This past August was my very first pantry challenge. Shopping was allowed, but three meals a day were planned for one week at a time, concentrating hard on what we had in the pantry.
In the end we added a couple new recipes to the cookbook (pesto risotto and simple Spanish rice), shaved 24% off our average grocery budget and ate all sorts of random items from the pantry to make room for more real food.
The challenge came shortly after we realized the dangers of hydrogenated oils. This near-plastic lab-created ingredient is in so many different foods, it’s nearly impossible to buy anything and assume it’s safe.
With these dangers fresh on our minds and an urge to clean out the fridge (an inevitable side effect from the challenge), our own version of “Chopped” occurred in our kitchen.
*in my best announcer voice*
Each package was scrutinized.
Nutritional labels were scanned, ingredients listed were read one by one.
Could it survive the challenge of not containing partially or fully hydrogenated oils?!
The test: Did the item in question contain the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list?
The action: Throw the item away. No ifs, ands or buts.
The goal: Rid our house of hydrogenated oils.
The challenge started in the cupboards. As boxes and bags were moved to reveal treasures hidden in the back, each item was given a thorough look over. Here’s what was chopped:
I bought these Special K bars earlier a few months back thinking they would be an easy, portable snack for us while we’re running errands or spending the day away from home. I found them a bit too sweet for my taste, but the kids didn’t mind.
Unfortunately, these contain partially hydrogenated palm kernal oil and thus failed the test. And it’s no wonder why they’re so sweet – there are five different types of sweeteners are listed in the ingredients!
There really isn’t a need for these or any other store-bought granola bars. My family loves my homemade version so I’ll just spend a few minutes and working my arm muscles around those oats in my kitchen.
Ah, the adored girl scout cookie. Are you drawn to those little girls in those cute uniforms who ask oh so sweetly if you’d like to buy a box of cookies? My husband sure is. Imagine his disappointment when we found partially hydrogenated palm kernal and/or cottonseed oil in our favorite Samoas and Thin Mints.
Sadly, the four boxes (some unopened) made their way to the trash can. I held a brief moment of silence for the late frozen Thin Mints (where I was greatly tempted to consume the entire box). Fortunately, there is still hope in supporting our troops (so don’t skip us Stacie & Anna!). Here’s a list of cookies that do not contain this dangerous oil:
- Savannah Smiles
- Trefoils / Shortbread
- Dulce de Leche
- Thank U Berry Much
- Shout Outs
See that red and black canister to the far right? That’s Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Cocoa. Can you believe there was hydrogenated oil in hot cocoa? And in the GOURMET version! I mean, what exactly does the manufacturer gain by doing this? A traditional cup of hot cocoa can be made using unsweetened cocoa, salt, vanilla and milk – and that’s exactly how we’ll be making ours this holiday season.
The Nutter Butter Crème Patties up front and center were leftover from Nana’s most recent visit. These are a favorite of hers, which means she’s given them to the kids and somehow they ended up in one of their take-home-bags (the ones filled with all the completed crafts and treats they made during the visit). I didn’t have the heart to toss them out while the kids were watching me unpack their bags, so the package went into the pantry.
The hydrogenated oils in these patties are actually found in the peanut butter that’s inside the patties. A shame too since these are just so darn tasty!
The 12-pack of Nabisco mini-cookies was a no-brainer. This was also a gift from Nana, although not the most recent (which makes me question how old these cookies are). I knew the Oreos were contaminated and mere fact that the Nutter Butter sandwiches shared the same parent name as the crème patties made them guilty by association. Playing it safe, I tossed the whole box.
My family and I prefer popcorn made on the stove, but there usually is a package or two of microwave for those ultra-lazy nights where standing for 5 minutes truly was longer than I was willing to stand. Want to know how Jolly Time makes butter-flavored microwave popcorn taste like butter? Hydrogenated oils.
The Nabisco Premium Saltines were a shocker. These are almost always in the house for Mr. Crumbs. He rides his bicycle to work three days a week and often needs a little something-something to hold him over until dinner (or dessert).
The Sociables were also a surprise, but they had also expired one year ago so throwing them away wasn’t too much of a struggle.
The greatest damage done happened in the fridge. Nine bottles of plasicky yuck were taking up valuable space on my door. In case you can’t see them well, here’s what was tossed (starting from the back left):
- Marie’s Raspberry Vinaigrette
- Kraft Honey BBQ Sauce
- KC Masterpiece Hickory BBQ Sauce
- Torani Caramel Sauce
- Kraft Ranch Dressing & Dip
- Wishbone Ranch Spritzers
- Kraft Sandwich Shoppe Garlic & Herb Mayo
- Wishbone Spritzers Caesar Delight
I shouldn’t be surprised about the ranch dressing. In fact, I didn’t even know I had it in the fridge when I made this trip and the homemade recipe is SO much better anyway! The spritzers gave me heartburn (which is rare) so I’m glad they’re gone, but I truly enjoyed the raspberry vinaigrette. I held a moment of silence for that bottle as well (actually, I poured the dressing down the drain and kept the jar for my own Italian dressing). A homemade version of BBQ sauce has replaced these and homemade mayo is on my list of condiments to make too. While the fridge lost the most items, we’re lucky their loss hasn’t made much of an impact on our eating.
Not pictured: Nabisco Graham Crackers. These are dearly loved by my daughter so we allowed her to finish the box in the pantry, but we’re not planning on buying them again. I know there are homemade versions available, or other cracker-snacky items (like these Annie’s Bunnies) for a treat after we’ve pumped her full of fruits and cheese. And even if I’m feeling ultra-lazy (or we want to make s’mores while camping), there’s probably a better version available somewhere. I just need to find it!