A Week Without Groceries, Part II

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Like Amanda, I've been trying the "Eating Down the Fridge" challenge and haven't been to the market all week. Before I describe how it's been going, though, I have a wee confession: I planned ahead and bought a few extra vegetables last time I went shopping, knowing that otherwise I'd be completely veggieless this week—unacceptable. I'm a bit of compulsive planner; I usually map out the whole week's menu, then buy only the produce I'll need. So, for me, the biggest challenge has been winging it without a schedule.

Breakfast was a cinch. I inherited my father's habit of buying two kinds of cereal at a time and mixing them, so I had plenty for the week. Lunches have also been easy; I usually eat leftovers from the night before, plus a couple of clementines from the never-ending box I bought a while ago.

The first night, I reached way into the back of the cupboard for some matzo ball mix that has followed me through at least one move (I checked for an expiration date, but there wasn't one so I figured it was safe). I cooked the dumplings in a simple soup with some chicken broth, carrots and celery, and tossed together a salad with my last bit of lettuce and orange bell pepper. The soup wasn't quite like Grandma used to make, but it felt good to finally use it up.

Tuesday I decided to use some of the half-jar of tahini I had in the refrigerator for a sesame-broccoli pasta. I was going to try to improvise something with a Greek or Middle Eastern flavor, but I wasn’t sure what to include other than tahini and lemon juice (anyone have suggestions for the next time I try it?). Maybe that was all I needed, but I lost my confidence and went with a recipe. I found an Asian-inspired one from Cooking Light online that called for tahini, soy sauce, chili paste with garlic, rice wine vinegar, ginger, honey, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, all of which I had on hand. It was pretty yummy, and the leftovers gave me two lunches.

Wednesday I defrosted some leftover chicken cutlets. My first plan was to use up the jar of pesto I had in the fridge, but—surprise!—it was moldy. So instead I cooked them up with a recipe for lemony chicken meuniere from Mark Bittman, which required only cornmeal, seasonings and lemon juice. On the side I made a baked potato and some asparagus.

Last night I decided to finally use the masa harina (corn flour) I bought a few months ago on a whim but didn't know what to do with. I made some corn tortillas, which was easier than I would have thought, although my first batch fell apart on the griddle. I had been following the directions on the package, but a quick look at a Mexican cookbook suggested mixing the flour with hot water, not cold, and letting the dough rest for a while. I sautéed some ground turkey I had defrosted, mixed with some onions and spices. I even tried adding a few cardamom pods—another impulse purchase—inspired by the chili cook-off winner I wrote about a few days ago, but I couldn't taste it. Topped with hot sauce, cheese, tomatoes and avocado, though, these were some pretty tasty, if not entirely authentic, little tacos.

With only a couple days to go, I feel like I have enough in the cupboards to last at least another week. I’ve decided to start planning one meal a week or more to use something that has been languishing in the cupboard or fridge for a while.

Has anyone else tried this challenge? Any successes, failures or suggestions you'd like to share?

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