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MARGARET PROUSE: A week without shopping

Guardian columnist Margaret Prouse successfully challenged herself to prepare meals for a whole week – maybe more – without buying any new groceries except milk and bread.
Guardian columnist Margaret Prouse successfully challenged herself to prepare meals for a whole week – maybe more – without buying any new groceries except milk and bread. - 123RF Stock Photo

Columnist makes the most out of what’s in the freezer and on the shelves

Margaret Prouse
Margaret Prouse

Am I the only one who spent an extraordinary amount for groceries during the holiday season? I wanted to be sure we had lots of good food on hand to serve while we had company and to have enough variety that we could be flexible depending on the situation.

Naturally, we didn’t use it all, and January finds us with lots of food in the fridge and freezer.

I have been inspired by a sewing website called Sew Your Stash, in which the founder of the site, and others with similar inclinations, refrain from buying new fabric until they have sewn what they have on hand (their stash).

There’s an idea that can be applied in other situations, such as the one in my kitchen. Why not, I thought, challenge myself to prepare meals for a whole week – maybe more – without buying any new groceries except milk and bread?

To meet the challenge, I had to overcome my habit of grabbing a bundle of reuseable grocery bags and going shopping on the weekend. There is a saying that you eat with your eyes; I also shop with my eyes. I can go into a grocery store to pick up a litre of milk and, influenced by tempting displays of appealing foods, leave with two big bags stuffed with purchases.

However, last weekend I didn’t shop that way. My list was short, and I stuck to it. I had been able to plan an entire week’s menus, three meals a day for seven days, using just what we had on hand in the cupboards, refrigerator and freezer. The menu plans consist of meals that we enjoy, not of makeshift dishes prepared by throwing together assorted leftovers.

Dinners for this non-shopping week are Egyptian red lentil soup, served with mini pitas; baked beans with molasses and bacon, with a side of crisp carrots; chicken dinner with potatoes, dressing and carrots; quiche made with eggs, bacon, cheddar, and green onions, with a cucumber salad; old school tuna casserole made with broccoli, onions, broad noodles and homemade cream sauce topped with crumbs and melted cheese and served with red cabbage slaw; meatballs in sauce (no, not homemade) with rice and kernel corn and, finally, homemade pizza made with grated mozzarella, tomato paste, red peppers and olives. There are also additional vegetables – beets in the fridge, squash and cauliflower in the freezer and canned tomatoes on the shelves to add extra vegetable servings to meals.

I like this homemade whole wheat pizza dough, and it’s easy to make. Instead of buying pizza sauce, I stir a little water and minced garlic into about 15 mL (1 tbsp) of tomato paste and spread on the prepared crust before adding toppings.

Big Batch Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Adapted from Chuey, Patricia, Eileen Campbell and Mary Sue Waisman: ”Dietitians of Canada: Simply Great Food”. Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2007.

2 pkg (each 7 g/ ¼ oz) instant yeast

500 mL (2 cups) whole wheat flour

250 mL (1 cup) all purpose flour

5 mL (1 tsp) salt

2 mL (½ tsp) granulated sugar

375 mL (1 ½ cups) lukewarm water

2 mL (½ tsp) olive oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt and sugar. Attach dough hook and mixer bowl to mixer. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add water; knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Turn mixer off and pour oil down side of bowl. Set to low speed for 15 seconds to coat inside of bowl and cover dough lightly with oil. Remove mixer bowl and cover loosely with a clean damp tea towel.

Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Punch down dough and cut in half to make two balls. Place each ball in an airtight freezer bag and store for up to three months or roll out for immediate use.

To roll out, place dough ball on a floured work surface and form into a circle. Roll out until dough reaches a 30–38 cm (12-15 inch) diameter. Pierce dough with a fork before adding toppings.

Makes enough dough for two 30-38 cm (12-15 inch) pizza crusts.

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at

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