food

No grocery shopping or meals out: How I lived off the contents of my pantry for a week.

I’ve always prided myself on being pretty money-savvy when it comes to food. I love grocery shopping, cook most meals at home, prep work lunches, and rarely buy fancy ingredients. While I don’t set a grocery budget, the amount I spend is generally pretty low.

Or so I thought.

How to make 21 meals with only $70. Post continues below.

Video via YouTube

Each time I use my bank card, however, my phone pops up with a judgmental handy notification telling me how much of my hard-earned money I have spent that month.

In January, it told me I had spent over $450 on groceries. FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS. On GROCERIES.

To try to ease up the impact on both my bank balance and my conscience, I decided to spend one whole working week living off only the food that I already have in my kitchen.

Zero grocery shopping, zero meals out, zero spending.

Here’s what I did

I excitedly began by emptying everything out of the cupboard. And let me tell you, for somebody who doesn’t keep frozen meals stockpiled in the freezer and generally has ‘no food in the house’ at the end of each week, I had SO MUCH MORE than I expected.

Here’s what I was working with:

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What I'm working with. Image: Supplied.
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  • Coconut milk
  • One can of diced tomatoes
  • One can of chickpeas
  • Peanut butter
  • Protein powder
  • Oats
  • Penne pasta
  • Risotto rice
  • Some dry bread (yum yum…)
  • A bit of old cauliflower, pumpkin, asparagus and lettuce (do these… go off? Must check)
  • Cheese
  • Two brown bananas
  • Three mini tortillas leftover from taco night last week
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Some frozen gyozas

What I ate

Snacks: For the most important meal of the day (snacks) I used oats, peanut butter, protein powder, honey, and splash of water to make protein balls for snacks during the week. I’m a snacker, and there is zero chance of me surviving a week at work without something to nibble on when that 3pm boredom hunger sets in.

Breakfast: This was by far the easiest meal. I had almost a full bag of protein powder (shoutout to the half-price sale at the supermarket last week), frozen fruit and oats, so I could alternate between smoothies or porridge each day.

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Tapping into my inner health blogger. Image: Supplied.

Lunch: For my first real meal, I decided to make pasta with a very basic chickpea tomato sauce. I ~jazzed it up~ with olive oil and spices from the cupboard, plus cheese on top. Fancy? No. Free? YES.

If-youve-got-pasta-and-sauce-youve-got-a-meal-2
If you've got pasta and sauce, you've got a meal. Image: Supplied.
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I had half a can of chickpeas leftover, so the next day I mashed them with some salt and pepper to make a sort of chunky hummus… thing to go in a sandwich. I sprinkled on some cheese and the whole thing basically looked like vomit until I put it in the jaffle maker at work. My pathetic soggy sandwich went from ZERO TO HERO and I suddenly remembered that basically anything tastes amazing toasted.

Me and my new best friend. Image: Supplied.

Since I had a massive bag of arborio rice in the cupboard, I decided to use all the veggies I had to make a big risotto for the rest of my lunches. I then promptly remembered that I am awful at making risotto. I had way too much rice, not enough veggies, and it was just very… gluggy?? I threw in an excessive amount of grated cheese, which somehow made the whole thing taste like glue, but at least I got three meals out of it.

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This tastes about as good as it looks. Image: Supplied.
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Dinners: Dinners were… hit and miss.

One night, I roasted up my scrappy cauliflower with a bunch of spices, and used it as a taco filling with lettuce, cheese, and some avocado and aioli that I found in the fridge. The whole thing was *chef’s kiss* and I spent the rest of the evening contemplating whether I missed my calling as a chef on Ready, Steady, Cook.

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The tacos taste better than they look I promise. Image: Supplied.

Later in the week, I remembered I had half a tin of diced tomatoes left over from pasta on the first night, so I decided to cook this with lentils to make soup. In hindsight, I would absolutely not recommend this on a hot summer night, unless you’re particularly fond of profusely sweating over the stove and both before, during and after eating.

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Possibly my favourite dinner was premade frozen gyoza, which I guess is a bit of an insult to my own cooking abilities, but whatever.

On the final night, I was VERY excited to find a potato in the fridge (possibly the most depressing sentence I have ever written) and cut it into wedges for roasting. Rather than eat my leftover clumpy lentil soup, I piled it all on top with some cheese and avocado, which I believe chefs call ‘loaded fries’, and I would 1000 per cent recommend it.

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If I bought this from a food truck it would be about $15. Image: Supplied.

Final thoughts

Look. Was this the most nutritional week of my life, filled with exciting and aesthetic food? No.

But was it the worst? Also no, so I’ll take that as a win.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • Olive oil makes everything better
  • I suck at making risotto
  • Jaffle makers are criminally underrated
  • When you think you have no food, you probably do.

To be honest, this was a LOT easier than I anticipated, and I probably could I have made it through another few days.

Because it’s 2020 and this is an article on the internet, it’s important to acknowledge my privilege around this whole experiment.

I was only cooking for myself; but it would have been infinitely more difficult if I had a whole family to feed, or if I couldn’t afford to buy things like protein powder and fruit. For me this was a fun challenge and a novelty, but for a lot of people it’s a reality.

I’ll try to remember that the next time I spend $50 at the supermarket because I have ‘no food at home’.

Feature image: Supplied.

For more from Jessica Bahr, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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