Pantry Challenge Day 14: The Cupboard Grows Bare

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This is Day 14 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.

My baking cupboard stands testimony to the fact that most of our baked goods are homebaked. Today I used up the last of the flour to make another batch of Artisan Bread dough. The sugar is dwindling. The cocoa is gone.

We’re eating well — and doing it mostly at home.


I love breakfast bars — and I love freezer cooking for breakfast. Together they make mornings super easy. This morning I laid out the last loaf of Pumpkin Bread, a bag of granola, oranges, and bread for toast. Everyone could have what he wanted. This is what I chose:


For the mid-day meal, we made easy grilled cheese on the panini press. Everyone prefers buttered-griddle-cooked grilled cheese, but this way is easier with less cleanup. I like that.


For dinner we had one of my favorite “lighter” meals: Summer Rolls. When I cleaned out the pantry last week, I found several packets of rice papers, so that was a fun food to mix into the Pantry Challenge. I had chicken tenders in the freezer as well as nappa cabbage, green onion, carrots, and cilantro in the fridge. Also mixed in a can of water chestnuts from the pantry. Yum!

The baking cupboard is obviously growing bare. There are still quite a few items in the deep freeze and in the pantry. Some randomness, of course, like 8 cans of pumpkin or 9 pounds of butter that we’re obviously not going to use up.

But, I need to deal with the growing pile of butternut squash. I think I will do that after Wednesday’s produce delivery in case they have more!

Day 14 Menus

Breakfast: Spiced Pumpkin Bread, Cranberry-Orange Granola
Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Dinner: Summer Rolls

How’s your pantry challenge going?

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. We picked up eggs today and I ordered some seasoning mixes from Amazon at a way better price than I can buy locally. Beyond that we are doing pretty good.

    I’m keeping a lit of our meals on my blog as a way for me to see what we’re using the most.

    We’ll be making more bread tomorrow…I’m amazed at how fast we go through it now that I am tracking it.

  2. Still going strong for dinners, we still have so much to use up.
    Tonight leftover prime rib, warmed up in gravy. Some rice and fresh veggies and dip.
    Need to get a menu plan done for this week and get better about lunches and breakfast, for my wallet and my health. A little planning goes a long way, must make the time to do that for optimum success.

    • @Dawn M, You have hit the nail on the head. Lack of planning here has directly led to eating too many restaurant dinners in the last week. Have gotten back on track, though and continuing to move forward.

  3. Ok I’m an extreme newbie to freezer cooking (just did my first BIG cooking day over the weekend) Phew! Noe that my freezer is full I get that I, too, will have to do a pantry challenge in the future. While this saves money the month of the challenge, don’t you have to use that savings to “start over’ the next month. I spent quite a bit just to get started and it was difficult coming up with the money all at once. Is that what you do? Or do you just gradually refill the freezer. Hopefully not a silly question.

    • Not a silly question at all — and one that I wracked my brains on for years. What I do is that I watch the sales and stock up on things that I know I will use. For instance when chicken breast is $2 or under, I buy ten to twenty pounds of it. I buy things before I “need” them at prices that make it easy to buy a lot at one time. In this way, I build a stockpile for ingredients to use in freezer cooking, so I tailor my freezer cooking to fit the things that I already have. This post might help: and this one:

      • @Jessica,
        Thanks so much for your respons. Those links were very helpful. I NEED to get into couponing and building up my pantry. I’ve always done meat sales but that’s pretty much it. So now I’ll be on the lookout for good deals that will benefit me for future freezer cooking. NEW way of thinking about it all but I never was much of a convenience food person anyway. LOVE having meals ready to go. It’s not the cooking I mind, it’s the imagination at the end of the day too close to dinner that stressed me out. This is Sooo much better! Thanks again.

        • @Kristy, don’t feel like you have to become the coupon queen. I rarely do any coupons now. I dont have the time to invest. I just find good sales and markdowns.

        • @Kristy,

          I do the same thing as Fishmama. I rarely use coupons for food items. I find bulk buys and sales to be much more doable in my life.

          However, I do keep up with the sales papers — this allows me to “cherry pick,” which is choosing the best deals from each store and shopping those items. Sometimes there aren’t things, but often there are. B1G1 deals are a great way to build up stock.

  4. Marianne Parker says:

    Had to give in and go grocery shopping. Dwindling meat and perishables. Luckily – Sam’s was marking down meat. And, got lots of fruits and veggies. But, .like you,I’m starting to dwindle on stuff. It’s funny. I’m getting really nervous about being completely out of something – it’s bothering my hillbilly nature. So, I probably won’t clean out the pantry, but I’ll get everything rotated which is also part of this challenge. Also, the freezer – the whole foods are about gone. But, the processed stuff – no one is touching it. Feel like it’s a victory for our diet, but man, we’ve got to eat that stuff too. :)!


    • @Marianne Parker, You made me laugh! My inner hillbilly was horrified at the nearly empty baking cupboard photo! I just can’t bring myself to run that low on my inventory. Like you, I’m concentrating more on rotation and using up the oddball bits that otherwise end up neglected forever.

      • @Karen, I don’t know if it’s hillbilly. I’m in urban New England, and I can walk to the closest grocery store, and I still looked at the photo and thought “I can’t go that low!” I think I worry something will happen right at the lowest point (blizzard, job loss, hurricane) OR (and maybe worse) I’ll end up having to restock at non sale prices. GASP!

      • @Karen, relax. 😉 That’s just my baking cupboard. My pantry is still bursting.

  5. Good day here.
    Breakfast – Finished off the coffee cake, bananas, oranges
    Lunch – Leftovers at work or home
    Dinner – Made Posole with the leftover pulled pork from the freezer, salad, bar cookies for dessert

  6. First time poster here!!! Thanks for all the inspiration! I have been 1/2-way playing along with the panrty challenge. Our family made a goal to eat out only once a week. Week 3, so far so good. Hubby and I promised our boys (age 8 & 7) a weekend get-away if we can stick to our goal. First up will be Great Wolf Lodge. Not a cheap trip but if we only eat out once a week, we will save enough for one night in about a week and a half!! Then the rest of the savings are gravy, so to speak!!

    So, for the challenge, I’m definitely making progress on the freezer and some on the pantry but still having to pick up stuff to fill out the menu. But, again, not spending nearly as much as we did eating out AND buying groceries.

    Menu for this week :
    Monday was leftover Chicken Casserole
    Tuesday – Tacos with ground beef from freezer
    Wednesday – Crockpot Cube Steak (freezer) and mashed potatoes (on-hand)
    Thursday – leftovers from Tue & Wed
    Friday/Saturday – out one night/pizza the other

    Will only need to pick up lettuce, tomato and onion soup mix.

  7. I was busy, didnt cook & didnt eat much.. Still working on getting rid of leftovers. We’re getting there. I still have some of the homemade pizza left, a bowl of cabbage roll soup for M’honey, a bit of bread pudding and I think thats it. Im tossing 3 pieces of a fritata I made last week.. 🙁 It got hidden and the bottoms are kinda soggy.. yuk! I’ll eat the toppings from the pizza to get rid of that.. I’ve had more than enough bread this week..(gluten sensitive) time to stop eating it.

    I had a Chicken Cordon Bleu for brunch and a large piece of lo pizza and garlic bread for supper. For a late night snack, I had a couple tablespoons of almond butter with violet honey mixed together.

    M;honey went to the store to get milk, bananas, a pineapple, and some artisan lettuces..
    He had Chicken Cordon Bleu, spaghetti, garlic bread and a salad with artichoke hearts, bleu cheese, tomatoes, & Italian dressing for dinner. & milk.. lots of milk.

  8. So far, so good here. I’m so proud of myself for sticking with this challenge. I will have to go to the store later this week, but we are doing a great job of eating from our pantry/freezer!
    Breakfast: whole wheat English muffin w/ butter, peach preserves, milk, coffee (seriously, I’m a creature of habit and eat the same thing every single morning!) My 2 year old daughter eats frozen cinnamon bread every morning (she literally wants to eat it right out of the freezer!)
    Lunch: Leftover pulled pork tacos (w/BBQ sauce, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, moz. cheese, and red onions)
    Dinner: Tuna Pasta Puttanesca (a great use of the canned tuna, capers, and olives in my pantry!)
    When I first started this challenge, I took inventory of what I had on hand, and then researched recipes using those ingredients. Then I made a list of a month’s worth of meals using those ingredients, plus a few more things I knew I could cheaply pick up at the store. That helped tremendously because I always need a game plan. If I was armed with tons of recipes for things I had on hand, then I wouldn’t be tempted to go out to eat or to shop for more things. Thanks againf or hosting such a great challenge. It has helped me in so many ways!!

  9. Since the Pantry Challenge started, I’ve tried the muffin recipe where you simply combine a can of pumpkin and a box of cake mix and bake. I was a skeptic because I don’t like cake mix cookies, but the muffins are good! I love reading the Pantry Challenge posts and comments. Cheers!

  10. We also had summer rolls yesterday! Same thing–we had rice paper. I picked lettuce and herbs from my patio garden and added some shrimp from the freezer. And looking forward to seeing what you do with the butternut squash. I have 6 from last month’s produce boxes!

  11. My absolute FAVORITE way to eat butternut squash is to roast it. Peel it, chop it up into bite sized pieces and put it on a pan lightly drizzled with olive oil. Toss them around a bit to coat with the oil, then sprinkle with salt and roast at 400 degrees until they are getting golden on the edges. The natural sugars in them come out and they taste sweet and salty at the same time. My husband calls them candy vegetables and my kids gobble them up. If you haven’t tried roasted butternut squash, do it!

    • @Crystal, I agree! I made the Our Best Bite ladies roasted butternut squash recipe this week and we both loved it! I’ve often roasted vegetables, but never thought of doing squash.

    • @Crystal, We usually eat our butternut squash as “fries”. Peel and cut the squash into french-fry shapes, coat them in some kind of oil (we do coconut) and sprinkle with salt, then roast them and serve alongside burgers or whatever else you would serve french-fries with. I have been tempted to eat the whole pan myself!

  12. That’s a lot of squash!

    I actually remembered to start defrosting a turkey today to eat this weekend. That’s a huge victory for me! We’re almost out of sugar; I’ll probably give in and buy more. On my to do list for the week are granola, salad dressing and more bread.

    I have about a million onions for some reason. I think I’ll caramelize them in the crockpot to use for pizza toppings.

  13. Breakfast: pumpkin bread
    Lunch: L/O from Sunday’s restaurant lunch
    Dinner: L/O tomato soup with a random 1/2 cup of rice tossed in, grilled cheese sandwiches
    Late snack: popcorn

  14. Try roasting the butternut squash with a combo of ginger/cinnamon/cloves/maple syrup/rosemary or chile pwd/olive oil/chipotle. My kids also love squash and sweet potato soup–hit it with the immersion blender and let your kids slurp it with a straw! If all else fails, steam and mash and use it like pumpkin.

  15. Jan. 14 was a good day again, though I gave in and hit costco. I have to provide a large veggie tray Wednesday for the HS choir. I don’t like the $10 tray at costco… it’s mostly broccoli and cauliflower and would be a waste for those HSers. So I stocked up on fresh items that we will also eat, like celery, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, pea pods, red bell peppers. Also stocked up on berries, apples, pineapple, and a few nonperishables (like my weakness, diet coke) we needed. I ended up spending about $100 on the food. But I’m on track for a great month for us, food spending-wise. If I keep it under $500, it’ll be half my usual spending.

    Breakfast: cereal and the last of the coconut-choc chip muffins
    Lunch: Lunchbox, leftovers, and a splurge of Costco pizza slice for me and the at home sick 11yo(again this week!)
    Dinner: Taco Salad, with some of that extra lettuce from last week’s extra when I took caesar salad for tons of people. I still have 2 1/2 bags left from Trader Joe’s(If you’re going to buy prepared lettuce it’s the best deal going). Also, beef from the freezer, can of black beans, old avocados that are still viable, tomatoes, etc. So good! (the secret is in adding some doritos…. but add as you serve, to keep them crunchy and control the amount you add)

    Still hardly looks like a dent has been made in the cupboards. Maybe by mid-february?

  16. Try cubing the butternut and tossing it with olive oil, s&p and fresh rosemary on a sheet pan, roast at 400 for about 30-45 min until golden around the edges. Super yummy, one of our favorites.

    • Yes, I love it that way. The fam not so much. If I bake with it, though, they’ll eat it (and love it) unknowingly.

      • @Jessica, We have a friend that gives us Seminole squash – I’ve heard them called other names as well – and it tastes a lot like pumpkin. I use it interchangeably in many recipes including pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and I’ve even put it in mac’n’cheese to beef up the nutrition!

  17. Your recipe for Cranberry-Orange Granola sounds great. Just wondering how many servings it makes?

  18. I am having a hard time using up what we have in the freezer, Not because I don’t want to, but because of circumstances. Someone brought a meal to us last night, we ate leftovers from the weekend tonight and tomorrow night the kids all eat at church. SO! Maybe by Thursday night I can get back to my weekly meal plan. I am not complaining though. It’s been an easy two nights for me.

    • @Harriet, I think considering the circumstances, rest and enjoy the support that you have. How wonderful that you have folks helping you guys out. How is your husband feeling?

      • @Jessica, Hubs goes back to oncologist tomorrow for more liver counts. If they are better, he starts chemo again. Maybe a new chemo and maybe just a lesser dose.
        Tomorrow night we are having crock pot chicken. Still on board!
        BTW: Milk is on sale for $3 a gallon here this week. Isn’t that absurd? We shouldn’t have to pay more than that ever!

  19. My FAVORITE use for Butternut Squash is Curried Butternut Squash and Pear Soup. This is the best soup and I freeze it right before it says to add the half and half. We eat it all winter long. Don’t tell, but I often use apples or canned pears since I can’t seem to time a ripe pear and a butternut squash at the same time. Also, I have roasted the squash in halfs and just frozen the mashed squash for later use. I wish I had some squash now!

  20. Yum, I baked both butternut and acorn squash tonight that I put butter, brown sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon on. Not exactly diet friendly but oh so comforting! We had bbq steak and I fixed the collards for myself since I knew dh wouldn’t like them and he and mom had a baked potato. Tomorrow will be an asian slaw to use up the other half of the napa cabbage, cilantro and carrots I have on hand with some broiled chicken kebabs. We haven’t eaten out since Jan. 3rd. It’s been great on the pocketbook! It feels good to take the extra time to plan and use up what we have on hand.

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