We could have made it a bit further, but ... Armageddon Pantry Challenge must end!

In the end, all that separated me from an empty tub of flour was a batch of waffles and a pie crust. And now the Armageddon Pantry Challenge is over.

For those of you who might not remember or are just reading about this weird experiment now, my husband and I have been living off the food in our pantry since March 1. During the challenge, we could only purchase dairy products and fresh produce at the grocery store and we lived off the stored food in the freezer and pantry.

Finishing the challenge is a bit bittersweet. Honestly, we decided to be done (or “stop the insanity” as someone else around here put it) at Day 100 for a few reasons. We have house- guests. Did we want to subject them to this experiment? Not really. We’d probably end up cheating. A lot. And if I served any more rice and beans, there might be a mutiny. Seriously.

Even though I estimate we could have survived another 60 days on a mishmash of pantry food, we were just done. Someone around here was tired of eating expired food (remember the pudding incident?), and we were starting to crave things, such as chicken. We were dangerously close to running out of coffee and vodka, which could have turned ugly.

Finishing the challenge with food still in the pantry was a bit anticlimactic, I must admit. In the beginning, I pictured finishing with one can of olives, a few grains of rice and the expired can of SPAM our friends left here as a joke. At some point though, it needed to be done. And when we made our staples last 100 days through creative cooking and innovation, I considered that an accomplishment.

But truthfully, I feel like we reached our goal of seeing if we could last on our reserves for a long time. (Yes, “long” is a relative term, but I think 100 days is a long time.)

I’m thankful for all the interest and support we’ve received from you, dear readers, during this challenge. Hubby especially appreciates your comments like, “Your husband must be a very patient guy,” and, “You’re still married?!” But mostly I tend to get similar questions so I’d like to answer a few of those here.

How will you re-stock the pantry?

Well, we haven’t decided what to fill the pantry with yet. I know that when we do fill the pantry again, it needs to have more staples and less junk that someone bought because it was a good deal (cereal, anyone?). For the record, hubby finally admitted that more than 20 boxes of cereal for two people is excessive.

My first post-challenge trip to the grocery store on Wednesday was bizarre. All the choices were so overwhelming. I stared at things we didn’t even need and wondered if we wanted them. After wandering aimlessly down a few aisles, I retreated to my familiar perimeter of the store and skipped the middle.

Surprisingly, during the first trip, I only bought a few items that were not sanctioned by the challenge. Flour and sugar, spices, tortilla chips, a chocolate bar and a loaf of bread on the discount rack. (Oh, the day-old bread discount rack! How I’ve missed you!) I spent less than $90.

Now, this shopping trip didn’t “re-stock” our supplies. I know you’re wondering how much that might cost. I think a few hundred dollars would probably cover the dry goods, but if we decide to fill the freezer with half of a cow or something that would probably be closer to $1,000.

Did you cheat on the challenge?

Well, there was this one time. On Day 99, I was so mentally finished with the challenge that I was weakened by one, three-word text from a friend. All it said was “pizza and cocktails?” Yeah.

Well, needless to say there was a take-out pizza involved, and I’m not proud of it, but it was sure delicious. We put the pizza box of shame in the trash can and hoped the neighbors didn’t see it.

The contraband gelato that hubby introduced is still in the freezer. Strangely enough, now that we’re finished, we don’t really want it.

I found an empty soda bottle rolling around in hubby’s car. I suspect there might be a desk drawer full of chips at his work, and that coworkers may have been slipping him contraband. But I can’t criticize him for that.

I had a friend give me several chocolate bars and the same friend gave hubby ham and turkey lunch meat for his birthday. Yes, that’s what the challenge does to you. Friends give you cold cuts as presents and you love them for it.

Was the challenge hard? What did you learn from it?

Yes and no. Yes, it’s hard in the sense that I had to plan meals carefully, be resourceful and have a certain level of self-control. We weren’t starving or anything. It just wasn’t what we wanted to eat sometimes. This is a very first-world kind of problem to have.

I learned how to make a lot of new recipes and appreciate spices. I ran out of cumin, coriander and black pepper. That was a very sad day.

How did I stick with the challenge? I thought about stories of starvation and hunger during hard times. I thought of Oliver Twist wanting more gruel. I re-read “Little House in the Big Woods,” where the highlight of Laura and Mary’s existence is hog butchering day and they delight in roasting the pig’s tail and playing with the inflated pig’s bladder. Perspective is everything.

Honestly, the challenge taught me to appreciate food more and the effort it takes to prepare something worth eating. And I have a new respect for people who purposely stock their pantries for emergencies. I’m flattered by those of you who joined in with your own pantry challenges, and I’ve loved hearing your stories.

Any suggestions on my next experiment?

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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