The Nest Got Empty… So Did the Pantry

The first time I went grocery shopping after both my kids had left for college was the first real reality check. I had been used to buying a lot of snacks, and large quantities of other foods… enough to feed an army.

We had raised two athletes, after all, and they would bring their friends home with them. My cooking became legendary at their high school. It became known as “Judy Food,” affectionately named by a neighborhood kid who happened to dine with us on a regular basis. I never knew how many teenagers would be at my table from one night to the next. Go figure from there.

Let me turn back the pages a little bit… Cooking for a young family was relatively easy, except for the fact that I was working full time. I’d get home at dinner hour, but since their preference, when they were little, was fish sticks or chicken nuggets, although I wasn’t too comfortable with the nutritional value, it was a quick fix. I had gone as far as serving the macaroni and cheese from that infamous blue box. I cringed when I would read the ingredients of the “powdered cheese mix.” I did believe in healthy eating. I did.

As luck would have it one day, they asked for macaroni and cheese and I didn’t have any of the instant dinner in the house. I did, however, have a block of New York Sharp Cheddar, plenty of milk, and a box of elbow macaroni. I proceeded to prepare a casserole for my family the way my mother did, by making a medium white sauce, stirring in the grated cheese, adding the cooked macaroni and then baking the mixture. They loved it.

To this day, I can’t make anything from a box… ANYTHING! No cake mixes, no frozen french fries, no instant rice. No canned vegetables, no bottled dressings or sauces. I even make my own chocolate eclairs. From scratch.

They left for school. I got lazy.

The problem was that for the first few months, I continued to shop at places like Costco and B.J.’s, and purchased enormous amounts of food. That might account for the unusual amount of weight gain that followed.

I’m reminded of the time my husband came home with some peanut butter. I asked him where the other jar was, since it was a “buy one, get one free” deal. He looked at me innocently and said, “we don’t eat that much peanut butter.”

Our pantry is thinner now, and so are we. I’m still cooking, all from scratch, all fresh foods. Dinner time is extremely quiet. And you know what? I guess we really don’t eat that much peanut butter anymore.