Yesterday I talked about how to clean out your kitchen and to take an inventory list. I mentioned highlighting any irregular items from your inventory and today I’m going to show you how to easily base your meal plan around your pantry.
When I did this last April, some of the items that popped up on my inventory were cherry pie filling, some leftover cream, white cake mix, carrots, peanut satay sauce, coconut milk, raisins, and canned clams. There were some more obvious choices on using up some items but other items had me stumped. The clams I used in clam chowder and the cherry pie filling I used up in a quick bread.
For the raisins I went to one of my favorite sites, foodgawker. I knew I wanted a raisin dessert or breakfast item so first I searched raisins and then I chose desserts and breakfast under category on the second screen.
I had 10 pages of results but on page 3 I found a perfect recipe that used both raisins and carrots: carrot cake! On the same page I also saw Hot Cross Buns. Since I was doing this in April, Easter was right around the corner so both Hot Cross Buns and carrot cake were perfect for my menu.
Another site I like to use is food.com. I figured both the coconut milk and the cake mix could be used in a dessert so I used the site’s recipe sifter tool.
Under filter by ingredient I typed “coconut milk” and checked the green arrow to add it to my sorter.
I repeated the process with “white cake mix” and then I had just 13 recipes.
The most popular recipe was a Tres Leches Cake that not only used my coconut milk and cake mix but also used up most of my extra cream too. Bonus!
For sauces like my peanut satay, I wanted to use it all up and quickly. I was working on this all last spring so I was into grilling a bunch of meat. I took several pounds of chicken and coated it all in the peanut satay sauce before throwing it on the grill. I froze a bunch of it and over the next few weeks I had traditional satay chicken, satay pita pockets, and grilled chicken salad with satay dressing. If you don’t want to be overwhelmed trying to eat up a single ingredient, freezing is definitely the way to go.
The best part of cleaning out your pantry is how few items you’ll need to buy for your many meals. I just added the extra ingredients needed to complete my recipes to my restocking list from the cleanout. For 20 days the only items I had to buy from the store were milk, some fresh produce, and bread. It was a great way to save money and you can do it every 6 months if you’re anything like me.
How about you–what are your best tips for making a meal plan from your pantry?