I’m trying the Empty Cupboard Method

It’s getting near the end of April and we only have $20 left in our grocery budget. Situations like this usually lead me to open the fridge multiple times hoping more food will appear and when it doesn’t, I dramatically yell “we have NOTHING to eat!” We’d normally be fine with $20 left, but we went over our entertainment budget by $30 this month (oops) so I’m hoping we can stretch the groceries we currently have and not buy anymore. We can  afford to go over budget but I just don’t want to let this become a habit. On top of that, we’re supposed to bring some kind of dish to a bonfire with friends from bible study and we’re making Dave’s parents dinner when they come to visit on Saturday. Dave’s brother & his wife are also coming to visit on Sunday, but we’re going to a Thai restaurant downtown. I’m hoping my readers and/or Pinterest will help me come up with meal ideas (hint hint) or I’ll try the Empty Cupboard Method.

I learned about this “Empty Cupboard Method” from a fellow blogger at Free Money Wisdom. For an entire week every other month Jon makes meals from neglected food still lingering in the cupboards. I thought I’d try this out since I’m cutting close to our grocery limit. Here’s what I found:

Bread crumbs
It’s hard to use a lot of bread crumbs because I normally just use them to coat meat or sprinkle on top of dishes.
Dried egg whites
My mother-in-law gave this to me to use in a recipe for a mousse pie she said was amazing. I was excited to make it at first, but then realized that neither Dave nor I really care for moussey stuff. We’d rather have a hunk of chocolate. I think the bottle cost $8 so I’ll probably end up giving it back to her when they visit unless she reads this post and gives me some ideas 😉
Split Peas
I’ve said “I need to figure out what to make with these” quite a few times over, I don’t know, the past TWO YEARS. I obviously used it for something because it’s open but now I don’t know what to do because I can only think of split pea & ham soup but warm-soup season is coming to an end with this warmer weather.
Pretty Pasta
This was a wedding gift, which means it’s two-year anniversary is also coming up. Whoops. It looks so cool, why haven’t I made it yet?
Balsamic Vinegar, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar
I didn’t buy these; they were given to me by a friend who was moving away had to clean out the kitchen. I haven’t used the red wine for anything yet. I still have half a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette in the fridge, but I’d like to made my own dressing with this bottle because it looks expensive and would probably taste wonderful. Apple cider vinegar…hmm…I’ve put a couple tablespoons in a stew and a soup before.
Other items: 2 pounds of frozen chicken in the freezer, fresh and frozen broccoli, frozen spinach & fruit, cereal, pancake mix, oatmeal, quinoa, canned corn, a few bananas, nuts, spaghetti noodles, pesto (I was going to say spaghetti sauce then remembered we used the last jar this week), one can of tuna, a pound of red skin potatoes, a loaf of bread (plus PB&J), and a block of cheese.

Now what?
Here’s my tentative game plan- We’ll have cinnamon banana pancakes for dinner tonight (fun note: Dave’s work provided Potbelly’s for a lunch & learn yesterday and I get a free lunch from Panera Bread for a lunch & learn today! Yay free food!). Thursday’s dinner will be grilled tuna melts with steamed (previously frozen) vegetables on Thursday. We’ll buy a few bell peppers to toss with some Italian dressing, leftover cucumbers and the pretty pasta for the bonfire. We’ll serve my in-laws some kind of pesto/breaded, baked chicken with toasted almonds and some balsamic roasted red skin potatoes. Sunday will consist of a cereal, oatmeal, or PBJ lunch until our Thai dinner. If we practice self-control, we’ll have leftover Thai food for dinner on Monday since it’ll still be April. BOOM. I guess those split peas will linger around a little longer. Yay for cupboard cooking, let’s hope it works!

Have you ever tried meal planning with food that seems to linger in your kitchen?

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Author: budgetforhealth

Jessica is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget for Health!

5 thoughts on “I’m trying the Empty Cupboard Method”

  1. I was wondering what you were going to do for your parents. It looks like you’re a pro at this!

    We had a ton of frozen spinach in our freezer, and then my wife made different types of soup – mainly split pea, and various beans – now we only have 2 bags left.

    The soup is great because it’s just lentils & split peas, spinach, shredded carrots, and water. Then she’s made soup with random beans with split peas as well.
    Khaleef @ Fat Guy, Skinny Wallet recently posted..100 Push Ups Challenge: Round 2 – Fat Guy

    1. hmmmm we decided we wanted to make them our favorite black bean salmon dish…it was $20 for all 4 of us lol so we DID stay under our grocery budget. We just sucked up a slap on the wrist and took the extra money we spent on entertainment out of the monthly amount we put into our 911 fund. This month will be a lot better. I love making soup but summer is coming quick and it’s too hot now! We also refuse to turn the A/C on because we’re cheap, so that’s also another reason I don’t want to have soup haha I could cook it with my body heat

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