The Week I Forgot To Buy Onions (And You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!)

published Feb 6, 2015
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Onions are the linchpin for a smoothly operating dinnertime machine in my house. Not only do I use them in most of my cooking, but as long as I have a few onions in the cupboard, I know there are at least five different quick and easy meals that I can make in a heartbeat if other dinner plans fall through. Without them, I feel lost and alone and afraid.

Which is exactly where I found myself a few weeks ago after forgetting to replenish my onion stash on the weekly shopping trip — it was bad luck and bad timing with an especially busy work week. What happened next was a lesson in patience, flexibility, and most of all, getting out of my comfort zone.

My “Onion-Gate 2015” happened at the beginning of a week that had absolutely no room for any more unexpected hiccups. You know those weeks — work is extra-busy, then an old friend announces they’re in town, then the cat gets sick, then you’re sick, then some important household appliance breaks. My husband and I also share a car, which he needs for work most days, so it’s hard to get little errands done during the week, like swinging by the grocery store for those onions you forgot to buy.

Yes, I could probably have skipped the onions and made my standby meals without them. I could also have made a late-night run to the store despite my long work hours and general exhaustion. Or I could have tasked my husband with picking up a few onions on his way home despite his equally long work hours and exhaustion. Heck, I could have just decided we’d eat out at restaurants a few more times that week!

But I didn’t. In the midst of feeling harried and frazzled and upset at myself for not planning better, I decided to just… make do. Make do without my old reliable stash of onions and my old reliable stash of easy recipes.

And you’ll never guess what happened next: we were totally ok.

The first thing that happened was that we cleared the fridge of many odds and ends. I made an easy soup for dinner with some miso, leftover greens, and a few poached eggs. It was a decent, serviceable, not-very-exciting soup, but more to the point, it was quick, easy, and filling. (Plus, enough hot sauce will make any bland food become edible.)

Next, we cleared the freezer of many hoarded “rainy day” meals. I tend to use my freezer as a storage facility for any last scoops or servings that don’t get eaten during the week, and then promptly forget about them. My reliance on onions for quick meals is so complete that I never think of this freezer stash as serving the same purpose. Much to my surprise, raiding the freezer was actually fun! My husband and I sifted through the offerings, each picking something we were in the mood for and rediscovering old favorites (“We’ve had this lasagna in the freezer this whole time?! I loved this lasagna!”).

So, yes, we survived Onion-Gate 2015. But this isn’t really a story about forgetting to buy onions; this is a story about getting out of your comfort zone and shaking up routine. Onions are my linchpin, but they’re also my crutch — it was really good for me to realize that I could still cook and feed myself without them. Even better, we’ve added a “Freezer Week” to our meal rotation every month; it gives us a break from cooking and ensures that those leftover frozen servings get eaten in a more timely manner.

What about you? Do you have the same routine for your quick meals every week? Have you ever been forced to make do without?