Saturday, August 27, 2011

Empty the Pantry Challenge

In the last couple of months, my brother and his family, my brother-in-law and his family, and our close family friends have moved away.  It has left us with a big hole in our lives, and and overflow of "pantry" items.  You know, those things that you might have used once or twice? Those big and bulky, unusual items? The ones you wouldn't want to pack up and take with you if you were to move?  We've all got 'em somewhere, whether it's a half empty bag of egg noodles you've forgotten about at the back of the cupboard, or that wheat bran you bought for something or other a year ago.

When they moved we inherited a motley assortment of interesting items from each of them.  While I was wondering why on earth they even had such items ( easy blend flour...what will I use that for?), it got me wondering just what was buried in my own pantry??  Turns out, I have just as many unusual things!  Most of the time, these items represent a waste of money.  Either I didn't know they were there, so I bought it again, or I used only a small amount of a large item, or I just didn't think of using them, leaving them to sit in the pantry and go to waste anyway.

So, I decided that it would be fun to challenge myself to use these items.  Some were easy. Baking items like icing sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and food coloring will all get used up with no extraordinary effort on my part.  Extra bag of egg noodles?  Just have a pasta dish for supper.

One of the inherited items I found most entertaining was sunflower seeds. You know, the ones you use for baking that are already shelled? From one household, we got three separate containers of them (clearly I am not the only one who does that haha!).  From the other household, I got a bulk bag the size of a four liter milk jug of them.  What's up with all the sunflower seeds?  I did find a neat sunflower seed bread recipe.  Shawn and I liked it, but the kids gave it mixed reviews.  Besides, using the one cup that the recipe calls for, I'd still be ages using them all up.

I was POSITIVE that I had seen three bags of poppy seeds in there, I must have thought I was out and bought them on some occasion.  I remembered a wonderful poppy seed cake that a friend of mine made recently, and called her for the recipe.  When I got out the ingredients to bake it, I realized they were sesame seeds! Haha!  When I told the friend about my mistake so we could share a good laugh, she suggested a recipe she has for granola bars that calls for both sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.. two for one!

I also inherited a bulk bag of slivered almonds that must weigh five pounds.  I can think of a few good ways to use them up, like putting them in beans,  baking them in cookies, and candying them.  I'm always open to new recipes, though, so if you have a neat one for almonds, let me know!

In my pantry, from a previous try at homemade granola bars, I had a bag of wheat bran.  I have no idea what I am going to do with it ( the old recipe was a bust, and it's not called for in the new one)!  Coupled with the wheat germ I inherited, and the wheat berries I always have in there, I have a lot of wheat parts!  Any good ideas out there?  Bread or something?

The partial bags of chocolate chips, raisins and dried cranberries will probably get tossed into the granola bars.  I might even toss in some of the random sprinkles and decorating sugars I have left over from previous baking projects.  The duplicate bags of cinnamon will get used up easily, but what about that bag of cinnamon sticks? Any suggestions?  The saskatoon jelly will get used up, but what about that jar of sauerkraut?  I must admit I have never ever tried the stuff, and didn't think I was missing out.  But, I'm willing to be adventurous if someone can tell me what I am supposed to do with it?

It turns out, easy blend flour is for things like cheese sauces and gravies, helps keep them from getting too lumpy. Huh! Cool, who knew?  So far, my empty the pantry challenge has been fun.  I'm thinking it might also be fun ( and just plain 'ol a good idea) to do an empty the freezer challenge, or an empty the cold storage room challenge!  I'm sure there are lots of items going to waste, and creating clutter in those areas too!

So, what would you do with these items? What's the most unusual thing buried back there in your pantry?  Dare you to try this challenge too!


  1. Hey, let's see! Sunflowers, and misc nuts/berries would be great in a fudge or brittle type item. Sourkraut mmmm my ma has a great recipie for pork hawks (sp??) with potatoes. Making me drool as I type. I had more suggestions but I can't remember. Lol

    You will have to come over and see the renos and I can pass them on.

    Ttyl kylee

  2. I know this challenge all to well from moving so many times!! 2 or 3 months before any move I start to pay attention to what we have and build meal-plans around those ingrediants, but ask my former neighbors and you will hear about the bags upon bags of things that were still leftover on moving day.

    As for wheat germ and wheat bran - I use them almost daily when I make bread - just replace any amount of flour with them to add taste, texture and nutrition to your homemade yeast bread.



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