

    I only just read this now (morning of April 1st here in Australia) and I’m in! Slight difference is we are coming of prime preserving season so I can reach for the bottled stuff from just last week rather than feeling like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel, but anyways. Only exceptions for me will be fresh milk and yoghurt, one farmers market trip will be allowed (already planned catch up with friends) and hot cross buns for Easter. Everything else food wise for the month will be from garden or pantry. I’m really excited about this challenge! Thanks for throwing it out there.

  75. says

    We are in!! Actually we have been doing this most of the winter!! We buy local free-range chickens twice a year, a quarter of local beef, half a local pig and garden like mad!! I have always canned (thanks Mom and both grandma’s) but have also taught myself to pressure can which is imperative for low acid foods and meats. I make stock after chicken and turkey dinners, save vege scraps to make stock as well and can them. Probably have 25 or 30 quarts of various stock in basement now.I only tend to buy things on sale and then in quantity and can excess. Example…scored 10 lb bags of potatoes for $1.77..regular $3.99.. and have been canning up excess for storage (I MAY have bought 100lbs..ehem). There are lots of ways to have a great larder…even if it’s under your bed! Start with may surprise yourself!

  76. Angela says

    We are in! I will have to make a few exceptions like eggs, dairy and bananas for the littles in our house. I hate wasting food and want to use up all those bits and pieces left in the freezer and pantry. For me, it’s a challenge to get hubs to eat vegetarian meals. We don’t usually have too much of a stockpile of meat, so this will be interesting :P Can’t wait to get all those jars empty and ready to fill this summer! Looking forward to seeing some of your meal ideas :)

  77. michelle priddy says

    Well, I’m already out! Handsome’s tea is all used up- and since he doesn’t smoke, carouse, or
    drink, (I can’t even get him to drink coffee,) when he asks for special ice tea, he gets it. I’m still going to hang in there and try to avoid the store by using up last fall’s frozen bounty and the canned goods we put up- I’ll be saving all the way around there!

  78. says

    This is a great challenge for everyone to try, especially in this age of change and uncertainty. Ironically our family was already in the midst of cooking out of our larder in preparation for spring. I think I will pass this on for others and get the family to give this a go for the entire month. With a small exception about milk, we go through to much to have on hand for that length of time, so will need to be a regular purchase. I look forward to the challenge of substituting for things we may have run out of, or melding together seemingly unlikely pairings of food as we whittle down our freezer and pantry supplies.

  79. michelle priddy says

    Hello Erica,
    Do you have a list of what is in your larder? A list of your staples? While teaching my daughter I made a list of staples, also shared it with my gleaner family (McMinnville Harvesters).


    Annual acquisitions:
    Storage: Salt, Flour, Sugar, Baking powder & soda, Yeast, Vinegar, Wheat, Beans, Oats, Rice, Barely, Corn meal, Dried Milk, Soy Sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Scotch tape, Bleach, Tooth brushes, Penzy’s herbs &spices,

    Home dried Veggies & Fruit:
    Corn, Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers, Beets, Cauliflower, Apples, Raisins, Walnuts, Peaches, Prunes Cherries, Pumpkin seeds, Herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano)

    Cold storage (garage, fall until):
    Garlic (until spring), Apples (until February), Onions (until March), Squash (had one good two years), Tomatoes (until end of December), Potatoes (until March)

    Salmon, Ham, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Black berries, Strawberries, Fruit juices (didn’t have time to can will become Christmas jelly),

    Salmon, Tomatoes, Peaches, Apple sauce, Apple pie filling, Cherries, Grape and apple juice, Pickles,

    Monthly/bimonthly (or every two months) acquisitions:
    Dried Pasta, Pop corn, Brown & powdered sugar, Corn starch, Ketchup, Pepper, Dish & laundry & hand soap, Shampoo, Toothpaste, Coffee, Q tips, Bandaids, Neosporan ointment, Stamps, Advile, Feminine hygiene items, Canned milk, Pork butt (when less than $1.50)

    Semimonthly (every two weeks) acquisitions:
    Bread, Tortillas, Tea, Oil, Mayo, Crackers, 7up, Potatoes, Onions, TP

    Weekly acquisitions:
    Milk, Eggs, Butter, Cheese, Carrots, Yogurt

    Splurge acquisitions:
    Cottage cheese, Mozzarella cheese, Chocolate, Coco powder, Marshmallows, Boxed mac&cheese, Log cabin syrup, Eagle brand milk, powdered gelatin, Beef, Seafood, Printer ink, Computer paper, Medical grade essential oils (tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus)

    • michelle priddy says

      PS Looking forward to the recipes you will be generating from your larder challenge. It will be fun to see if I will be able to use them using my staples.

  80. Lily says

    I’m in (starting today, we were out of town for a work trip with my husband until last night).
    We’ll allow purchases of milk and some farm-stand/farmer’s market fruit (to supplement our homegrown citrus – my nursling isn’t tolerating me eating a lot of citrus). And coffee, if we run out (my husband will mutiny without that). Otherwise, it’ll be pantry-freezer-garden.
    I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time anyway; thanks for the kick in the pants.

    For the record – this still gives me anxiety. Because, ohemgee! – what if we run out of amaranth (which we never eat anyway)?! We have an obscene amount of food stocked away and I still freak out about running out of stuff. Which is completely unreasonable. And I’ve, so far in my life, never been food insecure, so I have no idea why I have this specific anxiety. Perhaps this challenge will help me work through this issue while also helping us eat through the older stuff in our larder.

  81. michelle priddy says

    Today is the last day of the first week of the month of April. When can we expect to see your weekly blog concerning this Challenge? I have endorsed your blog- encouraged my friends to check out your recipes. Please don’t make me look like a fool. (But thank you for the lesson learned.)

  82. Janet says

    For anyone who didn’t plan ahead for Easter (like me) and has a pretty good pantry, I just made malted milk eggs from a recipe I got on the internet. Melt equal weights of chocolate and malted milk powder with a shake of salt. Mine was still too dry to shape so I dribbled in enough vanilla extract to get it to form little balls and egg shapes. They’re soft and tacky at first, but then dry solid, so place them on parchment or waxed paper. The recipe called for white chocolate, but I only had dark, and I only had some old malted Ovaltine. I bet the real powdered malted milk would be even better. Once dry enough I’ll melt some chocolate and roll them in that for final setting. I’m sure others can be even more creative (white chocolate with food coloring and swirls?), but it was fun to see I can get along without buying a lot of whoppers or bird eggs by making just a little batch of this to satisfy the need.

    And BTW, I mentioned this challenge to a farmer friend and he really gave me/us something to think about: “If everybody ate out of their pantry for a month the US food system would collapse ….. and consumers would have tremendous leverage in these food fight issues (such as labeling or banning GMOs, etc.)”

  83. Rosina52 says

    I have done this before and am now into Day 13!! Not as good as your challene, though, as I do EAT OUT so i need to add that to the remaining 17 days ogpf my challene…you are ON! i love this idea and post my foods on FB.

  84. Be says

    Thank you for the food for thought. This is how I was brought up also.
    I do down veg and meat for winter. We have sprouts all year. I save what veg goes to seed in the garden, most taste nice sprouted, too. Love that we have our own eggs and milk and honey. Yes it’s time to empty the freezers for another season of freezing. Replaced with jugs of water incase of a power outage. I keep some of the mystery freezer packages so the hens have fruit Popsicles when it’s frying hot out though.


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