The Pantry
Be prepared and store just what you need.
It's time to eat what you have in your pantry.
Eat your pantry
Well, not literally! One of the first and most impactful steps you can take in the Buy Nothing home is to take stock of what you have in your pantry and eat your food! How many of us have odd sauces, condiments, weird canned items, dried mushrooms, unpronounceable health foods we’ve stocked up on but aren’t gobbling up because they were slightly off our go-to culinary path? Make this month your month to incorporate these odds and ends into your diet. If you don’t, they’ll become food for your neighbor’s chickens and why not enjoy them for yourself?

By consuming your weird foods, you’ll buy less groceries, possibly discover a new go-to recipe, and you’ll sustain yourself/friends/family with foods you’ve already shopped for! At the moment, we have, for example, some shredded coconut, cacao nibs, flax meal, herbal teas, corn meal, and dried shiitake mushrooms in the pantry, among other foods, that have not been touched in months. We just Googled the first three ingredients and came up with these Chocolate Paleo Seed Bars! Easy, and yummy. We love combining whatever ingredients we can find in our pantries, inputting them into Allrecipes! This plug(in your ingredient) and play web app produced some Chewy Vegan Granola Bars for us. Steep a few bags of those odd herbal teas you’ve never tried, and you’ve got a fun New (to you) Foods Breakfast Playdate all planned out for a loved one. Now, the shiitake mushrooms? Put them in some water in the morning, during your breakfast date, and let them soak through the day until dinner and add them to your veggie stir fry for dinner. And the corn meal? That’s for your bean soup that you’ll be making next week from your staples, because you’ll want to have some corn bread along with that delicious soup.
Throw a weird food sharing event
After your month of eating your pantry, be sure to pull the foods you just never got to. Banish them from your pantry. Bag them up, and create a special event in your Buy Nothing community that’s all about the weird foods we have in our pantries. Here’s how you can maximize on the wild and woolly foodstuffs you might own now but you know you won’t ever eat:

1) Call for an in-person gathering of people in your community who are clearing their pantries of the foods they just know they won’t eat. Meet up in person and do a potluck-style sharing of your various weirdgredients! You might love that truffle infused olive oil your neighbor brings and they just might adore your homemade quince butter no one in your family could get through.

2) Use your Buy Nothing communities in the app and on social media to raise awareness about the dark corners of your pantries and that it’s fun to share the weirdnesses therein. Post pictures of your strange foods and share them. Encourage others to share theirs too! You can call for an Odd Food Palooza Day, or a Foodie Friday, asking everyone to post their strangest uneaten unwanted rejected-from-the-pantry ingredients and everyone can post from their cupboards, cobwebs and all! You’ll be amazed how quickly the food items will be asked for by neighbors who cook regularly with them, showing you just how silly you were to overlook that gem of an ingredient (you can always keepsies!), and how diverse our neighborhood kitchens are!

3) Failing either of the above, be sure to offer your unwanted weirds to your nearest chicken farmer. Chickens are our modern-day dinosaurs, omnivores in fact, and they’ll just scratch away what they don’t like (much like our kiddos at the dinner table.)

Cook with your staples
(We pulled this next Action from Day 15 of our 30-Day BuyNothing Challenge. Please take our BuyNothing30 Challenge to catapult your sustainable living journey a giant leap forward!) If you’ve taken stock of the ingredients you haven’t used in your pantry and played around with them a bit, using them up in recipes, you can now take a bigger step toward making your pantry more sustainable and useful for everyday meals over longer periods of time. In this step, you’ll do an assessment of what your staple foods are, and make a plan to build out your meals from there. For the purposes of these Buy Nothing Home exercises, when we refer to Buying Nothing, we do not mean to literally buy nothing all the time. We’re referring to a lifestyle of buying less, a BuyNothing ethic of using up what we already have and sharing what we have in excess and receiving - even borrowing - what we might need. So, when it comes to food, of course you’ll need to go shopping! But one thing we’ve learned through the BuyNothing ethos is that mindful grocery shopping can have an impact upon our spending. When we go to the store with a specific list of ingredients, we can avoid impulse buying. Stick to your lists, and perhaps also explore meal-planning around a few key ingredients that can be used in many meals, stretching your menu out for a few more days.

Whole foods are the simplest, most healthy, ingredients for meals, and the fewer ingredients in the meal, the better. Imagine being able to cook a week’s worth of meals for a family of 4 from 2 bags of groceries or less. This is what we try to do, and we’re especially successful when we forage for, and grow, many of the main ingredients that we use, like nettles (when in season) blackberries (that we pick and freeze for a years’ worth of smoothies) garden greens like kale and collards, potatoes we grow and store, mushrooms (foraged and dried) and our hens’ eggs. We’ve created a list of links to get you inspired to cook with as few ingredients as you can, in an effort to streamline your shopping and perhaps even focus your cooking on what is in season and what you can get for free in your garden, from neighbors’ gardens and cupboards, and by foraging. We realize foraging is not easy in cities, and may just be unrealistic is many parts of the world. We’ve been inspired by a few books on the subject and this article by Mashable aggregates a lot of resources for those who’d like to try their hand at urban foraging.

The staple ingredients we buy usually in bulk at the store are sweet potatoes, black and pinto beans, dried chickpeas, lentils, falafel mix, flour, tortillas, rice, flour, and pasta. From these ingredients, we can make hundreds of varied meals.
3-Ingredient Meals
We also like to make meals from as few ingredients as possible. For example The Greatist has a list of 3 ingredient meals and many are paleo or gluten-free if that’s you thing. The New York Times has curated a list of some of their best 3-ingredient recipes.  Liesl’s husband, Pete Athans, has his own great pot of beans recipe (dried beans in the slow cooker) which he’s known to do about once a week. This pot of goodness lasts several meals, from bean soup to enchiladas, burritos, chili, and refried bean dip. This means no need to buy canned beans. So, with fresh tortillas and a little salsa, those beans can do much good in your kitchen. And, be sure to save your bean water, when you cook beans, because that goodness can be used in many ways to create yet another meal for you! 

Store your bulk food in glass jars
Reuse glass jars of all sizes, and source used jars in your Buy Nothing group. Switching to glass is not only pretty, but it means you’re moving away from plastic and small paperboard boxes. If you can get your food in bulk, or at the farmers’ market, putting your items directly into your jars (get a tare weight for each jar from a cashier before filling the jar, so the weight can be subtracted from your grocery items when the price is calculated) you’ll move quickly away from all that plastic and paper waste. Jars work on pantry shelves as well as in the fridge and freezer. Even salad greens stay fresh when packed into jars instead of into plastic bags, and soups and other foods can be frozen in jars if you leave the top few inches empty to allow for expansion.
Build your own BuyNothing Life Board
Your BuyNothing "Me" page is your own BuyNothing Life Board. The photos you share and the stories you tell inspire others to deepen their participation and they can also learn much about you from your page. You can visit other people’s Me pages for inspiration, too, and to get to know them. Post a picture of your pantry with a Buy Nothing tip that you've found useful for your larder. Offering it as a gift or gratitude for you community builds connections and joy.
Continue on your journey through the Buy Nothing Home.
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