No, I don't keep my emergency fund in a box of Saltines. What I'm referring to is that stash of food you forgot you had that can greatly reduce your grocery bill for at least a week, if not a month or longer. You may be so used to seeing the same cans, boxes, and bags each time you open the cupboard that your brain no longer processes them as viable meal components.
To use up the stuff in the pantry, freezer, or fridge, I like to first take inventory. That means actually pawing through everything I have and writing it down (or throwing it out, if I know I'll never use it). Once I've made the list, it's much easier for me to see exactly what I have, how ingredients I already have can work together, and what else I might need to buy to make a complete meal. If I don't get enough ideas from just looking at the list, I'll go through a cookbook or two and pick out recipes that use a lot of ingredients I already have.
Sometimes you have to eat stuff you don't love for a few days when you decide to use what you already have (after all, if it were one of your favorite foods, you probably would have already eaten it), but I don't mind the sacrifice once in a while when I see the significant decrease in my grocery costs. On the other hand, if your pantry is anything like mine, sometimes things get pushed to the back and you're thrilled to discover that you have a box of white cheddar Cheez-Its you'd forgotten about.
Photo by R. B. Boyer
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