Since the start of the pandemic, my husband has been doing the vast, vast majority of the grocery shopping. I’ve leant the assist with an occasional run to a nearby store (or to the Asian markets where I have a much better sense of what we need), but he’s been responsible for all of the big, BIG trips every few weeks to one grocery store. And for this I am grateful.

Much of the time, he picks up various proteins and then we sort through what to do with each of them: which to eat right away, which to freeze. He usually picks up a few things so that he can cook a few of the meals. Tonight, for example, he grabbed some crab cakes that he could throw in a pan for dinner. Sometimes, I’ll ask him to pick up a few things with a specific meal in mind, but some of the time, at least, I’ll just sort of throw together what makes sense based on what he brings home. (This was especially key towards the beginning of the pandemic when some items were rationed at the grocery store and when supply chains had been disrupted enough that we couldn’t necessarily count on getting certain items. For a while, All Purpose Flour and yeast, for example, were hard to come by.) These issues seem to have been mostly sorted out, but our system of him doing the big trips persists.

This weekend, the pantry and freezer were just starting to thin out enough that a big trip would soon be necessary. But in many, I kind of love this “test” of “how many scroungy meals can I come up with in these waning days of supplies?”

I’d picked up some ground beef and ground lamb from the farmer’s market a few weeks before, so those were easy enough to pull out of the freezer for defrosting. If there’s ground beef, chili is almost always an option, as it’s not hard to be continuously stocked up on red kidney (and other) beans. Sunday, I plucked some cucumbers, peppers, and mint from the garden to go with the lamb meatballs and flat bread that my husband could make on the grill.

Grilled lamb meatballs, onions, and bell peppers from the garden with grilled flatbread and a cucumber, yoghurt sconce. Feta on top. The bread ends up beautifully smoky and chewy.

On Monday, I resorted to a slightly scroungier meal that included frozen vegetables alongside pasta. We had some mascarpone which Eric had picked up on a mini-grocery trip for Ms8yo to make cupcakes. So I sort of had an idea to use up that with some pasta. We were out of canned tomatoes, which I would normally use in a sauce that I was going to cook for a while. But we had fresh tomatoes from the garden, most were small ones that I prefer keeping for everyone to eat “out of hand”, but I needed something for the sauce. Onion and garlic in the pan with a little olive oil, dried oregano, some tomato paste (which I had frozen), tomatoes from the garden (chopped up with the liquid saved). the mascarpone and finally a little of the pasta water. I was quite pleased that I’d managed to make-do like this. The icing on the cake (the frosting on the cupcake?) was that the kids all loved it (I mean, it wasn’t a hard one, they all mostly like pasta dishes).

We still had a little cream cheese in the fridge, so later that evening, I mixed up some dough and then in the morning, after it had risen overnight in the fridge, I shaped and baked some (plain) bagels for breakfast the next morning, which Eric was also able to use for a lunch sandwich as we had been out of bread for a day or two.

Ugly good. These bagels puffed up so much that the holes closed. Still tasty and popular.

This is all to say that this is one of my favorite things: when I am called upon to come up with a meal with whatever we have on hands and the children end up loving it. I like feeling resourceful and I like feeling confident enough in my cooking that I can sort of put together something moderately decent and unplanned.

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