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Efficient Pantry Stocking for 1

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 



I'm living by myself and need some help in finding what groceries to purchase and how to consume them entirely. For example, I made a stew out of a 3.5lb roast. This can last me a couple of days. I used half a large onion, a few sticks of celery and a couple of carrots. The unused portions of my veggies typically go to waste. I can't spend a great deal of time cooking because I have to clean and well... take care of life things like laundry and such. I'm looking for advice anyone has to offer to help me maintain my pantry and fridge. I know restaurants and large families can easily finish a head of lettuce, I however can't seem to.

post #2 of 14
I would consider making large quantities of food and freezing portions then play with recipes in your spare time. I cooked a lot when alone.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Dang... You're right. I don't know why I didn't consider that. I'll try freezing the large leftovers! That will help a lot. I just need to find out how long stuff will keep now.
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
This link helped me understand the basic rules of freezing/thawing and has a great chart at the end that will help me in planning when to consume what.

post #5 of 14

Buy dehydrated veggies or frozen ones to cook with if you don't use them fast enough. I use carrots and celery as munchies so I clean/peel/cut them into sticks and keep them in baggies. Will last for a week if you wrap them in a barely damp paper towel. Plan meals that use the same ingredients. Make stew them maybe roast chicken with roasted veg as an example.

post #6 of 14

Stocking a pantry efficiently is a different question than what to do to use up fresh vegetables before they rot, which seems to be your main concern.


You can make that lettuce up into salad all at once that will keep in the fridge for the few days it takes to eat it. I keep mine in my salad spinner wrapped in a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. It's not a bad habit to have to eat salad with your dinner. Take out and dress what you need each night. Keep a basket of those little grape tomatoes on hand to slice into the bowl. Almost any other raw-and many cooked--vegetables you have hanging around can be added to a salad to make it interesting. So can bits of fresh or dried fruits and nuts or seeds. Chop a little bit of those carrots and that celery into it, while you're at it. Or cut the carrots and celery into sticks so they are ready for you to take them to lunch with you. I know it's boring, but they won't go to waste.


Celery and especially carrots keep for quite awhile and are the basis, with onions, of a lot of good things to eat. Heck! Trader Joe's charges a good bit for 1 lb containers of pre-chopped mirepoix. You can use those three things as the basis for almost any kind of soup. If those veggies are really getting on, turn them into vegetable stock to freeze for later use. Almost any aging vegetable you have on hand can be added to the pot for stock. You could add that half-onion. Or add them to a chicken carcass or two to make chicken stock. (I freeze my roasted chicken carcasses until I have 2 or 3 saved to make stock.) As for that onion, I probably would have just ignored the recipe and put the whole thing into the stew.


How to stock your pantry beyond the very basics, like sugar, flour, pasta, rice, oils and vinegars will depend a lot on what you like to cook and eat.

post #7 of 14

Personally i love fresh ingridents and go to the store two or three times a week at least. Im not sure what kind of stores you have where you live but i find i have the best luck at health food stores and ethnic markets, they have more loose produce. The health food store near my apartment has loose salad greens, and bulk dry ingridents so i can get only what i want.

I find that pasta and rice are nice pantry items, easy to cook and you can dress it up however you want. When i comes to having leftover vegetables and meats i always make stir fry or fried rice, its quick easy and delicious!

On the other hand you can buy frozen and dehydrated everything, that way you never have to worry about things spoiling.

post #8 of 14

With a 50 mile round trip to the store I plan my meals 7-10 days at a time and buy what I need each trip. The soup suggestion is a great way to use up extra veg that would go to waste. carrots a little soft? Still good for soup or even making a veg stock.

post #9 of 14



The longest lasting lettuce seems to be romaine, especially if you get only the hearts.  


Some more long lasting veggies are: Beets, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, celery root, and jicama, which can all be shredded to make into salad or slaw.  Broccoli, and cauliflower also last almost a month in the fridge.  


Super long lasting greens are seaweed.  Like seaweed salad and norri.  That stuff seems to last forever.


When I am cooking for myself I often make a veg roast by coating a mix of whole veg in salt and oil and putting it in the oven for about 2 hours.  It takes a lot of the work out and I still get fresh veg :-)   


Here are some pictures of seaweed salad and slaw:



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post #10 of 14
I sometimes have the same problem when I buy more than I need or if I end up going out instead of cooking. I got tired of throwing out veggies so I bought a small dehydrator and now when I have something that looks like it may go bad before I use it I will just dehydrate it and store in a mason jar until I am ready to use. This works really well if you make soups and stews. I do it for frozen vegetables that are getting close to freezer burn or ice chunks as well. In fact I started buying bags of frozen green beans to dehydrate and use as a crunchy snack.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 

Wow! I didn't expect such helpful and enthusiastic responses. All are great ideas and help me in having some foresight in meal planning. I went grocery shopping last night and picked up a fresh batch of produce. I picked up a 3lb pot roast which was made into stew last night. When I get home from work I'll portion off and freeze the remainders. I plan to make a batch of gazpacho to use up some more produce tonight. I think I'll freeze the leftovers of the gazpacho as well. Hey - it's a cold soup after all right? I have a chicken that I'm considering roasting, stripping and freezing. I didn't pick up lettuce but it wouldn't be a bad idea. It also gives me a medium for using up produce, as was mentioned. I'm sure eating the excess produce as a work-snack would be a pretty healthy thing to do as well. I guess I'll be after two things in the immediate future, a good method for roasting and a nice vinaigrette. 

post #12 of 14

I'm a recent convert to Molly Stevens's method of roasting a chicken--which is almost a non-method, it's so simple. I got it from her book All About Roasting, which I love, but the recipe is also on her website.


Basically, the trick is to salt the bird 8 to 48 hours before it goes in the oven and leave it uncovered or very loosely covered in the refrigerator so the skin gets nice and tight.




I also like Jacques Pepin's way, which requires turning the bird a couple of times;


Here's a video:




I'd offer to help with the vinaigrette as well, but I would only be roughly guessing at measurements, which would be no help at all.



Good luck!

post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

So I roasted a chicken for the first time in my life using Molly Stevens method cited above and little bit of mirepoix. I salted my 3.5 lbs chicken 24 hours before roasting. I was surprised at how ridiculously delicious it was. It made me want to do it again, soon. I saved the carcass and the trimmings of my mirepoix and stored them in the freezer in separate ziplocks. I think after I roast a second bird I'll make stock with what I have.  I've went out to eat twice last week. Its nice to cut back.

post #14 of 14

Yay! I'm so glad it worked well for you! Congratulations!

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