I haven’t been to the grocery store in fourteen days–a record for me, don’t you think?
We are stocked and ready for another couple weeks: I bought our monthly groceries up front this time around because I watched things getting dicey out there. The idea of taking the Goobies shopping with me over spring break was enough to make me toss an extra few packs of lunch meat into the cart. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. Now that spring break stretched into weeks on end, I am certain the decision was a wise one.
Even so, the fridge can only do so much to make food last because the Goobies ask for snacks every five minutes. They are old enough to help themselves when their tummies start to grumble, but maybe giving them permission to dig in whenever they feel like it was a mistake? Emery would tear through an entire pack of ham without supervision. Ditto with snack crackers and toaster pastries. “When it’s gone, it’s gone!” we say as they snack. Even so, things get eaten up fast.
But I don’t worry about it because I know this: when resources dwindle, creativity grows.
I think about the story of Elijah and the widow whose pantry was essentially empty (1 Kings 17). There was a famine and people were hungry. Elijah needed to eat; the widow God used to feed him needed to eat too. She had only a little bit to offer before everything was gone. The reality that she and her son would starve pressed in on her heart and mind, and being asked to feed another mouth made everything more dire. Her resources were insufficient on their own. But she had more faith than food, and God stretched both to sustain her household.
We watch this happen on a very small scale at the end of every month: the food budget is gone and we lean on what we have to get us through: faith and food, both. Insufficiency is the starting point for ingenuity: when things are sparse and stretched thin, creativity makes what God gave us enough. So many of our favorite family meals are products of these sorts of days, I am looking at the next couple weeks with anticipation of the next best thing.
Like our favorite Hawaiian Pizza Pasta. I remember the night I made it so well: there were two more days until pay day, so dinnertime demanded creativity. I opened the fridge and sighed as I pulled out the half-full jar of pasta sauce sitting inside. We had noodles, but we were out of meat and veggies–except for a few salad fixings that would see us through one more meal. Stretching the pasta sauce with water seemed paltry at best, but when my eye caught the container of the last few chunks of pineapple leftover from the weekend, it hit me: there was still a little deli ham left, and ham and pineapple are best friends anyway. (I mean, Hawaiian pizza: delicious, right?) Adding them both to pasta would make the whole thing special, not sad.
That night one of our absolute favorite recipes was born. I know it’s not a holy story, exactly, especially compared to what God did with Elijah and the widow. But Hawaiian Pizza Pasta reminds me that uncertainty gives creativity a time to shine.
The next few weeks give us an opportunity to discover more dishes like that one, I think. And while I know that makes some folks feel frazzled, it makes me feel fantastic because I know we have so much more than we realize. I am so, so thankful, for that.
This recipe was born out of need, but now it is on regular rotation. Don’t you love it when that happens? It tastes just like Hawaiian pizza even without the cheese! Of course, if your family isn’t dairy free, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top would be delicious, but even the most ardent dairy lovers in our family don’t miss it one bit. A word about ingredients: the pineapple flavor is best when we use Dole 100% pineapple juice, but if you don’t have it, use the juice from a can of pineapple. If your family isn’t gluten free, use regular old penne, and use butter if you’re not dairy free. Soy-free friends, use the soy free Earth Balance.