We are nearing the end of August already, and my partner and I are enjoying what turned out to be a surprisingly fun and enlightening challenge.
Last Saturday, we did a big shop in one of the larger grocery shops around (which, for us, means that we spent almost 1000 NOK or ~$100). They had 30% on all fruit and veg, so we went a little mad. Fun things like blue Congo potatoes (still haven’t tried them, looking forward to it!) and special varieties of kohlrabi that you used to only be able to get in the north, but whose popularity is making its slow way soutwards, all made their way into our basket.
With all this food in our fridge and pantry, we thought to ourselves “how long can we live on this food?”. So that’s exactly the challenge we set ourselves.
Our original dinner plan was for one week. We passed that point yesterday and we have only been through about half the dishes on our original list so far. The first week, it was all about using up the greens that spoil first. Things like rocket, kale, and some awesome-but-wilty purple carrots we got as a moving in gift. Now we are moving on to the things that store well, like sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, beets and potatoes.
Despite our self-imposed halt on grocery shopping, we have been eating very well. I am a bit of a food hoarder by nature, and I like having a stocked pantry. This means we have a generous amount of things like flour, sugar, lentils, beans, seeds, rolled oats, canned tomatoes and coconut milk to substitute and stretch our fresh vegetables with. It is also berry season, and my partner has been spending almost every lunch away from his writing desk going up into the forest to pick blueberries. We have also found several stray bushes of red currants on the wayside, which made several glasses of jelly and squash (and the drained berries have been turned into red currant chips/leather, which was a surprisingly good snack). The best think so far has probably been the meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) squash, which has a delicious complex flavor and not at all as sweet as most berry-based squashes. The season for meadowsweet is over now, but next year we will make at least twice as much. It is delicious!
In short, we have used up almost all our sugar on our fun adventures, and it has been worth it without a doubt. I don’t normally use a ton of sugar, so it has been a bit of a shock to see bag after bag poured into the large pots of raw juice for preserving, but it helps to think that this will hopefully get us through a big part of the winter without needing much store bought supplies. I don’t have any illusions that it will pull us through all of winter. Partly because I have not preserved on this scale before, and partly because we just moved across countries, and our stock of jars and bottles is small but growing. Come next year, it will be a different game!
But back to our food-based challenge. As you can tell, we have actually enjoyed not allowing ourselves to go to the store. We have even gone to the lengths of satisfying our snack urges by slicing and frying potatoes for chips. An educational reminder of just how much oil goes into that crispy snack. Plus, having to actually get up off your butt and make a snack before you can enjoy it certainly also raises the bar for how much you want it before you actually go through with making it. I have also tested a no-knead (or self-knead) method for bread baking in Miyoko Schinner’s book: The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples, a cookbook that quickly rose to be one of my favorites in my tiny but growing selection of vegan cookbooks. It was ridiculously easy, and the results spoke for themselves!
The one thing that inspired me to write this post, however, was my partner’s delicious carrot and onion pie.
To understand my mini-epiphany, you first have to understand that when we make pie, it is usually an over-the-top thing based on “how many tasty things can we stuff into this one pie shell?”. Less than five different fillings were rare, and while these pies were certainly tasty, this simple version with onion, grated carrots and a generous helping of oregano and some other spices was delicious. It was simple, and the flavors were allowed to speak for themselves, not fight with each other for attention.
In short, this simple pie was much better. We appreciated the ingredients a lot more, and it left a lot more room for many different pies later, where previously, with our “chuck it all in there” approach, all the pies tended to taste much the same.
I have really liked our attitude to food this past week. It really has been a positive “how can we optimize what we have?” versus “we need x to make y, let’s head to the shop.”. We still write an ongoing shopping list whenever we notice that something is running low, and I think it will make for a denser and more efficient shop when we do go.
But for now, we have more than enough fresh veg to last us for at least another week. We can probably stretch that even more too, by making simple staples that require little fresh veg like lentil soup, lentil loaf and more delicious pies. I am decidedly making more bread next weekend too. Why buy a boring loaf when a homemade one is not just super easy but tastes at least ten times better and you know exactly what’s in it?
This is fun! Right now, we have a very different attitude to food than we had just over one week ago, and I really hope it will stick. Our appreciation for how we use our food has increased a lot, and we have learned a lot at the same time. Of course, we hope to grow more and more of our food ourselves, which would also reduce how often and how much we need to shop. We’re not there yet, but there is rocket in the windowsill and chives on the porch.
Could you go a month without going to the grocery store?