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A Week Without Groceries

Well, I haven't seen the inside of a grocery store almost a week now, since joining the "Eating Down the Fridge" challenge issued by Kim O'Donnel of A Mighty Appetite. By the way, she's hosting a live chat on Washingtonpost.com at 1 p.m. (ET) today, check it out if you get a chance!Are any of you d...

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Well, I haven't seen the inside of a grocery store almost a week now, since joining the "Eating Down the Fridge" challenge issued by Kim O'Donnel of A Mighty Appetite. By the way, she's hosting a live chat on Washingtonpost.com at 1 p.m. (ET) today, check it out if you get a chance!

Are any of you doing this too? How's it going?

So far, I've found it surprisingly easy. Sure, I haven't invented anything amazing, but I've eaten heartily and healthily.

Breakfasts are a breeze. I used the last of my cereal and milk this morning, so tomorrow I'll turn to the pantry stash of quick-cooking steel cut oatmeal and dig out the frozen blueberries. I've got plenty of coffee still, and have been rationing the half-and-half—that's one thing I would really miss. It helps if I make slightly weaker coffee so I don't feel the need to tone it down as much, but that's not a sacrifice I'd want to make forever.

Lunches have been mostly leftovers or eating out (sorry, is that cheating?), although today I brought a small sandwich made by smearing ripe avocado on a roll with a bit of cheddar cheese. For snacks, carrot sticks have come in handy.

Dinner is when I really notice the dwindling supply of fresh produce (now down to a few onions and carrots). But one of the smartest purchases I made early last week, before I even had EDF in mind, was Brussels sprouts on the stalk. I had only intended to buy a few to throw in a side dish, but when I noticed that I could choose between the $3 pre-picked package of perhaps ten sprouts, or spend a dollar more and get a veritable tree, I decided to "stalk" up. Turns out, those little guys can stay fresh and perky for quite a while stored unplucked in a plastic bag in the fridge. I've used them in four meals now, and I still have some left!

Here's what I've concocted thus far:

~Quinoa-based spaghetti from a box, with a simple sauce (a few spoonfuls of jarred tomato and pesto sauces from the fridge, topped with a handful of fresh-ish mushrooms and frozen artichoke hearts sauteed in olive oil).

~Chickpea burritos, a tasty but logistically challenging dish I created by accident, having intended to make a more traditional black-bean burrito. The guacamole was already made before I realized that the only legumes left in my pantry were lentils and a can of chickpeas, so I decided to go for it anyway. For flavoring, I used some canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, a scoop of jarred salsa, and a cube of cilantro (Lisa's nemesis) from the freezer. In retrospect, mashing the chickpeas into something like refried beans might have been a better idea, since those of them not glued to guacamole kept rolling out of the tortillas!

~Spinach fettuccine from the freezer, mixed with a little jarred pesto, and topped with Brussels sprouts (which I cut in half and sauteed in a touch of maple syrup and salt), leftover roasted beets, and the remnants of a hunk of asiago cheese.

~Roasted cauliflower florets (inspired by a simple recipe in the latest issue of Food and Wine) and baked sweet potato fries (inspired by the presence of a sweet potato in my veggie bin, and garam masala in my spice rack).

~Vegetable curry with couscous. Last night I tossed half a head of cauliflower, an onion, a sweet potato, and some of those endless Brussels sprouts into the wok with a jar of "curry simmer sauce" from Trader Joe's. I was too impatient to wait on brown rice, so I cooked up some of the plain couscous I'd found on the discount rack last time I was at the grocery store (20 ounces for $2.50? yes, please!) and added some crushed red pepper.

Your turn!
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About Amanda Bensen

Amanda Bensen is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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