Though recent temperatures suggest an Indian summer, September had me ready to pull out the Crock-Pot, fire up my oven and generally get ready for my favorite hearty food season. I perused my pantry to make sure I had staples. Staples, I did and in multiples! Spices, canned goods, dried goods, condiments and more, some that I have collected with the intent of using at some point in time. A time

that had not yet come…

It was time to purge my robust pantry, but not by simply throwing it out. No, I challenged myself from this moment on I would use everything in my pantry until it was gone. Here are the rules:

  1. Inventory everything and throw out only foods that are expired or rancid (grains, nuts and flours are the

most susceptible).

  1. Menu plan around ONLY what is in the pantry.

  2. Grocery shop ONLY for perishable items and, when needed, additional non-perishable items that support the menu created from the pantry items.

Yes, I practice this inventory management generally, but never with the intent of purging my entire pantry. Now, those bags of beans I have been hording, the stacked cans of tomatoes, the forgotten jars of unopened cumin and the collected varieties of rice, can be turned into some fabulous tagine, stew or side dish with the help of some minimal shopping. Ultimately, much like life, letting go allows space for

something new and different.

First on my list was something easy and familiar, chili. Following the rules, my inventory showed I had all of the pantry ingredients. Two large cans of stewed peeled plum tomatoes, one can of tomato paste, two cans of red kidney beans, chicken bouillon, bay leaves, dried oregano, chili powders (regular and chipotle), ground cumin (too much cumin) and

ground coriander.

With all of the pantry ingredients for my chili at the ready, all I needed was ground meat, aromatics (garlic, onions, jalapeño), some carrots (SCHOP! Tip: Grate carrots into any tomato-based dish to counterbalance the acidity) and chili fixings (sour cream, cheddar cheese, cilantro, scallion). Before heading to the store and following Rule #3, I shopped my freezer for any ground meat. There, amongst the remainder of my birthday cake and various other items, I found two packages of ground chicken (about 1.5 pounds) I had seasoned and plastic-wrapped tight before storing in a freezer bag (air pressed out), awaiting their moment. This discovery made shopping brief and easy.

I was soon enjoying a hot bowl of chili over basmati rice (another of my pantry collections) and feeling curious as to what new dishes my pantry holds. Autumn cleaning is in full effect.

What dishes does your pantry hold for you? Please email me with your surprise pantry meal.

Happy eating and thanks

for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook For even more recipes, tips and food musings subscribe to her blog at Follow AmNewsFOOD @NYAmNewsFOOD.