The Paranoia Pantry

Well, there's no point in getting prepared for a zombie invasion of you never test out out your preparedness plan, right? 

When I first met Mark, a lifetime ago in another state, he was very cute, 32-year-old bachelor who owned his own home. It was the first house he'd owned, and it was as boring as a house could possibly be: On a cul-de-sac, with sidewalks, in a dull neighborhood with small yards. A small kitchen, three tidy bedrooms with almost no furniture, and a small pantry.
After I'd checked the freezer for body parts of ex-girlfriends and convinced myself that Mark was, in fact, legit, and actually was the stuff of legend (a man over 30, never married, steady job, not crazy, good income, and no bizarre sexual fetishes, could actually hold a conversation and WHO WAS TALL AND HANDSOME AND SMART -- seriously, this was too good to be true!), I checked the pantry.

There was NO food.
Three boxes of pasta, and a couple cans of chili.

Well, I wasn't having that. If he was going to own a perfectly good kitchen, and I was going to be spending time there, then we were going to have food.

So we went and bought groceries, and I cooked, and he was happy.

And then he said, "Don't buy too many groceries for the house. If there's food there, I'll eat it."

That blew me away. 

I grew up with nothing.

And I mean that in a literal way. There were times when we had plenty, of course, and a beautiful house and lots of toys and amazing, brand-new clothes.
And there were days when we lived in a hotel and ate pea soup out of a crockpot for three days straight, and we owned nothing except the clothes that we were wearing.
 If there was a pantry, I was going to fill that sucker up.


And there was going to be food in that pantry, and we were going to eat it.

Nineteen year after I met Mark, I have one hell of a pantry.

I have a room that's about 15 feet by 12 feet, in the basement, lined with shelves.

The people who lived here before us called it "the fruit room," but it's really a root cellar. It has a hole in the wall near the ceiling for ventilation, to keep it cool all summer, and it's got a stand-up freezer at one end.

We've lived here two years next month, and I think I've got it down.
We have jars filled with applesauce that I made from apples we picked, either from our trees or from friends. Jars full of blackberry jam, pickles, salsa, green beans and all sorts of other goodies.
The freezer in the basement is full. We've bought an eighth of a beef cow this year, and half a pig. I froze some veggies that I didn't can. And we've had the Gleaners Pantry to give us stacks of corn tortillas and gluten-free tortillas.
I have the house freezer, also full of good food: Soup bones, jars of black beans, frozen veggies from Costco.
And I have a pantry full of spices, potatoes, bags of tortilla chips, sugar, gluten-free flour, some coffee.
It's enough to last us a year, I think, with some satisfaction, and some of the gnawing "it's not enough! We need more," has finally died down.
But now, Mark has lost his job.
And I have decided that I don't want to move. I want to wait it out. I want to live here forever. And to do that, we need to live frugally for as long as possible, to give Mark as long as possible to land another job.
He will probably find one soon -- he's a good engineer, and reliable one, and he has friends up here who are working on it.

But I've decided to test out my preparations, and act as if the zombie apocalypse is upon us, and eat what we have.

From now until June 1, which is about six weeks away, I'm not going to go to the grocery store.

Here are "the rules" I've set for my challenge:

  1. We can only eat things that are from my pantry, from the Gleaner's Pantry, or that I trade for locally.
  2. I can't set foot into any traditional grocery stores, nor spend money there.
  3. Anything I have already is fair game and can be used for trading or eating.
  4. When I run out of something we have, we have to do without. Unless it's coffee and I can't find a place to trade for it. Because then the deal's off.
  5. The two things that are not "in the challenge" are taking my four-year-old for an ice cream once in a while (because I only have six weeks left of ever having a four-year-old, ever, and it's ICE CREAM,) and having a drink or sharing a meal with friends while I'm out (which will probably be twice in the six weeks of this challenge.) For the purposes of our zombie experiment, we will eat every meal at home.

Now, lest you say this isn't challenging enough, since I have access to free produce and a fully stocked pantry, let me explain our food restrictions:

  1. No gluten. This means that all of the bread, doughnuts, pastries and goodies at Gleaners Pantry are not available to us. So once we run out of the two or so loaves of GF bread in the freezer, we're out, unless I make my own.
  2. No dairy. My two boys can't have dairy. So no cheese, milk, yogurt, butter or cream. We will, actually have goat's milk soon, but I don't even know if the boys can drink it.
  3. No sugar, starches or grains. One of my sons has a hard time digesting sugar and starches. So he eats a ton of fruit, veggies, meats and soups. And he hates eggs. Most of the time, he eats things made with coconut flour or almond flour, and those are NOT going to be easily replaceable when we run out.

However, we do have a lot of advantages that makes for a challenge that might actually work.

Our assets:

  1. A fully stocked pantry. Pecans, olives, cans of tomatoes, gluten-free flour, gluten-free oats, sugar, salt, baking soda, spices, tomato sauce, coconut oil, lots of stuff like that. Probably not six weeks' worth, though. We're about to find out.
  2. Canned goods. I have about 200 jars of stuff that I've canned myself. Some of it is stuff that I know we'll use: Salsa, applesauce, jelly, pickles. That will all be gone by June 1. The other stuff? It'll be interesting to see how long we go before we use it. Jars of plums that I was too lazy to pit before I canned them. A couple of jars of chicken meat that I canned as an experiment. Canned cherries that are just a little on the mushy side. We'll see.
  3. Three freezers. There's at least one turkey and one ham in there, and probably about 20 pounds of meat besides that. Hell, that right there is about four pounds of meat per week if I rationed it right.
    Will I ration it right? If I make hamburgers or meatballs the first week, does that mean that it's all soup from soup bones the last two weeks? I have not idea. None.
    We also have some frozen veggies, some freezer-burned tomato sauce, and lots of weird stuff I've forgotten about. But I'm not throwing any of it out.
  4. Eggs. Lots of eggs, every day. Probably about 10 a day, easy. So we could survive on scrambled eggs and custard alone, if the sugar holds out.
  5. Milk. We will have a goat that has babies in just a few days. If we don't manage to kill her or her babies through our bungling as new farmers, she should have milk to give every day. Can I do anything with goat's milk? I have NO idea. That's another wild card.
  6. An herb garden and a regular garden. I don't know what will be ready in six weeks, but I know I already have chives, parsley, mint, oregano and some other things coming in.
  7. Pecans. My aunt has a pecan farm. She just sent me a big box of pecans. Since they were here before the challenge started, I have no qualms about trading pecans for other goodies. Like coffee.

And that's where we are. The challenge started tonight. Pasta, sausage, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and some canned tomato sauce. It was delicious. The only thing I'd bought at a store was the GF pasta.
Tomorrow, we'll see how it goes!

Meagan McGovern