Pantry Challenge Day 1: Happy New Year!

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This is Day One of my month-long Pantry Challenge series  where we’re eating down the pantry to use up what we have, rotate stock, and save some cash.

Today marked the first day of the year as well as the first day of our month-long Pantry Challenge. I read back through the archives…. I’ve done this same challenge in ’10, ’11, and ’12, sometimes in July as well as in January. I guess we’re getting expert at it. So, here’s to the fourth annual January challenge.

Here’s how Day 1 went down:


My children love pancakes over almost any other breakfast. It’s the most requested morning meal. Who are we kidding? It’s their favorite supper, too.

When FishBoy8 requested pancakes, I was happy to deliver. I jazzed them up by making Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes. I didn’t have a full 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips, but it was close. Rather than open a fresh bag and watch my family sneak bites of it when my back was turned, I stuck to just using the partial bag that was open. No one knew that there weren’t as many chocolate chips as last time.

Especially when they spread Nutella all over their flapjacks.

I don’t have this particular pancake recipe posted. But, there is an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pancake recipe in my book. Or you can try Basic Pancakes or Multi Grain Blueberry Pancakes. Need tips on Pancake Night? That’s an excellent option for the Pantry Challenge.

We also had two pineapples languishing on the countertop. Unfortunately, I had to cut away some overripe parts, but it was still enough for breakfast and snacking throughout the morning. (Not sure how to cut a pineapple? Go here.)


Last night we had a huge cocktail party in house. Each of the boys chose one appetizer to prepare and he was in charge of making it, with help if necessary. The girls chose appetizers also, but they had more help than the boys. Their choices: Stuffed Mushrooms, Fried Beer-Battered Shrimp, Egg Rolls (rolled this way), Pizza Bagels, Fruit Platter, and Baked Chicken Legs.

It was a veritable feast! The kids had the leftovers for lunch while hubs and I went on a lunch date at Rubio’s.

I ended up bringing home my Rubio’s leftovers which was surprising. I ordered the Chopped Salad without chicken. The folks there have a hard time understanding that I might not want meat. They usually raise an eyebrow and ask if I want another kind of meat. I think they filled my bowl extra full since I went meatless. So, I guess I have lunch for tomorrow.

Leftovers is becoming a trend. Should I be worried?


My dad bought a ham when he was here at Thanksgiving. I ran out of steam on that cooking day so I put it in the freezer for Christmas. But, on Christmas it didn’t thaw at all. It was still rock solid when I needed to cook it, so it went back in the freezer until a couple days ago. Tonight was the night for ham.

It seems we have a sweetener shortage already. Honey that I needed for the ham was at a minimum. I scraped up about half what I needed from some crystallized vials I had received as a gift. (No, sitting the containers in warm water did not help much.) I ended up making half the batch of glaze.

Because this is the Pantry Challenge and I’m not running out to the store for 1/4 cup of honey.

I had planned on Tastiest Scalloped Potatoes, but the oven was already full, so I went with Potatoes Alfredo instead. Turns out I had to skimp on the half-and-half so I wouldn’t have been able to make the scalloped potatoes anyway. I’m not going to the store for 1/4 cup of honey to find out I need a cup of half-and-half, too!

We also had  garlic rolls and a salad of baby greens, apples, almonds, and some pomegranates I’d been ignoring. I’m sorry, but there is NO easy way to get those arils out of there. I tried the spoon/hammer method and then went back to my trusty method.

I baked a Pretzel Berry Cheesecake early in December. It served as our Happy New Year Cake.

Day 1 Menus:

Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Nutella, Fresh Pineapple Spears, Coffee, Milk, Hot Cocoa

Lunch: NYE Leftovers for the kids, Rubio’s salads for the parents

Dinner: HamPotatoes Alfredo, Garlic Rolls, Salad, Pretzel Berry Cheesecake

So that’s the day for us. I don’t anticipate that they will all be this seemingly extravagant. We’ll see….

How did Day 1 go for you?

This post is part of a month-long Pantry Challenge series. You can read more about my goals for the challenge here.

Grab the button and join me! I’ll be posting daily about our family’s pantry challenge as well as hosting a link-up once a week on Mondays where you can chime in about your challenges, triumphs, and questions.

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  1. So I just now read this post but I love the idea. And I made myself cook tonight, even though I didn’t want to, because I’d taken meat out of the freezer last night.
    So here goes me joining your pantry challenge. I already have a freezer inventory list…I started keeping one on a whiteboard after we got a deep freeze because it was too hard for me to remember what I had between two freezers. And the whiteboard makes for really easy updates.
    Tomorrow I’m going to work on a meal planning for the month.

    • @Grace B, good for you for cooking even though you didn’t want to. That’s money you get to keep in your pocket!

      • @Jessica, Got my menu planning done for the month today. I have plenty in my pantry and freezers so we’ll eat nicely. Besides milk for the kids, it looks like I’ll pretty much only have to buy veggies this month.
        And my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow and I realized I didn’t have a cake mix on hand so I looked up a recipe and made cupcakes from scratch instead of going to the store.

  2. Patti Reis says:

    I bet if you give that honey some more time in the warm water, or even microwave it, you might get more out of it. Crystallized honey really *will* re-liquify but it can take a bit. Stir it in between. You’ve inspired me to shop my pantry while I make my meal plan for the first couple weeks of daughter being back at school and hubs being at new job. So thankful for you and all that you share!

  3. Here are our results for day one:

    Will have to go for milk, eggs & butter in the morning. Sigh.

  4. Pancakes for us too for breakfast, I made dad and I a couple of eggs too. Grapes and apples went with it.
    Lunch was stroganaff and glazed carrots.
    We had ham on new years eve, so I soaked beans overnight and made a ham and bean soup for supper tonight.I got through my freezers and we will eat very well for this challange. I don’t know why I feel the need to keep so much in the freezer.

  5. Marianne Parker says:

    I’m doing this as well – everything we have will have an optimal number of pantry/frozen items in it. I will still be buying fresh fruit/veggies and other perishables. But, I’m looking forward to near empty shelves. Then, I shall start refilling them with healthier and cleaner items. :)!

    Last night – we had pork chops (out of the freezer) and potatoes, collards (out of the garden), black eyed peas (out of the pantry), and carrots (out of the frig). For dessert, left over Christmas cookies. :)!

    This morning will probably be a poptart (out of the pantry) morning as we have a bunch of errands/doctor appointments. Have to get something out of the freezer for dinner though.

    Thanks for the challenge.


  6. We have lots of apples sitting around and we eat them best when we have peanut butter to go with them. I caved and got some peanut butter yesterday to guarantee we’d eat them. Of course, it would be better if we’d just eat them plain but I’m justifying it with needing extra protein due to my pregnancy. Perhaps justification isn’t the best start to a pantry challenge…

    • @Steph, Like I just told Angela. Don’t feel bad if you buy supplemental groceries. It’s not a no-spend challenge. You’re doing fine just taking care of those apples.

  7. Breakfast: our standby, toast or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

    Lunch: New Year’s Eve leftovers. Our splurge for NYE was a “recipe” from the show Man Vs. Food called Mount Nacheesmo. Although it’s exciting to sit down to two huge platters of nachos for the 6 of us, there are lots of leftovers!

    Dinner was sort of a cheat. Before I knew about the pantry challenge, I’d bought sausage, pasta, and giant cans of tomato sauce from Sam’s Club. So I made spaghetti with Italian sausage. I froze the extra sauce–16 cups in four freezer bags–and will have that available throughout the month for the challenge.

  8. It was a success here in Buffalo!

  9. We ate well for our first day. Breakfast was milk and cereal. For lunch is was sub sandwiches while watching the big bowl game. Dinner was crockpot 16-bean soup with chicken. Also raided the pantry to make a large batch of granola bars and a double batch of blueberry muffins for breakfast and school lunches this week. The soup yeilded enough for another couple of lunches for later this month.

  10. We had a good day. We ate pancakes for breakfast too, enjoyed our planned lunch out and then dinner was a buffet of leftovers and those frozen stuffed clam shell things you can buy at the grocery store. I’d had a pack for a few months & I wanted to use them. Eating out of shells seems fun to the kids & I want to serve more seafood this year. Win-win.

    I also did some more freezer cooking using some bits of this and that I had in the fridge. It’s nice to see some space in there after Christmas!

  11. We did great!! Definitely trying to avoid the stores, but I need a few things (milk, V8) in order for our week to be successful, so I am not feeling guilty about it!!

    Here is my goal post:

    And my log:

  12. Day 1 – breakfast – frozen turkey sausage links and whatevver we could grab that was in the fridge. Have a 2 year old and a 7 month old just beginning on tastes. Hubby and I had some mimosas with left-ove champagne. Lunch/Dinner – at In-laws with odds and ends, hot dogs and sauerkraut.

    My issue, and if anyone can help, please let me know, is planning around catering tastes and diet restrictions. 2 yr-old hardly eats anything lately and 7month old has a dairy intolerance which limits my menu greatly! Often-times need something with dairy for older brother and daddy and can leave it off for me, but still left with much less options!!!

    Plan for the rest of the week – Left overs, left overs, left overs!

    • @meg, I love the French tradition of having a dairy course (yogurt or cheese) at the end of the meal. I can’t remember many main courses that had much dairy — except those with cream, of course, and then those who want it can have dairy at the end. Would your guys go for that?

      • @Jessica,

        hmmm, don’t know. guess I need to look up some recipes. most french i know if has pastry or butter in the recipe … plus we dont have much meat in the freezer currently. thanks for the idea!

        • @meg, Here are some meals that can be made with or without dairy: spaghetti with meat sauce, tacos, beef stew, homemade chicken nuggets, baked beans, beans and rice, lentils over rice, hamburger soup, mexican ham and bean soup, chicken noodle soup, roast chicken w/ veggies, tuna or salmon patties, hard boiled eggs. Hope this list helps.

  13. Happy New Year!! Hope 2013 is the very best year for you & yours!

    Im the only one in our home who eats breakfast.. so thats always easy. Most of the time I eat oatmeal, which I never get tired of. I made a lovely veggie fritatta a few days ago so that’ll last me a while whether for breakfast or lunch, its a lovely addition for me.

    New Years day we had ham, black eye peas, and roasted sweet potatoes. I got 5 hams back in October I think for super cheap and I had 2 left in my freezer. The sweet potatoes were leftover from a clambake prepared, and frozen, and at the ready for holiday dinners in the freezer too. I always keep bags of dried beans & peas on hand for a good homemade soup so everything came from my pantries & freezer.

    I’ll need to get out & get some eggs soon and I just spoke to an Amish lady who supplies me with organic stewing chickens and shes ready to butcher her flock so I’ll be buying some & making & canning bone broth & chicken & veggie soup for the pantry. You cant beat the price and quality of these birds. While they’re laying hens, and the meat can be a bit tough, lots of stewing and cutting it into small pieces and using it for soup makes a great flavorful healthy soup.

  14. I’m on the second day of the pantry challenge since I didn’t check my RSS feed yesterday. Here’s what I’m doing today:

    Made a double batch of stuffed shells; one batch will go to a family from church who just had a baby, the other batch goes in the freezer for later. I’m also making bread in the bread machine and making a salad for us and for them using fress veggies before they go bad. A loaf of cranberry-pumpkin bread I made and froze before Christmas is going to the other family as well.

    While doing my freezer inventory I found some cooked ground turkey and tomato paste so dumped those in the crockpot along with other seasonings and some beans to make Texas chili for us for dinner along with salad and corn chips I’m going to make from some corn tortillas I’ve had for a while and haven’t been able to use up.

    For breakfast we had steel cut oats and fruit, leftover sweet potatoes and extra stuffed shells for lunch. I’m enjoying challenging myself to use up what I already have rather than spending money on new groceries. Would love to get our grocery budget down to half of yours, since our family is half the size! 🙂

  15. I’m excited about this challenge! Today I did what I plan to be my only “big” grocery run for the month…. and I only spent $82 on grocery items. I usually spend more than that for just a week! I know that I’ll have to go a couple of times for milk and produce, but I’m hoping that’s all I’ll need until February.

    I’ve posted my meal list and my grocery trip. You can see all my Pantry Challenge posts by clicking HERE.

  16. Kootenayannie says:

    I buy evaporated milk when on sale. That’s what I use all the time in my scolloped potatoes now. I used to do it like you said, but with only 2 of us at home I use cream for coffee, milk for drinking , powdered milk for baking, and the evaporated for soups and scolloped potatoes, and of course fudge when I make it for gifts. This saves me lots of trips to the store, and it is usually on hand . Oh, and mushroom soup, with milk also makes a wonderful scolloped potato dish, sometimes with shredded cheese on top, sometimes not.
    Hope you have a wonderful 2013. I am going on the pantry challenge too. I did some shopping on Dec.31 for some fresh vegetables, milk , butter and salt. Then yesterday Dh took me out to smorg. Chinese food ( this is a rare treat as his health is not good , and usually he is in bed by 4pm. and gets up for supper then back to bed).
    Today lunch/brunch was slumgullian. It used up the last part of a meatloaf, mashed potates and some mushroom soup. and coffee. Supper is nann bread ( dh bought and I didn’t know what to do with it), hamburger made into taco mix. With toppings of shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and chopped black olives, and chopped green pepper. and salsa.
    I am using the rest of the lettuce and tomatoe black olives and pepper. plus sliced mushrooms and a chicken breast cooked and chopped up in a salad for tomorrow.
    We are both glad to be finnished up our small turkey, and the turkey soup! Even with a lovely meatloaf thrown in it is good to have turkey free time.
    Our neighbours brought us a ham over as a Christmas gift, and later Either this coming weekend or later in the month I would like to have them over to share a Ham, scolloped potato, meal with us. I will see what frozen vegetables I have to use up closer to that time.
    Another meal I haven’t made in a long time is scolloped onions. You slice them like you do, the potatoes, and layer them with a little flour , salt and pepper, and shredded cheddar cheese, ending with the cheddar cheese and evaporated milk over the works. Goes good with meatloaf or what have you. I like using a mild onion of this dish ( I learnt this from a German lady back in the 1970’s).
    Another dish that will show up this week is cooked rice ( great for left/planned over rice), layered in a greased casserol dish with saurkraut, and bacon ( pre cook your bacon in small bits,) layer rice, saurkraut ( drained), bacon with some of the grease, repeat. Bake for 1/2 hour ( or till heated through) at 350 F. a real comfort food.
    I LOVE this Dish cold the next day, and eat it as breakfast!!!!!!!!
    Happy eating and all the best for 2013.

  17. Day 1 – Christmas cookies and cereal for breakfast
    Leftover snacky food from NYE for lunch
    Pork roast, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, green beans and rolls for dinner

    Day 2 – Homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast
    Hotdogs, sauerkraut, potato salad for lunch
    Meatloaf, loaded mashed potatoes, corn for dinner

    Love these challenges!!

  18. Day 1 – green smoothie/ muffins for breakfast. Leftovers for lunch. Ham and bean soup and cornbread for dinner, I had never made it before and it was defiantly a hit!!
    Day 2 – I got my wisdom teeth out this morning so I had an ensure shake/ muffins for others for breakfast, green smoothie/ sandwiches for others for lunch, and we all had black bean soup with rice for me and chips for the others. Another new, super yummy soup! I also had some ice cream because that’s just a must when you get wisdom teeth out! 😉

  19. I just want to thank you for giving me the idea for a Happy New Year’s cake…we’ve been doing this since 12/31/08 and it’s one of my kids’ favorite traditions. Some years we have cheated and had “happy new year cinnamon rolls” on 1/1 when a baby was new, or a store bought angel food cake, but the point is the same and my kids adore it! I love that it is the one time every year I am sure I will get a picture of my littles as they are getting not-so-little. Thanks for the great idea!! And Happy New Year. 🙂

  20. Thank you for the link to rolling eggrolls! I remember reading this before, most likely on your blog, but I couldn’t remember where. I have now pinned it to use later!

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