Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Day 25: Grocery Free Challenge Update

I can't believe that our family has been Grocery Free for almost a month.

For the past 25 days, we haven't done any grocery shopping (with the exception of perishables and a small bit of fresh produce) and instead have been eating from our stockpile. When I conceived of this money-saving experiment, I anticipated that after a few weeks in, we'd really be struggling to have tasty and nutritious meals.

But I was wrong. The eating has been good. While we have relied on some tried-and-true meals, we've also discovered some new favorites. I would guess that we have another two week's worth of great meals left in our fridge, freezer and cabinets before things start getting dicey and bland. Or before we have to start eating what my toddler would call "yuck food."

All that said, I must confess that I wasn't completely grocery free this weekend. We attended a family Fourth of July picnic at the lake, and I was tasked with bringing a festive dessert for the kids. I decided to make cupcakes, decorated with red, white and blue icing and candy stars. I had nearly everything I needed for my cupcake flag -- cake mix, milk, eggs, butter, the candy decorations -- but I was running low on powdered sugar for my homemade buttercream icing. So, I had to buy a one-pound box to mix up my frosting.

I'm not sure that I count that box of powdered sugar as a cheat or a failure in the Grocery Free Challenge. This challenge was meant to test my ability to feed my immediate family using ingredients we already had on hand. There was nothing in the rules about cooking from the stockpile for a big family get-together. Box of sugar or not, I think I did a pretty good job whipping up a dessert using groceries already in my stockpile rather than selecting a recipe that would have necessitated a trip to the store. (Which is what I would have done in the past, I will admit.)

I wish I could say that pulling my potluck contribution from the pantry saved me time or put me ahead of schedule. But it didn't. Thanks to a busy holiday weekend packed with fireworks, pool time and other fun family activities, I was frosting cupcakes at midnight Sunday morning.

This week also stands to be an interesting one in terms of the Grocery Free Challenge. My inlaws are coming to town on Wednesday for a few days. I have our menus planned for the week, and they know about the challenge. But those plans may get sidetracked. My mother-in-law likes to cook some when she visits, so she may be planning to serve up something for which we don't have the ingredients. I'll try to dissuade her from doing that, but a mother-in-law's will can be strong.

The inlaws will be bringing us a bounty of food from their garden, and I'm very excited about that. My sources tell me that we'll be noshing on homegrown tomatoes, lettuce, okra, cucumbers, squash, radishes, green peppers and maybe more with them.

Don't you wish you could have dinner at our house?

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