Operation ‘Use It Up!’

September 30, 2016

I’m planning more and wasting less and feeling much more mindful about my choices. It’s quite empowering

A few weeks ago I dug into the pantry looking for some vanilla paste and somewhere in the middle of pulling everything out onto the countertop, I realised I had a problem.

There was a LOT of stuff in that pantry – and there were also multiple copies of some items hiding away behind each other.

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A quick inventory told me that – among other things – I had six cartons of chicken stock, four packets of red curry mix, three packets of flour (two plain, one self-raising), four cans of coconut milk, three tins of tomato (I don’t eat tomato) and a range of odds and ends that I’ve bought to use in preparation for a dish long eaten and forgotten.

Stocking up for a zombie apocalypse

Now none of the items were past their use by date. I’m pretty good about doing a quick check of expiry dates. But honestly, why should that be necessary?

Who needs six cartons of chicken stock in their lives? The shops are open every day till late. There are several places within walking or short driving distance. It’s not like there is going to be a national shortage of the stuff any time soon.

So why was I stocking up like there was a forthcoming zombie apocalypse?

I need a plan

A review of my shopping behaviour made me realise how often I go out without a real plan about what I need.

Wandering the aisles aimlessly and wondering what I’m going to cook for dinner only leads to poor decision-making and purchasing things I don’t need.

And those, “two-for-one-special-price” deals are obviously something I’m susceptible to. If I see a special offer on something I know that I use often, I get it – but how much of a surplus of something do you need just because it was a tiny bit cheaper?

Taking action

So I took action. Enter ‘Operation Use it Up!’. Now:

  • Cooking decisions have been based around items I already have on hand. One of the cartons of chicken stock became cauliflower and potato soup. Another made a delicious bacon and mushroom risotto that fed me for several days. I made a cake with plain flour and added some raising agent and then I whipped up cheese and corn fritters with some pre-bought cans of creamed corn.
  • I found websites that made recipe suggestions based on ingredients I already had and got a bit inventive in swapping out ingredients I had on hand for other items I didn’t.
  • I made much-needed changes to my shopping behaviour. A brightly coloured notebook now lives on the kitchen benchtop and I make a list before I leave the house of exactly what I need.
  • If something is on a two-for-one special, I only buy if there are no stocks left at home. Unless it’s Lindt chocolate because, well, it’s Lindt.

The benefits of Operation ‘Use It Up!’

Aside from the most obvious benefit of saving money, I’m feeling much more comfortable about the benefits of my little campaign.

Each empty space in my pantry is a sign that I’ve been more conscious of my own actions. I’m planning more and wasting less and feeling much more mindful about my choices. It’s quite empowering.

Watch out…

Now I’m taking my campaign onto other things. I’ve gone through the bathroom and lined up all the shower gels and other items I’ve found for use and no more will be bought until they are all gone.

I’m also going through my Kindle and finding books I haven’t read and trying to get through those before I buy any more – although that might take me a few years!

Have you ever had a similar realisation? And how do you manage the balance between keeping a reasonable stock of pantry items and not overbuying?

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Pita Norris
Pita is a 40-something Brisbane girl who works in corporate communications. After 20 years in communications she still loves finding ways to get her messages across and helping people feel connected to their workplace. She also keeps up with the Brisbane communications community and sits on the board of IABC Queensland, an international association for corporate communicators.

When she’s not writing newsletters, arranging events, or launching campaigns, she’s off exploring the world with her camera and a notebook.