Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Change the World Wednesday -- Clean out the Pantry


In an effort to further “greenify” our lives, we’re still following the Change the World Wednesday challenge at Reduce Footprints. The challenge for this week was to cook with what you have: in the pantry, the freezer, and the refrigerator.

But it was a busy week. I left for a long, relaxing weekend in Asheville on Thursday morning, so I didn’t have much time to think about (or follow) this challenge. I ended up spending more on food for a four-day weekend than I normally spend in a week. Granted, I brought a lot of it home, but who really needs 4 bags of chips and Chex mix?

Still, I’m challenging myself to not go to the grocery store this week (except to buy lunch meat for Big T, because he sometimes refuses to be as creative as I am when it comes to eating. Or changing the world. Baby steps).

So on Monday, I checked my freezer. Flank steak. Cool. I had a huge box of feta cheese from Costco and some jarred roasted red peppers. I looked online for a recipe and found this recipe for Rolled Flank Steak with Roasted Red Peppers, Spinach, and Feta. Awesome. Except I didn’t have spinach.

This is where you have to get creative. When you’re trying to save the world use up the food in your pantry and freezer without wasting it, you can’t always follow a recipe to a T.

I decided to use basil instead of spinach. But when I went to get my roasted red peppers, they were moldy. Hmmm. I thought I had just bought them. Guess not. I would use sun dried tomatoes instead. And I still had feta. But it seemed weird to spread it all onto the flank steak separately. So I put the feta in the blender with the tomatoes. It was too thick to blend. I had a can of diced tomatoes in the pantry, so I poured some in. Perfect.

The recipe said to slice up the flank steak roll and cook each “pinwheel” separately. Too much work. I stuck the entire log in a bread pan and dumped the rest of the can of tomatoes on top. Done. I’ve included the recipe below. Substitute at will.

While I’m on the subject of saving food, I feel like it’s important to mention that there is a fine line between saving food and saving money. Or maybe it’s a wide gap between the two; I’m not sure. I find that I either use coupons and buy on sale and fill the pantry, but then have nothing fresh to make with all of my staples, or I buy separately just for a few days of meals, but I often buy fresh food at Costco because it is so much cheaper. It costs $5 for a huge box of organic lettuce, and I don’t feel so bad if some of it gets soggy after a week, because it was still so much cheaper than buying it at the grocery store.

I try not to waste food, but it’s hard to cook for only 2 (and a half) people. Big T will only eat leftovers for so long. I’m hoping that after my freezer and pantry have had their makeover, it will be easier to menu plan and buy only what I need. I’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, like I promised, here's the rolled flank steak recipe (with substitutions):

Rolled Meat with Cheese and Red Veggies

(How's that for vague?) 

1 Flank Steak (chicken breast, or pork tenderloin) pounded until thin and as rectangular-shaped as possible
1/2 cup feta cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, or monterey jack)
1/2 cup red juicy veggie like tomatoes or roasted red peppers (you could even use fresh red pepper)
Handful of leafy greens (swiss chard, basil, spinach)

Mix feta cheese with maybe 1/4 cup of the red veggie. You could puree this in the blender, or just with a fork. Spread it on the meat. Layer the leafy greens over it. Roll up the meat and tie with kitchen twine in a couple of spots. Drop it in a bread pan, pour some more of the red veggies over it, and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes (you can easily cut into it to see if the meat is done after 20 minutes).

Voila. Let the experimentation begin.

Share your own experiences: How do you save money and try to waste less food at the same time?


  1. Ok so, I love this recipe because it is exactly how I cook all the time! I recently went two weeks without shopping...primarily to save money. All friends, old and new, are aware of my new obsession with Trader Joe's. Since visiting Charlotte more and a busier schedule, I do my weekly shopping there and buy lots of organic for very cheap and then try not to go to the store for a while after.
    So in the two weeks leading up to our biggest TJ visit in a while, our refrigerator was so empty and our pantry dwindled to nothing. The downfall...had to get milk and HAD to make sure Thomas was eating a well-rounded diet during these 2 weeks, so I couldn't completely avoid shopping altogether. While this #ctww may not be possible all the time, it's good to do this maybe once a month and really cuts down on waste.

  2. Jennifer in CharlestonAugust 18, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    A Trader Joe's just opened in Mount Pleasant and I can't wait to check it out - once September gets here and I can start with a new monthly grocery budget. I've been on a mission to become more frugal, greener, and just more aware of/intentional about all of our family's decisions - from going "poo-free" for my hair (loved your post, Gaby, as I just went off of shampoo 2 wks ago) & toxic-free for my household cleaners to FINALLY getting serious about what my family ingests. So excited about what you're doing w/the blog, Gaby and really really looking forward to catching up with you, Liz next month! Many thanks for introducing me to the "Change the World Wednesday" challenges. I will definitely be looking into this concept.