Take a look in your pantry, particularly in your spice cupboard. Pull everything out, and take a good look. How much of this stuff do you actually use, really?
If you’re like many people, the answer is “surprisingly little”. I know I’ve certainly got a few extra things hanging around in there.
Now, you have this stuff. That means (usually) that you bought this stuff. It’s a pretty rare bird that shows up at the grocery store and buys spices all willy-nilly (although that does sound fun, now that you mention it!)
So why do you have it?
It probably has to do with a cookbook somewhere. Or a recipe card in the meat aisle at the store. Or some well-intentioned friend telling you about how great a particular recipe tasted.
At some point, a recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom. You dutifully scampered to the store, and gosh – the 3 oz jar is a much better value than the 1 oz jar, so that’s what you bought.
And there it now sits, on the counter in front of you.
Since much of this stuff was bought with no plan for handling the extras, much of it goes to waste.
Most of us hate waste; we particularly hate wasting things we spent good money on.
So how do we get a handle on this?
Pick A Couple Of Core Cuisines
Unless you have an unbelievable amount of money and space, you can’t have it all. If you really like Mexican and Italian, focus on those two.
Pack Your Pantry
Stock up on the staples. You’ll know what a staple is because it will keep showing up in recipes – keep those things on hand!
Add Any Favorite “Must-Have” Dishes
If there are any other dishes you really like, examine them for ingredients that are common to what you have in your regular stock. Consider substituting ingredients that you have for ones that you don’t (red onion for white onion, for example). Then make a note of the extra ingredients you need to make your other favorite recipes.
Be On The Lookout For Creative Add-Ons
You might see a recipe that calls for a bunch of things you already have, plus a poblano pepper and a can of white hominy. That’s safe enough – once the recipe is made, the pepper and hominy are gone and not taking up space anymore.
But Be Careful What You Allow In!
Now that you generally know what you eat (plus or minus a bit), and you’re looking for interesting ways to jazz up the menu, be careful what you buy. If a friend tells you about a fantastic dish that she makes, maybe you could arrange a meal swap rather than buying six things you don’t have on hand (and may never use the leftovers of). Or try something at a restaurant before making it at home if you’re unsure – if you don’t like it, you’re money ahead in the long run!
This is very similar to decluttering a home. And, just like decluttering a home, it will yield some wonderful benefits in the way of available space and peace of mind.
Oh, and if you do this right, you’ll be a solid step closer to substantially reducing your food waste – and as Jo likes to say over at SimplyBeingMum, no waste tastes great!
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