Pantry Challenge 2011: Days 26 & 27

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This Pantry Challenge is quickly screeching to a halt. Yesterday I emptied the freezer and unplugged it. Since we have mild weather and it wasn’t completely encrusted with ice, it loosened quickly, I scooped it out, wiped it down and fired it back up in a matter of hours.

We didn’t use up everything, but we made great progress. I still have a turkey, some chickens, and a roast, but all the weird stuff, some from many, many moons ago has either been used up or discarded.

If I had died before now, people would have really wondered why I had bags and bags of chicken bones in my freezer. Well, I was planning to make stock eventually and wanted to buy myself some time. Evidently, I overbought.

Note to self: just make the stock while you have the bones right there!

It has been a great month in many ways. But, this week has been really hard. I know that if push came to shove, we could have eaten from our pantry and fridge for another week or two. After all, there’s always quinoa….

The meals wouldn’t have been exciting, but we would have been well fed. However, I am just tired. I confess. Tonight, Day 27 I did go to the store and buy whatever I wanted (within reason – it was all sale stuff). But, we didn’t eat any of it tonight, except the shrimp. We could have had plain pasta, but I didn’t want to.

I am not sure what tomorrow’s meals hold, but they will be “mostly from the pantry” if that counts.

These were Days 26 & 27 of my Pantry Challenge. If you want to join me, go check out the details and sign up here.

Here’s what I served my family


Breakfast – Ham and Fried Potatoes

The ham was left from Christmas. I heated that and fried some frozen baked potatoes in copious amounts of olive oil until they were really crisp. Absolutely delicious. I surprised even myself.

Lunch – Smoothies, Toast

Scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of creativity, here. But since I had emptied the freezer, I knew what we had and that included frozen berries. So, I offered blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple as choices and opened the DIY Smoothie Bar.

Dinner – Red Robin with Gift Certificates 🙂

Hubs’ birthday is this weekend, so he had a free burger due him. Plus, we had gift cards from Christmas. So, we ate like kings for no money out of pocket.


Breakfast – Chocolate Cranberry Coffeecake, Apple Slices

Lunch – Grilled Cheese Pull Aparts, Tuna Sandwiches, Tuna Melts, Apples

I found something that my kids really liked: grilled cheese pull aparts. On Sunday when we had hot dogs, I could not find my bread paddle, so I couldn’t make the buns myself. When I went shopping, I found some store bakery hot dog buns marked down. I bought two packages. We ate one on Sunday and I froze the other.

I was planning to have BBQ pork sandwiches with them today, but I burned the lunch in the crockpot. Yes, there’s a first time for everything. How do you BURN something in the crockpot?

Anyway, I broke out the panini press and offered tuna melts, grilled cheese, and tuna sandwiches instead. For my little guys, I used one flat of hot dog buns. You know how they come stuck together? Well, I left the four buns stuck together and cut them in half horizontally. Then I made their grilled cheese that way.

When I cut them, I cut them across so that each kid had four sections of grilled cheese sandwich that they could pull apart. They were so happy and even the little girls ate them all.

Dinner – Lemon Pasta with Shrimp, Broccoli, and Garlic Bread

This pasta is super simple from Susan Branch’s Summer Book. I tweaked it a tad, using what I had. I added some shrimp sauteed in olive oil and garlic. The garlic bread was discount bread made yummy with garlic butter. Pull apart garlic bread, anyone?

Are you ready for the challenge to end or are you going strong?

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  1. Well you should feel proud, if for no other reason than you inspired at least one person — me! — to use what was on hand. Even though I’m very much a newbie at this, we ended up having a pretty good month. My goal was to clean out the freezer and use as many items from the pantry as possible, and save some money in the process. I have yet to tally January’s grocery bills, but I’m guessing we spent about at least $100 less than we would have done without the challenge. Maybe more. And we used up a lot of stuff from the freezer, which makes me feel good. The best part is that I think we ate really, really well all month and I didn’t feel like I was lacking for ideas all month, because I’d just open up the freezer or pantry and dig around to find something. Now I’ll re-stock my freezer gradually using sales, and I do still need to quickly reorganize my pantry, but since I used a lot of stuff in there (and also moved my crock pot to make more room) it should be pretty easy. Thank you!

    • @P Reis, thank you for your encouragement! I’m glad that it was such a success for you. I don’t think ours was bad, but feel like a wimp. LOL. But, hubs’ bday is tomorrow, so I need to move on some other cooking things besides scrounging.

      I’m so glad it worked for you, Patty. Yeah!

  2. I’m gonna continue on with more commitment to this. I have some older items in the freezer that NEED to be used. My plan is to not buy any more meats this month. The ONLY exception would be super stock up prices, ONLY. I really shouldn’t need any more meats until next month.

  3. Jessica, I would like to say THANK YOU for having this pantry challenge. We started at the beginning of January, and it turned out we had to move unexpectedly in the middle of the month, so I was very glad we didn’t have to move as much. We STILL have meals ready to heat in the freezer, and it feels so good to finally use up all those random unknown-dated odds and ends. Thank you for the encouragement. I have no idea what our food costs actually ended up being, but we definitely made fewer trips to the store, so I’ll count that as a win anyway.

    I also think you have done a great job! Congratulations!

  4. WAY TO GO cleaning out the freezer! Do you know how few bottoms-of-the-deep-freeze ever see the light of day?
    I’m also quite impressed with the pull-apart melties idea. Love that kids can appreciate the simple things.
    I remember when we had just moved to a new area with higher cost of living and we were trying to make our grocries last all week. I would get to the last day and have almost nothing but a bag of beans and some peanut butter crackers I got for free with a coupon.
    I’m so so glad that my cupboards don’t often get that empty anymore unless I do it on purpose, but wow, those times really make you get creative.

  5. Way to go! I prepared my grocery list for tomorrow, & planned out meals, every thing (breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks!) I love that you serve toast & smoothies for lunch, I do the same thing & my kids love it! 😉

  6. You certainly motivated me! I spent about 30% less than usual and no one noticed (or complained) about a change in the menu. We are out of olive oil, oats, raisins, and WW flour–so a little stocking up is required. My freezer and pantry are no where near empty, so my goal is to spend only 50% of my grocery budget in February.

  7. I did a big shop tonight as well… but dinner still came from what we already had. Turkey and stuffing – both bought on ridiculous sales during Nov & Dec… along with a little pan gravy, and everyone was happy.
    But yes… when I start getting bored with the meals, it does make it difficult to produce meals my guys will love. 😉 This weekend, we will still eat from our stockpile, but Monday we’ll start a fresh month with some fresh goodies!

  8. I’m still going. I am under budget for the month, which was my goal. This has been good for me to reign me in on the grocery spending. Grocery stores are my weakness.

  9. A couple of years we got word dh would be losing his job, specific date unknown. In his line of work, a job change means a change of city, so both to cut our expenses and to cut our moving weight, we immediately started eating out of the pantry. Six months later we moved to our current city and during that time I had spent only $150 on food for the entire six months, and part of that was super sales I just couldn’t resist. Most of the rest was milk, eggs, and oil. Meals got pretty dull, but we were always well-fed.

    As you can imagine, eating out of my pantry for a month and trying not to spend much at the grocery store was really not even a challenge and my family never even noticed anything!

  10. I’m not done with my pantry challenge. Here’s my latest post!

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