Motivation Monday – The Grocery Game?

Part of me wants to accept the MILLER FAMILY challenge. Let  me back up…

Wouldn’t it be fun to just try to go through EVERYTHING in our cupboards?

As a professional runner living in a small town, I can “run” most of our errands. If I need to meet with a sponsor who is in town; I’ll run to meet them. I’ve found most meetings can be done via Skype or FaceTime.

We also live very simply, so there’s not a lot of running around that needs to be done. We don’t have kids, which simplifies things GREATLY, and I can do most from my home computer – YAY doing pretty much everything online. I’d like to think I’m not dependent on a car. In fact, I’d love not to have to have one at all, actually :).

Saturn, I THOUGHT I needed you, but I didn’t!!! Well, maybe… (Secretly, I still miss you… a LOT… there was one in the dealership lot we went to Saturday, but Nate wouldn’t let me look… tear… I apologize!!!)

Now, 3 weeks into my no-car adventure, there have been just two times I’ve had to borrow a car (for appointments). Thank you, Craig, for helping!! I’d like to think I’d only need a car for sporadic appointments, but there’s one other thing that I’ve found I need a vehicle for…


It’s a good thing I have a little more time to be creative with food. Our pantry has become more bare as time goes on with me operating sans-car. Our fridge doesn’t really have any thing for “quick snacks” (Nate did pick up a container of Greek yogurt for me for Valentines day, though, so that has been a lifesaver!).

Tonight’s meal is grilled cheese (Nate also bought bread on his latest trip) and a noodle soup with all of the random vegetables in the fridge I could find. Because we had just 2 ounces of leftover chicken to add to the soup, I added a can of pinto beans.

It was actually pretty good, but I can’t imagine the quality/flavor of our meals to come…

So, you’re wondering, what is the MILLER FAMILY challenge? What is this? What does this have to do with you?

What it is: My best friend in high school went through (endured??) a
period of time where her mom decided to forgo grocery shopping/spending
money on food
. They would eat whatever they had in the fridge/pantry/had

My best friend started to say things (complain?) the second week (!!!) because they had gone through their milk supply and her mom wasn’t going to buy another gallon. At the time, I didn’t really know what this meant.

Honestly, I don’t know how long the MILLER FAMILY challenge lasted. Perhaps she will find this and comment here. But it’s something that has always been on my mind as something that would be “fun” to do. Nate will kill me…

But again, I could be creative, right???!!!???

We don’t have kids, we have meat frozen downstairs in the freezer… 

Reasons to do it:

To finally use all the *crap* cans, boxes and random stuff we have in our pantry. Some of that stuff has been there for years…. I should probably just throw it away…

It would be a fun adventure!!! At least, that’s the way I would think of it… Nate might not agree…

It would force me to be even more creative with meals, which could be fun (or awful, depending on how you look at it…)

Reasons to not do it:

It’s not like our food bill/week will go down dramatically (after averaging receipts)– at least I think? It will in the short term… but long term?

Our grocery bill the first week out of the challenge would be outrageous, which scares me.

Plus, there is something nice about having a pantry with options in it….. although something fun about making something from nothing…

Alright, need comments/suggestions here. Bad idea? Good idea? Fun adventure? Done something similar? 🙂

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  1. Lynn Rosetto Casper from "The Splendid Table" radio show used to do a segment (maybe she still does) where a caller gives her three random items from their pantry or fridge and she creates a menu. Maybe you should put all that 'weird' stuff into a pile and try to use a few of them every week until they are gone. Might lead to some creative meals and free up some pantry space. Here's my first challenge: pickled plums, canned crab (I have three huge cans?!), and bean threads (don't even really know what they are–noodles?). I think I have an Asian menu in my future….Good luck! -AO

    1. I've heard that show every once in a while on NPR! Maybe I'll be calling in next month :). Pickled plums? Dear goodness, I hope you either really like them OR they somehow just appeared in your house (and you didn't actually pick them off the shelf and say, "Wow! Think of all the things I could make with this or how awesome would these be eaten alone!" 🙂

    2. I have been inspired by your post this week. I have a huge, walk-in pantry and have been identifying items that need to be consumed. So far I have made a delicious barley and mushroom 'risotto' and I have a batch of applesauce/bran muffins in the oven. Looked into the pickled plums (umeboshi)–sounds like I need to use them like I would apple cider vinegar, likely for a dressing. I think I bought these after taking a Japanese cooking class many years ago. Now I gotta figure out those weird bean threads. Happy eating! -AO

    3. Yay! Maybe we can swap our awesome meal stories. I laughed out loud at the "I think I bought it after a cooking class many years ago". Yep, sounds like they should be used UP! 🙂
      Can I come over for a muffin? That actually sounds great!!

  2. I've been trying to do this in a modified way since we moved to our new house in July–e.g., make sure the cans/boxes in the pantry really are rotating. It is fun to figure out what to do with that random can of lentils, or use grits instead of rice, etc. But if I tried to just eat from the pantry right now I'd be super un-balanced since most of it is grains, nuts, or sugar-based products. So, a great game until your meals become minute rice, corn bread muffins, and crackers. I have noticed, though, that the bulk of the groceries I purchase now are vegetables and I replenish the pantry items only as needed. When you start getting to the bottom of the box/can/package, it quickly becomes a habit. Have fun!

    1. Good point in it being fun until the only things left are pantry items – hadn't thought of that (now seems like "duh!"). I'll think of you when we make corn bread muffins. I'm thinking I'm going to have a small weekly budget for vegetables and other fresh items (not even sure what dollar amount to say… $10-15? Is that too little?) so we're not going crazy. Also, then we're still eating healthy and balanced, which I guess is sort of "important" 🙂

  3. Fun adventure its interesting to see what you can make with random stuff, if you are good at it. Our friend Grace could whip up the most awesome things and I was you made that of out just that?? Maybe you will come up some good recipes and send them my way (who would of thought of cream tuna on toast would ever be good lol) I can't wait to read your blogs if you decide to go down the path, you can always decide to go back!!

    1. You'd want some of my recipes? HA! I'll make sure they have a lot of vegetables in them, not from a box, super healthy. Just for you 🙂

      (FYI for other readers: this is my sister, and we always give each other a hard time about our eating habits. She's a chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, pizza, fast-food lover, I, obviously, am a little different :). We give each other a hard time regularly :).

  4. I think you can find a happy medium. If I have an item that needs to be used up, I plan a meal around that item–or 2 or 3 items. I will Google: quinoa + cucumber + black beans and see what the results are. I often luck out and only have to buy 2 or 3 items from the store to complete the recipe. This is how I meal plan. I have a pretty bare fridge and panty, to my husband's disliking, but I don't feel like hardly anything is wasted.

    1. Do you meal plan on the weekend for the week, then? And just make 1 trip to the store? Or more "go with the flow" – I feel like this – and then find a recipe? Perhaps while at work so that you'll hit up a store on the way home? I'm assuming you're meal planning ahead of time, but just curious?

      My only thing with that is that some days I just crave a type of food/cuisine/etc. Perhaps this wouldn't be an issue, though?

    2. When I do meal plan, I plan everything out on the weekend and then make one stop at the grocery store for the week. But honestly I rarely make meals during the week. I'm bad. . . .I just don't have the time. By the time I do my second workout for the day, pack my lunch, stretch/foam roll/etc., it is time for bed. You could always pick out 4-5 meals for the week and then make what you are craving that day.

  5. Yay, I'd be up for experimental meals if you end up with enough food for 3, or if you need an extra ingredient that I have around. Nate would probably appreciate it if you waited until after the Birkie to kick off this challenge I'm guessing.

    1. Sounds good! We need to get back into our "weekly meal" routine! If you're willing to try anything, I'm willing to cook!

      PS – I should grab the CSA application link (or form?) from you? I'm really excited about it!

  6. Hi Nichole, I barely remember my mom instituting this, but I believe you as I trust your memory more than mine. My college roommate & I attempted to do the same thing a few times since college; it's always a good challenge. It's just nice to either eat or toss out the food gathering dust in your cabinets or frost in your freezer. And you do come up with creative recipies you wouldn't otherwise try. You should definitely do it…and let me know how it goes 🙂 Love you, Jeri

    1. JERI!!!!!
      I can't believe you don't remember this. I'm trying to remember how old we might have been/what grade. 10th, perhaps? I remember you eating cereal with water for a while (until the cereal ran out). You were ALWAYS hungry, and really looked forward to our Taher school lunches 🙂

      You can tell your mom that she inspired me, though :)!

      PS – How are you?!? How was Europe????? 🙂

  7. What a cool concept! I did something similar a while back and tried to use up what I had in the pantry. I picked a box/item that had been sitting there for a while and then tried to plan a meal around it to use it up. (while also trying not to buy anything besides fresh produce that I'd need to complete the meal – i.e. no new spices or other pantry items) I would definitely make sure I budget for some fresh produce/protein though or you may find your running suffers a bit from all of the carb-heavy (or processed-heavy) foods you are using up! 🙂 Also, be sure to check the expiration dates!! Ha! 🙂

    1. Yeah, that's what I think I'll do… a weekly small budget for items to complete a meal (I can only buy things if it means getting rid of something that's been in the pantry for a while. I'm actually really excited to clean out the freezer… it'll give me a good excuse to defrost it! I don't know WHAT I'm going to find in there, though :).

      HA, yep, okay, will check expiration dates :). Perhaps I'll take a picture of the oldest one I find :).

      Others (AO?) that are doing this with me could join in on that contest! 🙂

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