Eating Seasonally from the Pantry : How I do it

Seasonal eating makes a whole lot of sense, especially when you're trying to become self-sufficient.  Eating seasonal food means that you source your food essentially from two places : produces being harvested from the garden or nature during a specific season, and preserves from your pantry or freezer that comes from the previous season. But there is also all the imported products that are worth including in your meals, like citrus during winter, for example.

As fall comes to an end and we're slowly transitioning to winter, our root cellar is full with fresh winter squashes, pumpkins, beets, carrots, onions, leeks and potatoes.  On the other hand, our pantry is full with jams, applesauce, salsa, vegetable broth, tomatoes, beans, as well as fermented and pickled vegetables.  In our freezer, there is spaghetti sauce, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, haskap berries, bananas, green beans, corn and pesto.  And finally, we have a variety of dried herbs and fruits of the summer and fall harvests.

Now that the pantry is full, it's time to use all this goodness!!  At this time of the year, we have fresh root vegetables, onions and pumpkins coming out of our ears.  I've worked so hard, I don't want anything to go to waste.  Since we still have a lot of fresh produces to eat, I have to plan my menus around ''what needs to be eaten NOW''.  Today, I want to share with you my method for planning my menus from the pantry.  I'll even do the exercise along with you.

1. What NEEDS to be eaten this week?

The first thing I always do when planning a menu for the week is going through our fresh vegetables and take out everything that is starting to soften or that has spots on that I don't like.  You know what I mean!!

 Then, I look at what we have in the freezer and in the pantry.  Is there anything that has been there for a long time and that we should consider eating this week?  Are there any opened jars in the fridge?

2. What did you pulled out in ABUNDANCE?

Now that you know what needs to be eaten this week, you must find a way to incorporate those ingredients into your menu.  Start with what you have the most of.  If you have 8 potatoes, you might want to plan a mash at some point in the week.  If you have a big pumpkin that starts to soften, you could either make a soup or a dessert (or both if it's really big).  It's totally fine to plan your side dishes before your main dishes!

I have a ton of pumpkins that are starting to soften (2 amber red, 2 winter luxury pies and 3 delicatas), as well as 12 small beets.  Those are my abundant staples this week.  Therefore, I'm going to put beet and lentil burgers with a side of delicata fries on my menu.  The extra beet burgers are going to be frozen for next week.  I will also use the amber red pumpkins to make a soup.  The broth and tomato paste will also be put to use in this recipe.

Have too much of something?  PRESERVE IT!
For the winter luxury pie pumpkins, I have too much to use for one week.  I need to make pumpkin purée,  use some for a dessert and freeze the rest in portions for later use. 

Amber Red Pumpkins

3. What else did you pulled out?
We found ways to use the abundant ingredients needing to be eaten ASAP.  Now, we need to do the same with all the other ingredients calling for our attention.  This is the time to be creative!  There might be a leftover of cooked vegetables or a mash, maybe some cooked grains, maybe a cup of broth...whatever it is, we need to find ways to use it ALL!

With what I have on hand for this week, it would be a good idea to make a small curry (to use some of the cauliflower, potatoes and mushrooms), a stroganoff (with the rest of the mushrooms) and enchiladas (to use the salsa, and the tortillas).  The pesto mayonnaise will be used in sandwiches, along with the black olives, and the rice will be used for cabbage roll filling.  Cabbage rolls will be served with roasted butternut squash and a potato mash.

OK, now I'm still left with some cauliflower and a bunch of parsley.  I'm going to roast the florets and serve it cold with a lemon vinaigrette and parsley.  That's gonna be our side dish with our sandwiches.  

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas with Cashew Sour Cream

4. Put your meal ideas in your menu template
When putting meals on a weekly calendar, take these 4 things into consideration :

-Are there any events this week?  Birthdays, holidays, anniversary, meeting, appointments, sport events that you need to plan meals around?
-What day can you spend 2-3 hours to meal prep? You need time to make bread, one or two big meals and cut the vegetables for the rest of the week.  We're meal prepping once, but we're still cooking a bit throughout the week.  
-Are there going to be any leftovers? Yes? Put them in the schedule or plan to cook something with them.
-Are there anything to be preserved?  Yes? Take note.

5. Fill out the blanks
Once you've put your meals on your menu, you're still left with lots of blanks.  Some meals are missing and you need to figure out what sides you'll serve.  We didn't talk about breakfasts nor snacks at all.  You'll want to figure that out in advance too.  Try to use your apple sauce as well as your frozen berries in your breakfasts.  You should try to incorporate your frozen vegetables in your menu as well.

Start from the top : What do you have in abundance in your pantry and your freezer?  BE CREATIVE!

I have a lot of fresh carrots, frozen corn on the cob, frozen green beans, frozen haskap berries, salsa, english muffins and applesauce to compliment our meals.

Look at the weekly flyers for specials at the grocery store.  I look for specials on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, spices, tomato products, etc.  And I think to myself : what can I cook with these ingredients this week/month?

At this time of the year, in in the market for citrus, avocados and fresh greens such as spinach and brussels sprouts.  When I can find brussels sprouts on the stalk, I buy 4.  Then we can eat fresh brussels sprouts for a couple of weeks and freeze the rest.

This week, we bought clementines, lemons, brussels sprouts and a big piece of ginger.

This is how I plan our weekly menus.  Mainly sourcing our food from what we have available in the pantry and what is on sale at the grocery store, we manage to eat seasonally.  I prioritise staples that are abundant in our pantry to plan our meals.  The objective of using this method is to reduce waste, follow the season and be more self-sufficient. I hope this helps you with your meal prepping.



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