Getting Creative When Your Pantry Screams PCS
by PCSgrades Staff - August 22nd, 2022
This article was originally published in Military Families Magazine.
We have all been there. As the calendar creeps closer to the day movers are about to show, the house is likely divided into categories of what’s leaving and what’s staying. And during these times the day-to-day hustle of life’s demands doesn’t halt, which means the laundry won’t wash itself and the kids need to eat. That leaves us with the dreaded PCS pantry, requiring creativity because no easy recipe was born from canned goods that have collected dust over the years.
You've got orders
PCS. VML. TLA. Just three of the many acronyms that we have all familiarized ourselves with through our time spent in the military life. Well, 'tis the season again, where it’s the spring VML and we are about to PCS and get some TLA.
I don’t know about you, but every time we move, I am a kaleidoscope of emotions. I am (potentially) excited about our next assignment, but heartbroken to leave the amazing women that have become so dear to me on our current assignment. For better or worse, these are not things that are always in our control. But no matter where you lie on the spectrum of emotion – excitement, frustration, anticipation, or reluctance – we can all sympathize with one universal issue: our pantry! Okay, okay, it isn’t a soul-crushing dilemma, but it exists nonetheless. What do we do with all the odds and ends before we pack up and move?
Stews and casseroles are our easy go-to pantry cleaners, and there is nothing wrong with those. I can’t tell you how many times I have stared at my pantry, filled with random ingredients, and had no idea what I was doing for dinner. This phenomenon happens whether or not we are PCSing, but it happens especially when we are moving.
The PCS purge
When I am trying to clear out our fridge and pantry before we move, I want to make the most of it before posting the random odds and end in base Facebook groups. Because who wants half-used mustard, a can of greens, beans, some salad dressing, and crusty bread from a stranger anyway? (Not I said the fly.)
I am suggesting some skillet nachos! I know, it doesn’t sound revolutionary. Though, as someone who was given weird challenges on The Food Network with a given set of mismatched ingredients, I know how to get creative with what I have. And truthfully, my grab bag of pre-PCS pantry items highly mimics the oddball challenges that we had on the cooking competitions. Like turning liver and onions into Italian food. Who even wants to eat that? We are going to turn our seemingly reject food items into some tasty, savory nachos.
Nachos are a PCSing military spouse’s best friend
But what about the kiddos, you ask? One of the things people always ask me is, how do you get your kids to eat all these foods? Truthfully, I don’t. My kids suck. Their default is to eat like ninja turtles. So, as a mom, I have to find creative ways to sneak veggies into their food. Nachos are a great way to do this.
Nachos are familiar to kids, they won’t shy away from them. And also, if you involve the kids in the food you are making, they are so much more likely to eat it. Don’t have kids? I am sure your significant other feels like one sometimes as well. Your bases are covered! Plus, we are solving our pantry clearing problem. Plus, plus, you’re eating nachos. It’s a win-win-win.
In a bit, we are going to walk through what I would make based off the things I know I found in my PCS pantry. But the beauty is that you really can use whatever you want. That lone turkey burger patty that has been occupying space in your freezer for the last six months will make a great topping on nachos. There are three eggs left in the carton, viola, breakfast nachos. Canned beans, corn, green chilis, chips, tortillas, jarred jalapenos, half-used jars of hot sauce and salsa, canned tomatoes, all the random shredded and sliced cheeses you have in the fridge drawer; the list goes on and on. You can even make BBQ chicken nachos to get rid of all that barbeque sauce that is undoubtedly in your refrigerator door.
Greek nachos, bacon and egg nachos, buffalo chicken nachos, dessert nachos, the chili-that-has-been-in-your-freezer-for-three-months nachos, pizza nachos. It keeps going, people! I guarantee that you can get creative here.
Don’t fret over that PCS pantry because Food Network Star Finalist Amy Pottinger says nachos are perfect for the occasion.
As for me and my nachos, this is what the bounty of my pantry and fridge yielded.
Corn tortilla chips Shredded cheese (I had pepper jack and Mexican blend in my fridge) Can of corn Can of black beans Jarred salsa Canned jalapenos Avocados Radishes Cojita Limes Shredded cabbage
Tips: There really aren’t a ton of instructions that a grown adult needs to make nachos these days. (Here is to hoping at least.) As such, I am replacing instructions with tips. Besides baking at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, it is pretty self-explanatory.
Layer: Always layer chips, cheese, and a few toppings. There is nothing more disappointing than falling in love with that top layer of nachos only to discover dry chips below.
Don’t top with wet ingredients until after it bakes: I love, love, love lime juice on my nachos. Well, on anything really. But if I were to squeeze limes on my nachos before baking them, then they would come out soggy. And people enjoy soggy nachos about as much as they enjoy wearing wet socks. So save the juices and the salsas till after the nachos have finished baking.
Pick a theme: If you are going to get creative and shy from the traditional Mexican nacho, don’t mix pizza and dessert nachos. I know we are looking to get rid of ingredients, but we also want it to be edible.
Otherwise, happy pantry hunting friends. And may the odds be ever in your favor.