Stocking a Widow’s Pantry…or How to Stop Relying on Fast Food Drive Thrus.

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If you are anything like me, in the first few months after my husband’s sudden death, I existed on fast food. I was in no mood or condition to do any cooking. The very idea brought me to tears all over again. I either couldn’t eat at all (wish that phase had lasted) or wolfed down junk food. Those habits didn’t help me feel at all better. It took me nearly a full year before I had any inclination to produce anything from my kitchen. About the only time I did was when, in an effort to beat back the solitude, I cooked for dinner guests.



When I did cook for myself, which was rarely, I made way too much and either ate leftovers for days or I threw a lot out. Actually, I threw most of it out, but some of it went to the holding cell known as my refrigerator until it began to look like a science project. Then I threw it out. I somehow felt less guilty that way. It became obvious, even to foggy-brained me that this system wasn’t working very well. I needed to figure out how to feed myself in ways that reduced waste, reduced effort since to this day my love of cooking hasn’t returned, was healthier and well, just worked for someone living alone but too old for dorm cooking.



I needed some new habits. The first one was recommended to me by pharmacist and blogger Barbara Morris, author of Put Old on Hold.  Barbara never liked to cook, so she relies on a Nutribullet Blender, so I bought one myself and used it round the clock for a while. Smoothies for breakfast, savory soup for dinner…I experimented with lots of recipes. I still use mine for breakfast more days than not, but I needed to expand my options. I started using my Food Saver vacuum sealer more. It was great for batch cooking and portioning out. It has also helped in repackaging grocery items that are far to big to be used quickly by little ol’ me.

As my brain fog lifted, little by little, I began looking around for single-serving options as I forayed back into the grocery stores. Remember that first trip, post-loss, to the grocery store? Who expected that to be so traumatic? That’s a whole ‘nuther article. Anyway, as I scavenged through the aisles, I began to find choices I’d never noticed before. Like most of us, I’d been programmed to buy in bulk to save money. Surprise! That strategy makes zero sense when you’re throwing 3/4’s of it out. I started doing the math and realized volume buying doesn’t work for solo eaters like me….and maybe you.

I quickly realized that buying a loaf of bread made the ducks happy, but I couldn’t possibly get through all of one. Solution? I found that the soup bars in my local grocery stores sold small packages of rolls and cornbread, and the bakery would slice a small loaf for me. The soup-to-go was also a good choice. I don’t like all the prep work for the kinds of meals I used to make. Solution? Ready-to-go or ready-to-cook meals from the deli section. Then there were nights when I still didn’t want to cook but didn’t want to go out either. Solution? Charcuterie boards of cheese, salami or pepperoni, crackers, fruit, and nuts. You’re starting to get the gist. Creative thinking, and thinking outside of “we’ve always done it this way” provides the solutions.

I’ve put together a list of items that I found and that work for me. You probably have some ideas of your own. I’d love to hear them!


Freezer Items:

  • Sausage Crumbles – great for omelets and muffin pizzas
  • Frozen Meatballs – soups, small casseroles, pasta
  • Green Onions, celery – buy fresh, chop, flash freeze, and store in a Mason jar in the freezer
  • Onions – buy already chopped or chop your own and freeze
  • Oranges, Lemons, Limes – cut up, flash freeze and store in a Mason jarOmHash browns and other bagged vegetables – use a handful as a side dish or in a soup.
  • Pop-Out brand frozen herbs – just enough for a single meal prep

Refrigerator Items:

  • Cheese slices – stay fresh as you use them
  • Mini Moos creamers – much longer shelf life than creamer in a carton
  • Single-serve Orange Juice – if you’re like me and don’t drink it every day
  • Already hard-boiled eggs – easy to grab for a quick snack or an easy breakfast. Add to salads
  • Ready-to-cook or Ready-to-eat dinners – find them in or near the deli
  • Grape tomatoes – Salads, in recipes, or just grab a handful.
  • Yogurt parfaits – ready-made for breakfast
  • Omlet cups, just add an egg – found near the eggs in the dairy section
  • Pre-cut vegetables – Many grocery stores like Lowes’s will cut up the produce you choose for you.
  • Charcuterie board ingredients – veggies, fruit, even dried, nuts, olives, crackers, cheeses
  • Bread from the soup bar
  • Soup from the soup bar

On the shelf:

  • Bacon bits or pre-cooked bacon – freeze what you won’t use soon
  • Rice, Rice-a-Roni, oatmeal, and grits in cups – just add water
  • Small portion milk – found near the evaporated milk
  • Hormel or Dinty Moore Compleats – small portion meals that need no refrigeration. Good in a pinch.
  • Cake in a Mug – ready-to-go packs, found near the cake mixes
  • Single-serve tuna in the foil packs – grab a pack, add a dab of mayo and throw in some of your frozen celery


This is surely not a comprehensive list, but I hope you found some new ideas. Feel free to share your own with me. I’d love to hear them. I also hope these give you a head start on eating well widowed.




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© 2020 Widowlution, All rights reserved.



© 2024 Widowlution, All rights reserved.