Pantry Challenge Day 16: The Pantry is Just Fine

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This is Day 16 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.

A couple days ago, I posted a picture of my baking cupboard. I think I gave a few people heart palpitations. If that was all the food we had in the house, I think I would have a heart attack, too. I’m too much of a stockpiler for that.

No, it’s just the baking cupboard that’s taken a hit. Aside from some baking mixes in the freezer and half a batch of five minute dough in the fridge, my baking moments are limited until I get more flour.

The pantry, on the other hand, is doing just fine. We’ve got plenty of beans, pickles, and squash — as well as rice, potatoes, and oats. You can’t see them, but there are also 9 cans of pumpkin still in the pantry as well as a myriad of other canned and dry goods. So, we’re good.

Much to my chagrin, there is still a fair amount of randomness in the freezer, though the proteins are dwindling. I may end up stocking up on chicken before the month is out since there are sales this week. But, we’re still holding strong.

Here’s how Day 16, my official halfway point, went:


I made a comfort food breakfast this morning: Cinnamon Finger Toast with my coffee. YUM! I gave Hubs this Cinnamon Sugar Grinder in his stocking. I think the kids and I have used it more than he has. It works great.

The kids also had Homemade Instant Oatmeal in addition to Cinnamon Toast.


For lunch I had leftover Summer Roll filling as a salad. But, for the kids I made them lunchables. Sort of.

They love these divided containers. Thanks to our weekly produce delivery, we rarely have room in the fridge to pack them in advance for lunches these days. So, it was a fun surprise for the younger kids. The older two were disappointed that I didn’t make them lunchables, too. (Though they wouldn’t tell you that.)

I included cheddar and spready cheeses, two kinds of crackers, apple slices, and 2 peppermint kisses. I also made everyone a berry-pineapple-coconut smoothie. They were thrilled.


Dinnertime photography does not do the meals justice. Sorry. Just keeping it real. (I also lost my camera which is not helping matters. One can only post iphone photos for so long.)

Tonight’s dinner was fabulous: Spaghetti Alfredo with Peas, Steamed Broccoli, and 5-Minute Artisan Bread. We all stuffed ourselves. So good!

Day 16 Menus

Breakfast: Cinnamon Finger ToastInstant Oatmeal
Lunch: Snacky Lunch, Smoothies, Leftovers for Mom
Dinner: Spaghetti Alfredo with Peas, Steamed Broccoli, and 5-Minute Artisan Bread

We’re halfway done with the challenge. We’ve bought some necessities along the way, but at the moment we’re on target to be several hundred dollars under budget. I need to focus the next couple days on the stuff in the freezer.

How’s it feel to be halfway?

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. The “lunchable” plates are adorable!
    You may be halfway, but I’m totally gonna keep plugging away. I need milk and eggs, and the kid would like some breakfast cereal since it’s almost gone. Otherwise, we don’t even have anything we can think of that we even want from the store. I’ve also cooked more things that either I don’t make often (like today’s pancakes) or things I’ve been wanting to do and just never got around to (like today’s lamb).
    Breakfast: banana chocolate chip pancakes
    Lunch: L/O basil chicken
    Dinner: lamb shank stew
    Snack: bowl of cereal for kid, cranberry bread for me

  2. This week is wearing me down. I’m ready for a week where I don’t have to think so hard about what to cook! I know, I know….suck it up, right?

    Breakfast – coffee cake (from the freezer), bananas, oranges
    Lunch – I had a lunch date with a friend and used a gift card. Everyone else ate at home or school.
    Dinner – Grilled cheese, Chicken Noodle Soup, sliced apples

  3. Rough week or so staying on track. However, still making an effort. Day 15 dinner was homemade. We made steak that was starting to look freezer-burnt. And since I hadn’t labeled it with a date, I am not certain how long it had been there. Also made oven roasted potatoes with the end of a 10 lb. bag that were getting soft.

    The three of us are not big potato eaters. However, when a 10 lb bag is the same price as a few large baking potatoes, you buy the larger quantity. And then what do you do with them? I did try Jessica’s idea of putting stuffed baked potatoes into the freezer–we made buffalo chicken stuffed potatoes since that was what we had on hand. But that only took part of the bag. Open to other idea and suggestions, though.

    • @Julie, Make mashed potatoes and freeze them in quart bags. You can use them for the top of shepherds pie or as a base for potato soup if you don’ t like eating mashed potatoes as a side.

    • @Julie, When I have potatoes that need to be used up, we have mashed potato bowls – kind of like rice bowls, but with potatoes instead. Everyone gets a bowl of mashed potatoes & we have lots of toppings to choose from – butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, veggies, chicken…whatever you have on hand.

      Potato soup is also a favorite in our house and it freezes well.

    • @Julie, We do hashbrowns. Cube them, toss in a bit of oil and season them as for roast potatoes, then par bake them. I take them out when they are fork tender, but not browned, and bag them for the freezer. I’ve been clearing some freezer space by making jam from berries frozen last summer so am looking for marked down, slightly sad looking potatoes for hashbrowns.

      • @Karen, This is a suggestion that would work for us. Boy has just started eating potatoes and the mashed variety are not in his repertoire yet.

        Courtney and Donna, I appreciate the suggestions too. Will have to try to make Shepherds pie and/or soup with the next bag I buy.

  4. This week is going fairly well. Although I have discovered that I need to keep better track of what is in my pantry and freezer!! I took a head of cauliflower out of the freezer and let it defrost but it was mushy and disgusting and I couldn’t eat it. But, I went with it and scrounged up some potatoes to use as a side instead!!

    • @Gia, did you freeze the cauliflower whole? I’m pretty sure you’ll want to blanch it before freezing next time. Veg is funny. Some varieties need to be partially cooked or they go funky in the freezer. Some shouldn’t be frozen at all.

  5. Breakfast: my usual: English muffin, coffee, milk
    Lunch: Leftover Tuna Pasta Puttanesca
    Dinner: Sausage and egg “cupcakes” as my daughter called them. I made “cupcakes” using the last of the wonton wrappers, eggs, sausage, and cheese. They were so good!
    Snacks: blueberries, string cheese, almonds

  6. son 2 was home from school yesterday with a 99.5 temp and 2 coughs. He asked for a snack I found some banana chips. He claimed he doesn’t like them. I took out a bag of milk chocolate chips, and told him he could melt a few and than dip the banana chips in them. He likes banana chips done that way. When son 1 got home from school he pretty much finished the rest of the banana chips off w/o chocolate.

    I made zucchini bread and yogurt yesterday. I still have a lot of zucchini in my freezer.

    B: zucchini bread, yogurt and home caned peaches
    L: pb&js on zucchini bread
    S: meatloaf (I’m only using 1lb of beef and I’ll throw in the rest of the pt of black beans).

  7. I love this – I now realize that I have way too much food on hand. I am getting more creative. Last night planned Spaghetti with meat balls. When I started my prep, realized I didn’t have any sauce. Went on line- found a few recipes that I liked- took the best features from 2 of them. I had every thing but pureed tomatoes- so off to the $ store- got a can of tomato sauce- and home I went. Here’s my sauce that we loved: cut up onion, saute with some pressed garlic, add1 can tomato sauce, 1 can diced tomatoes. Simmer 20 mins, add small ant of H2O and tomato paste, red wine, dried basil and oregano, meatballs, simmer about another 20-30 mins. Serve. I am depleting my pantry – love that it is no longer overflowing.

  8. Once again I turned left over Salsa Verde Beef into a soup for lunch yesterday. Of course the guys were thrilled. But I had a little fun. I was digging through the freezer for stuff to turn it into a soup. This time I added something new in addition to black beans, veggies, and elbow pasta—–about 1 1/2 cups of pureed pumpkin left over from a baking round. No one could taste it!!!! I let them try to guess the secret ingredient and they were shocked. It did thicken it up quite a bit, but none of my guys are gonna complain about thick soup! Thought of you and your never-ending pumpkin supply! 🙂

    • @Carla,

      mmm that sounds great! what did you use for broth?

      • @meg, I simply used all the leftover “stuff” with the chunks of meat. I added very few spices to the soup as it still had just enough of that salsa verde bite to it. So basically I just eyeballed how much water I added to it to thin my left over “stuff” down, but not too much, thereby making its own broth! (Oh, since I chilled my leftovers overnight, I was able to scrape off as much fat of the top of the brown goo before I put it in the pot). 🙂

    • @Carla, I’ve done that too. So good. I need a good beef sale so I can make that again.

  9. heart palpitations– yes.. I think I was one of them.. haha.. My downstairs pantry is overflowing and you’d probably love to eat off mine for a while.. For the last 14 years, I got paid every other Friday so I had to learn to “stock up” when the getting was good.. and then I learned to coupon stock up.. so I got to where I kept at least a years stock on hand.. at least on some things. While I rarely coupon anymore, I do follow the deal blogs and when something I’ll use a lot of is up for cheap or free.. Im in! I could eat off ours for a good long time.. At least 6 months I believe.. maybe longer in some areas.

  10. Forgot to post my consumables.. 😉

    For brunch I had leftover Chicken Marsala & Garlic Mashed potatoes from Olive Garden
    For supper we had Onion Pork loin with gravy, garlic mashed potatoes & a salad with lots of roasted garlic & olives with Italian dressing. M’honey had bleu cheese crumbles in his.

    I had bananas for snacks.
    Easy peasy day!

    • @KimH, Its a good thing my head is connected to my bod… I’d forget where I left it today. 😉

      We also had roasted carrots & butternut squash for supper. It was so good.. I just peeled about a pound of carrots and cut them in 1/3rds and halved the largest segment, then peeled and diced the butternut squash in about 1 inch cubes, then put them on a roasting pan lined with foil, drizzled olive oil, added salt & pepper and then mixed them up a bit to get the olive oil scattered throughout.. and baked them at 350° for close to an hour.. Delish!!

  11. We have only spent 1/4 of the amt we normally spend by now and the freezers and pantry are still pretty full.Part of it is we both have the flu, me twice so we aren’t eating as much as normal. The dry goods cabinet in the dining room shows where we have eaten from the most.It holds the Ramen noodles and hot breakfast cereals among the other box items that was given to us but we don’t buy that often.

    Glad to have this challenge as it has kept me accountable.

  12. Heather M says:

    Jan. 16 was another successful pantry challenge in our house! Breakfast and Lunch were the usual, turkey sausage, cereal, juice, lunchbox for the 16yo and leftovers for the hubs. 11yo was still home sick and we both had tuna sandwiches, apples, and a few doritos.

    I also had to make a large veggie platter for the HS Chorus (they had a “pyramid” concert with a few ES’s and MS’s and had to be there at 4:30, so ate dinner together at school). Would have been easier to buy the $9.99 platter at Costco, but it is half broccoli, and not much variety. Just didn’t seem like a good option for the kids. I bought piles of fresh veggies at Costco, intending to use a bunch for us in meals. I did carrots, celery sticks, pea pods, red bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, and grape tomatoes. Overflowing. It was about $11 worth of the veggies I purchased, and we are using up the rest since it’s all standard food around here.

    Dinner was great. Tried yet another new recipe, Spanish Spaghetti. Pantry and freezer: ground beef (half saved for 17th’s soup dinner), pasta, marinara sauce, green olives, capers, etc. etc. So yummy! And stretches a pound of beef for another meal. We also had salad.

    I baked banana muffins after dinner, for breakfasts/snacks. 🙂

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