Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pantry Orphans

I've mentioned a few times that I've been doing the Marie Kondo method of tidying.  (I'll probably do a blog post about the whole experience at some point.  I have lost my momentum at the moment.) According to Kondo, food counts as clutter and you must examine and toss your unwanted food the same way she wants you to throw away the clothes that don't spark joy.

Throwing perfectly good food in the garbage, doesn't seem like a smart thing to do, however, I did find all kinds of random foodstuffs cluttering the shelves.  The only way to get rid of it was to eat it, so I grouped all our "pantry orphans" on the dining room table and planned our weekly menus around them.

OMG, this picture is so terrible, and I can't recreate it because we have eaten most of this

Here's what I had to work with:
Oyster sauce
Half a bag of egg noodles that Seamus brought home from Germany
Rice noodles
Can of water chestnuts
Half a bag of black-eyed peas
Slivered almonds
Half box of lasagna.  (WHY can't there be lasagna packages that are just enough for one 9 x 13 pan?)
Can of anchovies
Small bag of mung beans
Quarter of a bag of butterscotch chips
Jar of roasted red peppers
Can of Campbell's tomato soup
Rosewater - noticed later that it expired a year ago.  But it can still be used as a "linen spray."  Bonus!
Chocolate "liquor sauce"
Pomegranate molasses
Partial bag of marshmallows
Asian egg noodles
Home-canned jam in mystery flavor
Home-canned pickled peaches
Home-canned pickled green beans
Home-canned chutney--jars and jars of it
Nutritional yeast
Korean hot pepper powder
Asian garlic/chili paste
Wisconsin mustard that I brought home from business trip
Whole wheat pastry flour (WHY did I saddle myself with this?)
Tiny amount of rye flour

So I realized that listing what I cooked with these things is actually even more boring than the list itself.  I made lasagna with the lasagna?  Genius!  In the end, we ate a lot of stir fries, a beef-Campbell's tomato soup-egg noodle dish that my mother used to make, hoppin John (with the black-eyed peas), and assorted cookies to use up the raisins, nuts, and the whole wheat pastry flour.  The marshmallows were so stale, we threw them away.  The rye flour, I incorporated into a pizza crust, and the jar of roasted peppers went into some delicious French-inspired baguette sandwiches.

We still have a few things we haven't eaten, such as the mystery jam, which I think is cherry butter.  I seem to buy a lot of condiments and sauces, which is super-wasteful if you buy them for one recipe and never need them again.  I need to stop doing that, although at this point, fish sauce and other Asian condiments have become staples in our house.

Rounding up and eating all the pantry orphans was a satisfying little project.  It felt like an accomplishment and it taught me a few things about my food-buying habits.  What would your pantry orphans be, if you went looking for them?


  1. As kids, we made a game of playing with the oddly shaped, exotic seeming orphaned canned goods in my Grandmother's pantry. I have no idea how long that minced pie and plum pudding were in there, but I do know we thwarted a few attempts to get rid of them as they were our favorite 'toys'. I swear, if I ever come across a tinned mince pie, I will buy it just out of sentiment.

    I try to not have pantry orphans and have been working steadily on getting rid of freezer orphans. I do have a few jars of chutney though, leftover from canning classes that I was asked to teach specifically on chutneys. I think I might just dump them and reuse the jars, as none of us care for the chutney.

    1. I have a lot of freezer orphans to deal with too.

  2. Whole wheat pastry flour is actually awesome. It's not gritty, the way regular whole wheat flour tastes, and you can use it half and half with white flour in any quick bread recipe to up the fiber content without compromising flavor. I use it all the time!

    1. Cool! I have only ever seen it in recipes for sad, whole wheat desserts. For a while, I was using a hippie cookbook from the 70s, so I think that's why I bought this flour.

    2. I use whole wheat pastry flour in just about everything I bake, except of course, chocolate cake.

    3. This is really good information! Someday when I go shopping again, I will look for it!

  3. I like this idea and may give it a try. The author's ideas appeal to me and I look forward to more posts from you on this.

  4. Patience, thanks for your comment on my blog where you note that you like Anthony Trollope too. Are you on Facebook? There is a friendly group there, Anthony Trollope Society and I am a member. Check it out if you are on FB.

  5. My pantry items are mainly refrigerated things like Thai red curry paste, oyster sauce, and different kinds of hot pepper pastes. Things I use once a year and keep throwing out and buying over and over. Marie Kondo would be disgusted.

    1. I have a lot of Thai curry paste too. I don't even like Thai food all that much.

  6. Toast the livered almonds in a dry frying pan and sprinkle over ---anything, really. Rescues rather bland food...

    1. Good to know! I still have half of the bag left to eat.

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  8. We're Konmari-ing around here, too, and have done the whole kitchen--except for the food. We don't have a lot of pantry space , though, so there isn't *too* much room for orphans to multiply. If I run across some weird can or bag or jar, I put it on the counter until I've figured out how to use it.

    1. I think that's key-to keep the item visible so you don't forget about it. I found a can of pork and beans (something I would NEVER buy, I don't even know how it got there) in the back of my pantry. It had expired in 2007.

  9. Ah, those pantry orphans. I like that term and we have the same problem every year when we clean the kitchen. I should borrow this idea and USE them up next round like you did!

  10. Great idea! I love that term "Pantry Orphans" and boy, do we have some here! Ever since my husband took over the shopping and cooking, the glass doors of our pantry cupboard show an ugly mish-mash of items. I try to keep the spice shelf looking decent but I've lost control over everything else. Granted, he is better at using up odds and ends (and he's the more creative cook) but I hate not being able to find things.