We have just finished Day Four of our seven-day No-Shop challenge.  If you’re not caught up on what this is about, it’s one way we’re managing the excess spending that comes around at Christmastime each year – by opting out of grocery shopping.  For two weeks in December, the first and the week of the holiday itself, we will not be buying our usual groceries, which should just about cover the costs of holiday gifts.

Aside from one lunch out on Saturday, which was already planned for ahead of time (and thus, J. assures me, does NOT break the rules as it’s not an “added” expense), we’ve eaten only what we have on hand in our fridge, pantry, and freezer, and have not gone grocery shopping at all since November 23rd. The REAL challenge was obviously to do that last bit of grocery shopping knowing that a pantry challenge was forthcoming, and not stock up – but I did a good job, I think, and stuck to only what was on my list.

Breakfasts have been the usual simple affair they tend to be in our house.  We do often keep single-ingredient cereals on hand for quick mornings, but those are long gone.  L. happily eats raw oats with honey and milk; P. likes yogurt with honey; J. and I tend towards yogurt ourselves; and everyone can help themselves to fruit or toast or peanut butter.  (We’re now out of peanut butter and almost out of bread for toast.)

For lunches, there was the outing on Saturday, which clearly doesn’t count.  Sunday was a mishmash of leftovers from the refrigerator; today was the last of some nitrate-free pepperoni for the boys (made into a wrap on a stray homemade wheat tortilla with greens for L., and set alongside whole-wheat pretzels and other fixings for P.), with miscellaneous fruits and vegetables.  J. and I took advantage of a couple of servings of lamb-and-beef stew with sweet potatoes and kale that I happened to have frozen a few weeks ago.

As to dinners, it’s been nearly a non-event…so far.  On Friday night, I made potato pancakes with bacon and a big green salad (I’m running woefully low on cooking oils, drat the luck, so we cooked the pancakes in the bacon grease).


Everybody loved this dinner. So simple and so good!

Saturday’s dinner was simple spaghetti with marinara I’d made out of the fresh summer tomatoes in August, then frozen.  I forgot to take a picture, but you all know what spaghetti looks like, I trust.

On Sunday, I thawed some of the 29-cent-per-pound turkey drumsticks I got at Whole Foods on Black Friday (the only Black Friday shopping I’ll do!).  We rubbed them both under and over the skin with a mixture of butter, brown sugar, garlic, clementine zest, parsley, and balsamic vinegar, then roasted them and ate them alongside butternut squash, broccoli, and a spiced relish of cranberries and apples.

Obviously, I cut the meat off the turkey bones before serving.


For tonight, I turned to the freezer stash again and pulled out some fully cooked meatballs from a few weeks ago.  We had a very odd amount of marinara from the other night leftover, so I doctored it up: A bit of bacon, additional garlic, some fresh tomato puree I’d frozen over the summer, vodka, cream, and parmesan cheese.  I simmered the meatballs in the vodka sauce and we ate them alongside yet another freezer contribution, a big jar of ratatouille I made at the height of the season.

OhmyGod SO good. We were fighting over the meatballs in the bacon vodka sauce.

With three full days left to go – I can officially break the challenge on Friday – I think we’re doing fine.  We’re running low on, or are just flat OUT of, almost everything we use daily, but I can handle that.  To pre-empt any issues, P. and I baked loaves of whole-wheat banana bread after dinner to help with breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, and there’s plenty of meat left on those turkey bones from the other evening that can be recycled into something tasty for our next dinner.  I know there are pork chops in the freezer as well that I haven’t even touched.  There’s yogurt and plenty of frozen fruit.  And I’m realizing, as the result of all this, that we have probably gotten into the habit of spending a bit too much, routinely, on our groceries just so we can feel somehow “secure” that we have “enough” — whatever that even means.  Clearly, we’ve had “enough” for quite some time now.  I actually couldn’t help declaring at dinner tonight, “I feel so thankful that we have all this good food to eat that came from our very own freezer — that we always have enough and plenty to spare.”

Maybe this pantry challenge will be the kind of thing we repeat on a regular basis, if only to remind ourselves how very lucky we really are.