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PamMehnert

Hi, I'm Pam Mehnert

As Outpost's general manager, Pam's work keeps her at the office, in meetings, or in front of her computer more than a simple 40 hours each week. However, her passion as a foodie has driven her to take on this challenge for the culinary experience of...
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Pam Mehnert

Day One - Must Organize

A Year of Inconvenience
For one year, I'm making everything from scratch and forgoing convenience foods. Join me on my journey! By Pam Mehnert on April 19, 2010

Do you see that crying garlic container on the right in this picture? That pretty much represents my feelings as I take each bottle and can of my beloved convenience items and sort them into bags for my local food pantry. This is all good food, actually great food with great flavors from my beloved Outpost Natural Foods. But it’s the food I will do without over the next 12 months as I prepare my pantry for the single ingredients that will take their place.

Reflect on the emptiness

I’m guessing convenience food takes on different meaning to different lifestyles. A lot of my friends think the term means the fast food of McDonalds, the frozen dinners from the supermarket, and the pizza delivery man. Yes that certainly is convenience and millions of Americans eat mostly from that genre while setting foot into their kitchen only to grab a soda from the refrigerator or a bag of Doritos from the pantry. In my mind and part of my lifestyle the meaning is pretty different. I’ve now shopped primarily at Outpost during the past 29 years of my employment here. During that time the natural products industry has exploded with product choices, filling our store’s shelves with the variety of a regular supermarket. From canned beans and soup to chips, crackers, granola bars, frozen veggie burgers, flavored yogurt, and even our own prepared foods and bakery. Someone or some company has been either doing the food prep or cooking dinner so I don’t have to.

I spent Sunday, the first day of my food journey, cleaning out my pantry and reorganizing it to help me try to figure out just how I’m going to do this. And by the way, how did the shelves get so dusty? Actually, a lot of the cans and bottles were also dusty. I was surprised to find the not two, not three, but four packages of taco seasoning. I can’t remember the last time I actually made tacos. I thought, maybe this won’t be so hard after all if I’m not really using all of this stuff. Tossing out the last of my “stinky peas” (a tasty little snack food from the Indian Grocery store) I was ready to move the jars that will store my bulk grains and beans onto the lower shelf.

Ready, set, time to get cookin!

Now what should I make first?

Comments

Pam, you will probably want to get a pressure cooker for the quick cooking of beans. It's amazing how easy using dried beans can be. You just need a little pre-planning. Even without a pressure cooker, most beans only take an hour or hour and a half to cook.Posted by: Annie H | April 19 at 2:16 PM
Thanks Annie - I also heard I can cook them in the slow cooker while I'm at work. It is the planning I'm a bit concerned about. I appreciate the helpful hint.Posted by: Pam | April 19 at 2:22 PM
I wish you a hearty "bon voyage" as you start your journey! We'll all learn something by the end of your inconvenient year, I'm sure.Posted by: Cookie Carol | April 19 at 2:44 PM
Good luck! How exciting! I will look forward to reading about your journey! The crock pot will probably be one of your best friends:) Bringin' it back old school- like our Grandma's did!Posted by: Natalie | April 19 at 2:46 PM
Pam - Congratulations on the first step of your convenience food-free-journey. I agree wholeheartedly with Annie about the pressure cooker. Also try it for rice - I used my grandmother's reliable old pressure cooker to make the best brown rice.
P.S. I can't stand the cuteness of Sad Garlic Face!Posted by: Lisa F | April 19 at 2:55 PM
Wow! What a very cool project! I'm looking forward to your journey it how it may just inspire me.

I would start easy...lentil dal with chappati. Lentils are great because their cooking time is so reasonable.
Posted by: Christina | April 19 at 3:25 PM
Hi Neighbor!

I have always wanted to do this. I am especially guilty of buying convenience items for my kids. I'll enjoy following your journey!
Posted by: Amy W. | April 19 at 3:25 PM
Good Luck and Good Cooking to you. I am in awe of you attempting this year of inconvenience. I would be so, so out of my league trying this, as you know...I find it inconvenient to open the potato chip bag without a pair of scissors! Good for you! I'll be following your blog to read all about it. Maybe I'll even be inspired to try out a recipe or two...hmmmmm...we'll see.Posted by: Corky | April 19 at 3:29 PM
Does your year of inconvenience allow for homemade gifts from friends, like a jar of yellow tomatoes or dried herbs from my garden? Homemade lemonade? Grandpa's Recipe?Posted by: Margaret Mittelstadt | April 19 at 4:22 PM
Bravo, Pam! I look forward to following your progress and to perhaps sampling a new recipe or two when I am in WI this summer.Posted by: Carrie S. | April 20 at 1:38 AM
Good luck Pam. What a great project. Maybe you'll want to start collecting some more bean recipes.Posted by: Jane Konkel | April 20 at 2:16 AM
I cooks beans "old school" on the stove and then freeze them in 1+ 1/2 c portions. That's about what is in a can of cooked beans, sans liquid. Is that allowed under your new rules?Posted by: Sam | April 20 at 2:23 AM
Yes Sam, cooking and freezing creates some convenience for me - yet I had to do it myself.

In response to any other of the modern conveniences, as my partner said to me, "this isn't Amish in the City." I'll be canning, freezing, using the microwave and bread machine. And when invited to friends for dinner, I won't refuse a great meal no matter how it was prepared.

And Margaret - anytime you want to help me out with home-canned products - that will really help me out and I really appreciate the offer!Posted by: Pam | April 20 at 2:52 AM
Excited to follow your blog!Posted by: Donna Landwehr | April 20 at 3:17 AM
This is a great idea and sends an inspirational message regarding how we all need to eat more real food. It helps us to appreciate every meal. Thank you for doing this and writing this blog:)Posted by: claire m | April 20 at 9:22 AM
This is the BEST way to make brown rice - it will NOT be that sticky gummy muck that happens when you follow the package directions. It reheats very well, and freezes excellently. Makes brown rice something to enjoy rather than endure . . .
http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Perfect-Brown-RicePosted by: Denise | April 20 at 9:51 AM
My sister, Barb, would make big batches of food for me and freeze in individual containers (like veggie lasagna, rice & beans, etc. and even desserts like rice pudding and some kind of chocolate, oatmeal, sunflower seed bar). It worked great for me just to pull one out and microwave and eat! (I didn't have to do the pre-planning or cooking though or even the shopping!). Can you use a microwave? Anyway, you go girl go!Posted by: Diane Schieffer | April 20 at 12:54 PM
[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Outpost Coop, cheezequeen. cheezequeen said: Follow Pam's food adventure! ~ A Year Of Inconvenience [...]Posted by: Tweets that mention Day One - Must Organize - A Year Of Inconvenience -- Topsy.com | April 20 at 7:18 PM
Hip Hip Horray! I look forward to learning all sorts of great tips. Great idea! VancePosted by: Vance Baker | April 20 at 8:13 PM
"Amish in the City"...heeheehee!!!!Posted by: Sam | April 20 at 10:48 PM
Good luck Pam! You are a inspiration! I am looking forward to keeping up with your progress.Posted by: Ruth | April 20 at 11:00 PM
Pam,

Awesome! I am looking forward to hearing your rules and knowing more about your plans. Many items in the center of the store are staples for me. While they seem convenient and you could do without...I cannot imagine making my own coconut milk, soy sauce, tomato paste, brown rice syrup, paprika or olive oil.

Looking forward to your journey! Posted by: Karen | April 21 at 2:22 AM
Thanks Karen. It's a food adventure for me - which isn't fun when there are "rules" to guide me rather than my quest for greater food knowledge. That said, the guidelines I'm using are "single ingredients" and on the onset I'm allowing "condiments" as they are more like spices to me. That doesn't mean I won't try making mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise from scratch. Fermenting soy sauce, probably not. I don't have a press to press oils from anything, and I'd probably end up eating more of the olives than I pressed. I don't consider those items to be "convenience" foods - as they are not taking the place of something that could realistically be made from scratch. So those are my guidelines, not rules. I'm taking it one meal at a time. Thanks for following me.Posted by: Pam | April 21 at 5:23 AM
Pam,

I wish you the best of luck on your endeavor. I can't imagine where you will find the time to do all of your cooking as well as your blogging! Posted by: Anu | April 21 at 12:22 PM
Good luck! I'll be following with interest and blogging about your blogging :)

Liz Posted by: Liz S | April 21 at 11:13 PM
The freezer is my new best friend!Posted by: Pam | April 23 at 9:56 AM

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