Self-Care: How We Treat Our Pantry and How It’s Related to the Ways We Nourish Ourselves

As I mentioned in last weeks post about neglecting our needs for clothing, I have been going through a lot of areas in my life that have been neglected for far too long. The kitchen pantry and how I nourish myself being one of them. And it’s one that is packed with loads of unattended and badly neglected feelings. Food is difficult for many, seeing how it is so closely connected with our survival.

Lessons on How to Nourish Were Not Priority

The environment I grew up in was one filled with many conflicting messages about how to nourish myself. And food was a source of great confusion. As I’ve said before, my care-giver’s focus was on how we looked. How we were seen was priority number one to them. So along with wearing the right thing, we also needed to look the part. And to my family this meant being thin. It wasn’t until very recently that I’ve gotten to my “desired weight”. Or the one that would be approved of by my care-givers. It’s ironic because looking thin is no longer a top priority for me. My goals now are to be at a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

Learning Difficult Lessons From Family

But how they went about showing me that being thin was a priority was what was most confusing. One of my care-givers offered me money to lose weight. I believe the arrangement was 40 dollars to get to my ideal weight. And I couldn’t have been more than twelve at the time, so I agreed. I wanted the money for sure, but also the opportunity to please them. To feel loved and accepted, whatever the cost, by my care-givers.

What was most confusing about this task was, that I was given no direction on how to change my habits. And what was more confusing was that I was being fed by them as well. I had no idea what to do to lose weight or how to acquire the resources to get me to what seemed like an impossible goal on my own. So I felt like a failure. This was a huge blow to my confidence and one I’ve carried with me for a long time.

And to add to the confusion, instead of being shown the resources and support to achieve my goal, I was ridiculed for my weight. I was called a “human garbage disposal” while my entire family laughed at my expense.

Mixed Messages and More Confusion

Another layer of confusion was when I told my care-givers I was hungry they would almost always reply with, “there’s a fridge full of food in the kitchen”. That wasn’t untrue, but I had no idea how to cook or prepare meals for myself. And the extent of my culinary abilities lie in being able to open a box of cereal or bottle of soda. No one was around to show me how to make a meal for myself.

I remember once pulling pork chops from the freezer. I thought I’d try and do what my caregivers suggested and cook a meal for myself. So I defrosted the meat and cooked them in a frying pan. Thinking back now that wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But I was on my own with no one to tell me that undercooked pork is potentially dangerous. But I finished cooking them and ate them. luckily without issue. I was kind of proud of myself for trying to nourish myself and was feeling pretty good. Until my care-givers came home and scolded me for using the pork chops they were saving for later in the week.

So there I stood, not knowing how to nourish myself and my need for food, being told that there was plenty of food in the fridge. Only now I realize I wasn’t allowed to eat it without the consent of my care-givers. Who already thought I was eating too much because I was overweight. And I was overweight because my diet consisted of cereal, soda, and whatever candy I could buy at the local convenience store.

And With No Guidance to Show Me How

Also my caregivers were gone from 10am to 2am most days. So there was nobody awake in the house by the the time I left for school in the mornings. And by the time I got home from school, my care-givers were working. I went to bed whenever I wanted and ate whatever was left over in the fridge. Sometimes not seeing them for days. So getting consent to make meals for myself or to be shown how to nourish my nutritional needs wasn’t even an option.

Food Food Everywhere But Not a Meal to Nourish

Fast forward to two weeks ago and I’m rearranging my cabinets to make room for new purchases. It was then that I realized that there are some food items that have been in my cabinets for about half a decade. That’s a long time for a box of pasta to be sitting in the cabinet. I was treating my pantry like a museum. Curating different “staples”, things I should have, to have food on hand. Though I only ate a few meals. I only just started learning how to meal prep and had no idea how to put together a pantry. Speaking of building a functional pantry, Minimalist Baker has a great post on how to set up your own pantry. In case you were in the same boat that I was.

What I had was cabinets full of foods that I rarely used, if at all and no intention of ever using them. They were just there. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have a feeling it has a lot to do with my upbringing. Being told we had plenty of food yet none of it was for me to prepare. I just wanting to know I had food, for the comfort of having it.

New Lessons on How to Nourish my Body

I’ve been cooking for a long time as a way to make a living. I started in a small but successful Mexican takeout place when I was 20 and I’ve been cooking in some form ever since. But when it came to cooking for myself, I didn’t. For a long time I ate takeout and went to restaurants and seldom cooked meals. It wasn’t until the last few years that I started to meal prep. Bring meals to work with me and taking an active role in nourishing my body.

One of the first changes I made that has had a positive impact on how I choose to nourish myself is through batch cooking. I start out with a plan, by choosing about three recipes to cook for the week. Then I keep them in the fridge for easy meals that I can reheat, instead of cooking at the end of a long day. I also batch cook lunch and breakfast to bring to work with me on the same day. One of the benefits is, that I’m able to organize my shopping list around the recipes I choose. This way very little food goes to waste.

Batch Cooking for Beginners

To batch cook, I simply take the recipes I’m going to cook for the week and multiply them by two or three times the original quantity. So if the recipe yields two servings, if I multiply all the ingredients by three, I have six servings. I usually cook only a few recipes and some kind of grain to have some variety, so I’m not eating the same thing day after day. But also because I don’t have the freezer space and they would go bad before I’d get to them.

And after realizing that a good portion of my pantry was old enough to start school, I made a plan to use up what I had. To organize my pantry and hopefully my relationship to the food I eat as well.

I’ve been searching for recipes that use these items that have been taking up cabinet space and am making plans to rotate and keep my stores fresh. For example instead of buying boxes of pasta, just to have incase, after I use up what I do have I’m going to buy pasta fresh from the pasta shop that is close to home (update: I’m buying pasta on the cheap until I pay off my debt). This way, I’ll be eating fresh foods while freeing up space in my pantry. Also supporting a local business at the same time.

Quality and Self-Care in Nourishing Myself

I was a little worried about the price I would be paying. Being a thrifty New Englander and all. But I’ve found that buying fresh isn’t that much more expensive. A pound of pasta is roughly around 4 dollars fresh. Compared to .79 cents for it’s dried counterpart. Yes that’s four times the cost. But if you only eat pasta once or twice a week, or less as I do, that’s only 12 dollars a month for 9 meals. That’s roughly $1.50 a meal, assuming you get 3 meals from a pound of pasta. So it’s affordable and the quality is unbeatable. It’s also a nice way to treat yourself with a special, affordable meal.

I think what sparked this investigation into my relationship with food and how I eat, started with my self-care Sunday dinners. On my self-care Sundays, I spend one day a week to take special care of myself. I chose my Friday, or the last day of my work week which falls on Sunday. And a large part of the day involves preparing and eating a special meal for myself. Something I normally wouldn’t make. This act helps me to enjoy being around food and the process of making it. Being creative, and trying something I normally wouldn’t cook for myself. Before these dinners, looking up new recipes was something I seldom did! I would usually eat the same three or four recipes without veering from them.

Enjoying Cooking Again

In short, I’m teaching myself the healthy habits and boundaries around food I was never given. What used to be a source of fear and anxiety, has now become a resource. I look forward to coming home on my Fridays, knowing that I’ll light a candle, put some music on and cook a meal that I know I’m going to enjoy. It’s a source of pleasure to know I’m able to care for and nourish myself in this way. And I’m also eating healthier foods as well! We spend so much of our time relating to food, why spend that time and energy being fearful of it? Treat your food with love and you will love what you eat. Thanks for reading. Peace :]

Here are a few of my go-to recipes if you’re looking for something new or to start batch cooking for yourself, enjoy!

Roast Vegetable & Quinoa Harvest Bowl

1-Pot Everyday Lentil Soup

Easy Vegan Ramen

Image Credits: “Early 20th century pantry in Pittock Mansion” by mharrsch is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Updated 7/31/22

Author: nolabelsliving

Social worker by day, blogger by night. I have a lot of lived experience which is why I started my blog. I was not given any direction when I started out on my journey, but have been blessed with some amazing support and guidance along the way. Just want to give back a little of what I've received : )

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