This month’s activity for our Every Needful Thing program helped to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”
It centered around pantry meals but was simply and meaningfully so much more than that. As the women kept coming, the question immediately crossed my mind, “Why?” Why did they want to come? This is the never-ending issue when any of us plan an event. A party. A fundraiser. A bake sale. A service project. Will people come? It begins to governs how we plan, don’t you think? When we use the Planning With a Purpose model and ask “What do we want to have happen?” we can usually count on “we want people to come” as being one of our goals for the event.
I have a theory. I think that this activity appealed to two characteristics of most women out there. Most women need to cook dinner. Whether it’s for one or eight, we all need to eat. Women also have that nurturing instinct that is a simply a part of who they are. This activity hit on both qualities of women and therefore, drew people in. Let’s find out how.
What Did We Want to Have Happen?
In this case, we wanted to create an event that did the following:
- teach women ideas of how to use pantry meals as an effective way for meal planning
- teach how to plan a grocery list so that shopping becomes more efficient and happens less often
- give the women a chance to serve in a way that used pantry meals
- an opportunity to socialize
How Did We Make That Happen?
Make a Plan: There are many ways to go about an activity like this. Yes, we did the predictable thing and had a short lesson (thank you, Liz!) about how to plan meals in advance so that you don’t have to make decisions each day about what’s for dinner. We even had a list of 10 “pantry meal” recipes ready to hand out to each person. These recipes are all made from things that can be stored in your pantry or freezer or things most people have on hand in their fridge. Love it! Click on the image below for a pdf of our recipe handout.
Then Liz facilitated a good discussion about how we make this happen in our own homes. The following websites came up as good resources for easy pantry recipes, coupon information, nutrition info, etc.
Grocery Lists: Next we talked about how to organize your grocery list to make shopping more efficient. Not only do you save money when you plan your meals and then shop for them, but you save time as well. No more going to the store five times a week because you’re missing just one ingredient. You have a plan! Plus, to take it a step further, Dani talked about a very simple but incredibly logical way to map out your grocery list. Here’s what you do:
- take a sheet of paper and fold it into sections
- label each section with a different area of the grocery store (produce, meats, dairy, etc)
- when you make your grocery list, place the items you need in the correct section
- head to the store with everything organized so that you don’t have to backtrack
I have already tried this and I am here to say that it works! Because I do the cooking and the cleaning up and the putting away of groceries, Jason does the shopping around here (click here for more info on this subject). Not only is this list-making tip great for me to stay organized but my resident shopper loves it as well. We believe!
Here is our example of a grocery list mapped out this way (click on the above picture). You’ll be glad to know that this list is all of the things you need to shop for the 10 recipes handout. We’ve done the work for you. Just take that list and you’ll be able to make all 10 recipes. Perfect!
Using Pantry Meals to Serve Our Neighbors: This is where we took it a step further. Armed and ready with lots of tips and ideas and recipes for quick and easy “pantry meals,” we then took it to the next level.
We asked the women to bring different items to make the Taco Soup recipe on our list. We chose this one because everything can be stored in a pantry and for this part of the activity, we needed to be able to store it. The table was piled high with chile and kidney beans, diced tomatoes and taco seasoning. We then filled regular grocery sacks with the ingredients to make one batch of Taco Soup.
Then each finished bag went to the “Let’s Make it Cute” table where it was tied with a bow. They also added a copy of the recipe and a tag that said “Just Because” to finish it off.
Almost 30 kits later, we sent a one home with each person. Why did we do this? This kit is not for themselves. It is a way to serve each other. When someone is having a tough day or a child is sick or things are overwhelming and busy, we can deliver a “pantry meal kit” to a neighbor’s door…just because. The recipient can cook it whenever they want and it helps them to not have to decide what’s for dinner – who wouldn’t love that? Plus, it taught us how we can do this same thing with lots of other recipes, add some fresh ingredients if we want, tie it with a bow and voila! An instant hug wrapped up in a paper bag.
As one woman said, “It’s not so much the meal as it is the thought involved.” How true that is.
At the End of It All
Last but certainly not least, we had to eat, right? Bonnie made the Taco Soup to sample along with the Italian Crockpot Chicken so that everyone could try two of the recipes on our list. Every aspect of this activity was applicable and connected and tied together to mean something more than just talking about pantry meals.
- I’m grateful that so many women opened their hearts and brought items for our kits.
- I’m grateful for the ideas and tips and info that was shared by everyone.
- I’m grateful for the energy and excitement that we all felt as we served together.
- I’m grateful for the chance to chat and visit and get to know one another.
- I’m grateful for time and energy that each member of our committee put forth to make this activity happen.
- I’m grateful for Kathleen and her willingness to open her home, dust her basement, and let us converge upon her space.
Another activity in the books. Thanks for sharing it with us. I’ll have the “Just Because” tag and the recipe card available for our next Download Day so watch for that. In the meantime, try some of the easy pantry meal recipes that Angie and Liz compiled for us. Pretty simple and darn tasty!
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