Long Story Short: Home economics 101

Unlike a former neighbor, cleaning out closets and cabinets is not high on my list of ways to pass downtime.

Invariably every other time I called our El Paso neighbor or she called me, I would say, “What are you up to?” and the answer would be, “I’m cleaning out closets.”

Her inclination toward closet orderliness came to be a running joke. She became embarrassed to admit to the task.

Her passion for closet cleanliness never rubbed off on me.

Sad to say, but photographs of our family’s closets would be more likely to be featured in a modern art journal’s study of the absurd than in any Martha Stewart magazine.

If you’re brave or fool-hearty enough to open one of our closet doors, anything from an old Russian hat like Boris Yeltsin used to wear to 1,000 envelopes (made from recycled materials) may hit your noggin. A stray hanger could poke you in the eye. A purse made from recycled Thai Coca-Cola cans dangles on the top shelf. Scarves and belts sway. Herbs (partially through the drying phase) hang to the side.

Moving on to the kitchen, our pantry is a blend of the contemporary art scene and an old bomb shelter.

Even still, given the extraordinary measure of the task, the Thanksgiving holidays gave me no excuses. Along with an opportunity to reflect on the bounty of our lives – figuratively and literally, my oldest daughter and I spent the better part of an afternoon doing what we could to straighten our kitchen cupboard.

Twelve cans of tomato sauce, ten cans of green beans, eight cans of Rotel, six cans of creamed corn, five cans of tuna, four cans of Cream of Mushroom soup, three Cream of Chicken and green enchilada sauce, pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, baby clams, slicked peaches, salsa casera, mushroom pieces, chipotle peppers adobo sauce, Blackburn’s syrup, Girard’s Lite Champagne salad dressing, two cans of black beans, red enchilada sauce, a big jar of Ovaltine and 17 packets of various sauce mixes later, I came to a conclusion. Our family of four could live on the contents of our pantry – without ever making a trip to the grocery store – for months, maybe a year.

Yet, every third day or so, we’re off to the market to get more.

As my daughter and I worked, we made a game of stacking and aligning the bounty. Our activity barely made a dent in our home organizational game plan, but it did reinforce the Thanksgiving mantra — we live in a land of plenty.

Certainly mine is not an original idea, but I’m challenging my family to see how long we can go without buying another canned item. Rather than deliberately preparing dishes that require ingredients not in my arsenal, wouldn’t it be more interesting to find recipes to make based on available ingredients from our kitchen’s cupboard?

Save time and money.

Basic home economics.

It’s not just for high school anymore.

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