With all the excitement over the recent Tenner Week, writing up the last part of the Empty the Storecupboard Challenge was temporarily put on hold. Now things are a little calmer, it’s time to let you know about the final storecupboard week and give you a roundup of what happened now that I’ve had a chance to look back and reflect on the 20 weeks that it took to complete.
Week 20 meals
By the time I’d reached the final week for using up the last little bit of storecupboard stock, we were down to just spices and buying in all the major ingredients to make the remaining three meals.
The final three meals were a tagine with quinoa, a spicy bean cottage pie, and a ‘paella’. The first two meals used up the last of the incredibly hot tagine spice, and the non-rice paella used up the final sachet of weakly-flavoured paella spices.
It’s pretty obvious here that we were scraping the bottom of the barrel (or shelf), and these were ingredients that I’d previously found disappointing. I was dragging my feet over using them, to be honest, and was glad when they were gone. The last week wasn’t as much fun as the other weeks, but it still felt like an achievement once the challenge reached its final conclusion.
What I’ve learned from the Challenge
Nothing went to waste, and that’s what the challenge was all about. It was by and large very thrifty and we had some very good weekday meals out of it.
Having said that, there was very little that I’d describe as gourmet, and I wouldn’t have invited guests over to eat the meals that we made.
From a health point of view, it wasn’t 100% ideal. I was essentially planning our weekly menu to use things up, rather than to create optimum nutrition or the best flavour, so health was not at the top of the list. We found ourselves eating quite a few things that had ended up at the back of the cupboard because they weren’t all that healthy in the first place.
Some of the products were a bit too processed for my liking, including artificial flavours and colours. Also, there was an unusual amount of wheat in amongst everything else. I don’t have coeliac disease or problems with wheat in general, it’s more that I’m aware that a monotonous diet isn’t good for you – we need variety to be healthy.
I’m very glad that we only had three storecupboard dinners most weeks, as this allowed me to cook healthier meals on the other evenings.
It was, however, quite a lot of fun trying to put menus together with the storecupboard ingredients, and make interesting meals out of them. The creative side of it was quite rewarding.
The other thing I noticed was that we started to have some old favourites back in our weekly menus, like bakes and cottage pies, and various curries and pasta dishes. There’s a lot to be said for cooking a household crowd pleaser from time to time.
What would I do differently next time?
I think that with some things, I’d accept that they’d been relegated to the back of the cupboard for a reason. For example, they weren’t being eaten because they were inconvenient to cook (a surprising factor with some of the so-called convenience foods), or we simply didn’t like them.
If that happens again – and it probably will because I’m regularly given things to test – then where appropriate I will take them straight out to the nearest food bank. Many of the things I had stored up this time around were slightly out of date or already opened, so they weren’t suitable for donating, but now the cupboard’s clear I’ll be on the lookout for things to donate or give away quickly as and when they arrive.
The whole exercise has made me much more aware of food waste, and the way some food storing behaviours can start to edge into clutter, surplus and even hoarding. It’s been very interesting indeed, and I’ll be managing my own food stocks more efficiently from now on.
I also found myself getting a bit fed up at having a lot of soups, stews, bakes and pies during times of warmer weather as storecupboard meals often lean towards those types of recipes. I’ll definitely be doing another Empty the Storecupboard Challenge next year, but I’ll be doing it in the wintery depths of February instead to enjoy the warming food a whole lot more, if you care to join me. I’ll also be carrying out an Empty the Freezer Challenge in April, to make some space in the freezer for my home grown veggies over summer.
Will you be joining me?
For all the Empty the Storecupboard Challenge articles and meals, please have a read through the Storecupboard Challenge archive.