Alright. It's over. Let's look at what happened, what worked and what didn't.
I started the 14 Day Pantry Challenge two weeks ago to challenge myself and my family to eat only what we had in our pantry, fridge and freezers for 2 weeks. No grocery shopping. No going out to eat. Accomplishing this would not only help us to make some room in our various food storage areas, but would also save us some money.
First of all, if we were to base the success or failure of this challenge solely on whether or not we ate out over the past 2 weeks, this would be considered a complete failure. Over the past 14 days we have, as a family of 3, eaten a total of 12 meals (Tool Lady = 6 meals, Bee Girl = 4 meals & Fish Girl = 2 meals) out of the total 126 meals we consumed (3 people X 3 meals/day X 14 days) that were not cooked by us, but instead, by a restaurant. Most of these meals were for lunch. However, and this is honest and embarrassing, it's better than we usually do! Given all this eating out I don't assume we have saved any money in this whole challenge!
Next is the whole grocery issue. We did mostly OK except for the lemonade for Fish Girl when she got sick during the first week of the challenge and the box of groceries Tool Lady brought home a few nights ago. She really wanted calabacitas and I didn't blame her at all. Given that we hadn't been shopping in almost a month, the only fresh veggies in the house were greens from our CSA! There really are only so many greens you can eat and still be happy with them! She also bought me some milk and black tea which was quite possibly the best gift ever!
OK, enough with what we didn't do right! We did some damage to our stores of food with the other 100+ meals we made at home or ate as leftovers. I'm completely out of white flour, our freezer has much less meat stored in it, we were able to come up with some creative meals we normally would have never eaten (mac & cheese with grilled shrimp on the side?!?) and I have learned some important lessons that I intend to carry forward:
~Meal plans are essential. Inventory what you have, make a plan (write it down) and stick to it. However, allow yourself the freedom to swap meals planned for night 4 with night 7 and so forth. That way, if you don't feel like the pasta dinner that's scheduled for night 4, you can instead have the burgers planned for night 7.
~Have on hand foods you actually like to eat. If you have a pantry full of green beans but they're not you're favorite canned veggie, you'll either get tired of them pretty quick or you'll just not eat them at all (which makes me question why the heck we have so many cans of green beans in our pantry!?!)
~Making bread and tortillas from scratch takes a lot of time and energy. If you don't have either of those things on a given weekend you won't make them and that fact will greatly affect which meals you can make throughout the coming week.
~I am/we are completely spoiled when it comes to food. I blame society and the conveniences we have created for ourselves, but I am completely accustomed to having what I want to cook with, when I want to cook it and if I don't have it, I can just jump in my car, go 5 minutes down the road and acquire it!
~Plan ahead. If it were really the end of the world or we were snowed in for weeks, I would have been out of my #1 comfort item (black tea with milk) within 10 days. Most emergency preparedness plans (although, not those involving zombies) call for comfort items and I was very sad when I ran out of mine. If we had been in a stressful/emergency-type situation, I would have been even sadder.
All in all, it was a good challenge for us. Will we do it again? Maybe. Probably. I would like to. Next time though, I will take my lessons and make a plan. Being more sustainable isn't just about growing food or recycling a few things here and there or composting or raising chickens. It's about planning ahead and making good choices for ourselves while always trying to keep the future of the planet (and my hungry belly) in mind.