Pantry Challenge Day 13: Grinding Meat?!

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This is Day 13 of my month-long Pantry Challenge series  where we’re eating down the pantry (and freezer and fridge) to use up what we have, rotate stock, and save some cash. I even ground my own meat.

Day 13 already? I must say, one of the things that I’m gleaning from the Pantry Challenge is that when I spend time working in the kitchen, producing good meals, I feel better about the challenge as opposed to those haphazard, fend-for-yourself days. I’m learning that a little effort goes a long way.

Even when a little effort takes more time than many alternatives. Today I ground my own meat for dinner! Yes, really!

But, first here’s the rundown on the day:


Early this morning my sister drove down from LA to visit. So, we had a big breakfast when she got here: Chocolate Chip-Cranberry-Orange Muffins, Ginger-Almond French Toast (cookbook), scrambled eggs and bacon. All was super yummy.

The bacon was particularly good. I’ve been buying nitrate-/nitrite-free bacon, the Oscar Mayer kind. We really notice a flavor difference. Going to have to look for sales on that!

Chocolate Chip-Cranberry-Orange Muffins

If you’d like to recreate the muffins, just make a batch of Mix and Match Muffins and stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips, the zest of one small orange, 1 cup cranberries, and a bit of vanilla extract. They were pretty fab muffins.


Jamie and I also made a quick trip to Costco where I restrained myself extremely well. I just had to prevent myself from going down many aisles. I stuck to my list and that was good. Spent a little over $50 on these staples that will last us well through the end of the month and some into February.

It seems like a lot of cash, but there’s also a lot of food here — at rock bottom prices.

  • 2 dozen tortillas
  • 2 gallons milk
  • 3 dozen eggs
  • 1/2 gallon cream
  • 2 pound loaf of really good sourdough bread
  • 2.5 pounds cheddar cheese
  • ginormous container of honey
  • huge chunk of romano cheese


For a late lunch, we had a family treat of In-N-Out Burger. Since we split fries and don’t get drinks, we easily fed everyone, including my sister for $30.


Once home, I got started on dinner. I knew we had pork sirloin, jumbo pasta shells, and cheese. I developed a recipe in my cookbook for pork-stuffed shells. But, that calls for ground pork. I ended up grinding the small roast I had myself! Yes, really.

How’s that for a pantry challenge?

The pork sirloin roast, ground in the food processor worked great. It wasn’t yet completely thawed, so I cut it in chunks. The slightly frozen texture helped it not get gummy on the blade. I didn’t grind it super fine, but good enough for the Stuffed Shells.

The recipe, if you’re interested, is on page 167-68 of my book. It is fabulous with mushrooms, as directed in the book. But, we didn’t have mushrooms, so I subbed in bell peppers instead. Still very good. I think hubby ate half a pan himself.

Dinner was great: Stuffed Shells, Steamed Broccoli, Green Salad, and two loaves of 5-Minute Artisan Bread.

That bread was a life-saver during last year’s January challenge. Making it tonight reminded me how tasty it can be. I am running out of flour, but that may be a good thing to buy later this week to keep us in bread.

Last year I crunched the numbers and concluded that I could make the bread for $0.25/loaf. This year with the higher costs of groceries in general and buying a slighter better quality flour, my costs have risen a bit. I think I can still make it for about $0.40/loaf. Still a great bargain. (Our family eats about two of the small loaves as a side dish at dinner.) Time to explore some more recipes in that book.

Day 13 Menus

Breakfast: Chocolate Chip-Cranberry-Orange Muffins, Ginger-Almond French Toast (cookbook), scrambled eggs and bacon
Lunch: In-N-Out Burger
Dinner: Stuffed Shells, Steamed Broccoli, Green Salad, and two loaves of 5-Minute Artisan Bread.

So, that’s Day 13 for me. I feel a little more energized. I think I need to spend a little creative time in the kitchen each day to help me keep the momentum going.

How was your day 13?

If you’re blogging your adventure, remember that there will be a link up tomorrow at 8 am PST.

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

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  1. Out of curiosity (I am sure you have mentioned it before and I just didn’t see), how do you feed your family while eating out without getting drinks? Do you bring drinks along? And way to go on keeping it below $30…THAT is inspiring! We only have five in our family it and it gets up to $30 most of the times (hence we do not eat out that much). 🙂

    • @Jennifer, we always get water wherever we go. No restaurant has ever charged us or raised an eyebrow when we just order water. It started out as financially motivated, but now that we don’t buy sodas, it’s for health reasons, too.

      • @Jessica, Excellent idea! Thanks for the quick reply 🙂

        • @Jennifer,

          That’s funny!

          I rarely drink soda (seriously, I can remember 3 times in 2012 I had a soda, and it was only in between a mug of beer or a glass of wine at my husband’s company functions we attended). My kids won’t even try the stuff…when we go out, the server or counter person always says, “Sweetie, would you like a root beer/grape soda”? My 5 year old recently replied, “No…soda’s not good for you. It gives you cavity creeps..and Momma says it gives you cancer.”

          *sigh* Apparently, they over heard their Daddy and I talking about a recent study that was released. Whoops!

          And also…In N Out Burger…double sigh.

  2. Since Costco doesn’t sell ground chicken (at least not ours) I do this all the time to make it! I love ground chicken! Great for meatballs.

  3. Our pantry challenge is coming along nicely. Yesterday was meatloaf and roasted cauliflower. Green chile pork and tortillas for everyone for lunch today; ham and cheesy potato casserole for dinner (thanks for the recipe). Made an extra for the freezer for the coming weeks. Tomorrow will be herb chicken and rice pilaf for dinner. We’ve spent $136 for the month, including toiletries and paper products. I will have to buy more fresh produce this week, but other than that, we are looking great! I got a bread maker for Christmas, so I’ve been cranking out a loaf every other day too.

  4. I had high hopes of making soup for dinner since my day consisted mostly of saltines and Sprite (a piece of toast and waffle worked in there later). Finally I realized it wasn’t going to happen and had a PBJ (my comfort food) for dinner. Finally about 8this evening I perked up so I processed the10 lbs. bs breast I bought at $1.47 a lb. into 7 meals (marinated greek kebabs, wine/olive oil marinated kebabs, 4 seasoned cutlets, 4 unseasoned cutlets, cooked chicken for chicken enchilada casserole, teriyaki chicken cubes for stir fry and seasoned cubes for fajitas). I sent dh to Von’s to use my $10 coupon and he came home with a 3.5 lb. top round london broil that cost us 47 cents. Not sure how I’ll use that yet.

  5. Thanks for the daily updates. They keep me inspired. Today we ate off all my cooking efforts from yesterday. Homemade bread & yogurt for breakfast, lunch was pork/beef/veggie soup in the crockpot (finishing up our last squash for now…hooray!) and 5 dozen whole wheat rolls (for a potluck at church), dinner was quesadillas with pintos and a bit of leftover soup with apples. And I also sent food for our Sunday school class, a ham & egg dish and orange sections.

    I’ve now already spent more than I had intended to for the month, but I’m still trying to put my best food forward for the rest of the month. About $90 of the $250 I had allotted was eaten up in bulk buys of diapering supplies (for 2) on the 2nd day of the month. But I was glad when I child broke a tooth this week that I could still go to the pantry and find some things which fit the soft foods diet the dentist recommended without stopping at the store for more.

  6. You were superwoman yesterday – great job

    Particularly impressed with your restraint at costco LOL

  7. Wish we had an IN and Out, miss those hamburgers! Your meal looks so good.

  8. Breakfast: whole wheat English muffin with butter and peach preserves, milk, coffee
    Lunch: Leftover loaded potato soup (that I made in the crock pot the night before)
    Dinner: BBQ Tacos (a new creation for me!) I used leftover pulled pork from the freezer (leftover from the boston butt we smoked at Christmas) inside wheat tortillas and added BBQ sauce, sour cream, tomatoes, avocado, and red onions. These were simply scrumptions and a great way to repurpose leftover pulled pork!
    Snack: rosemary mixed nuts

  9. Yesterday here was waffles for breakfast and venison baloney for lunch with the last jar of caned potatoes (from 3 years ago). Supper was leftovers and popcorn.

    Today we have a birthday boy. he wants grilled cheeses for dinner. And I want them on potato bread so I get to make some. I forgot to make him cupcakes for school today, so this morning at 6am I was up making a batch of chocolate chip cookies. For his cake he wants carrot cake. I even have the cream cheese for frosting that I bought in Dec.

    We doubled the amount spent on food so we are at $50., it was mostly vegetables. But we did stick to our list.

  10. Trader Joe’s has nitrite/nitrate free bacon. They also have a package of the same bacon called “end and pieces.” If you don’t care about your bacon being uniform in size then it’s is a great deal. Just look at the packages carefully…some of them can have quite a bit of fat.

    • Yes, we love those ends! They are so much meatier sometimes than other packages. I just know TJ isn’t going to budge on their prices. But, Oscar Mayer might. 😉

  11. Breakfast: late for church, skipped it
    Lunch: MIL lives 7 hours away, was in town for the day, took us out to lunch. We have leftovers for another meal.
    Dinner: crockpot Basil Chicken with quinoa

    I’ve repeatedly heard that In & Out burgers are the best in the world, but I had no idea they were that inexpensive as well. That is phenomenal. I’m with you on the drinking water thing. We do sometimes have sodas here at the house, but I only get them when they are on sale. When a single drink at the restaurant costs the same as a 6-pk, it is NOT a good deal.

  12. Jan. 13 was another decent pantry day. I had a busy day with church volunteer meetings, church, and going to an author event at my local indie bookstore where I got to hear/meet one of my favorite authors! It was great. But, I had to plan well.

    Breakfast: hardboiled eggs and leftover rosemary bread from Thursday night. Fruit
    Lunch: whatever anyone could grab before heading to church at 1.
    Dinner: a new chicken recipe in the crockpot, leftover rice, big green salad. The chicken sounded great(I’m usually pretty good at reading a recipe for flavor), and came from a well-received slow cooker cookbook. But I’m not going to make it again. Something wasn’t quite right. But, it was ok, so we ate it. I’m going to scrape off the sauce and use the leftovers in a casserole late in the week. This won’t be a leftover lunch. Time to reinvent it.

    We also ate popcorn while watching the Golden Globes. I pop my own in the microwave. Healthy and cheap and yummy! I think some of the sweets from Christmas were raided too. How did we end up with so many candies/goodies this year?

  13. For breakfast, I had left over pizza & coffee… midday I made a large breakfast of bacon, hash browns, eggs, & toast for M’honey, and for supper I had cauliflower bisque from the freezer, chips, and later a couple pieces of Hershey peppermint kisses and about 2 oz of fortified wine.

    The frig is getting really clean..

  14. ooo Jealous your costco sells Horizon dairy products. I got your book for Christmas (STILL on the wait list at the library–need to cancel that) . Went on bed rest Dec. 27, ha ha, so I’ve not done any big freezer day but I did a double batch of one of my own favorite recipes that I haven’t made in awhile and froze one. Once this baby arrives we are totally going with freezer meals/components as our new norm!

  15. Kootenayannie says:

    I had been doing very well with the pantry challenge. I have made scones twice a week since we started ( hubbies favorite thing). We have them as our breakfast and as snacks. I have made them with, cranberries, rasins, both cranberries and rasins and blueberries. For the most part I have only bought Milk ( dh drinks milk with meals) cream for coffee, and a lettuce, tomatoes , cauliflower, mushrooms, and broccoli. The rest has been comming out of the freezer and pantry. So my bill had been only running $32. and I was so proud. However the other day we went to town, and dh. wanted to go out to eat. I said no, we were eating home this month, and he said OK I’ll spend what we spent last time we ate out and bring in some fun food. So he spent $42.36, with that we got a bag of chicken nuggets, 2 pakages thick cut bacon, 2 ready made pizza’s, 2 cartons of sour cream, 2 large bags of perogies ( one cheddar cheese and potatoes, and the other was cottage cheese and patatoes and onions), ad 2 packages of beef liver ( dh loves his liver and onions) so all were dh favorites. So I made chicken nuggets at dh request, and served them with home made french fries, sour cream and plum sauce ( from the fridge to use it up, also I have oodles of potatoes to use up). I made perogies served with sour cream, sauteed onions, and chopped up cooked bacon for supper the next night, I served heated up saur kraut that needed to be finnished with this. I made a huge pot of soup, using up , celery, onions, potaotes, carrots (all out of the fridge) , a tin of tomaotes ( stewed) barley, lelf over hamburger from our spaghetti night. and spices and bay leaf to make the soup tastey ( did us 3 lunches).
    I am pleased that I have used a lot of items up, but I didn’t need more meat! Yesterday I cooked a bonelss ham, that was in the freezer and cooked rice and peas to serve with the ham. Today I used the meat slicer and sliced up 1/2 the remaining ham into thin sandwich slices for supper tonight , ham sandwiches, with lettuce, tomatoe ( have 2 to use up), and oven fries , I also used the slicer to thin slice 3 dill pickles to add to the sandwiches. There will be sandwich meat for several days and same with the pickles. Also ham to add to omlettes and mac and cheese.
    Will need some fresh veg. and milk this comming week.

  16. Although I didn’t grind my own meat (impressive, by the way), your comment about the meat being partially frozen helped me out yesterday. I needed to put some turkey bacon through my Ninja for some soup. The last time I did this it was fine but a bit yucky. I tossed this batch in the freezer for a couple of hours and when I processed it later it was perfect! 😉

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