Pantry Challenge Day 2: Enchilada Night & a Freezer Inventory

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This is Day 2 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.

Day 2 of our month-long Pantry Challenge found me making an inventory of the freezers. I have two: a deep freeze and the  freezer section of our side-by-side refrigerator. I must confess I had neglected both.

During the summertime pantry challenge I came up with the brilliant-if-I-do-say-so-myself idea of making the kitchen freezer serve as a holding tank for the week’s meals. Since food is preserved better in the deep freeze which isn’t opened as frequently, it’s best to keep long-term items in the deep freeze and short-term items in the fridge freezer.

Of course, I’ve let this go in the months since July, and the kitchen freezer became this catch-all for little bits of leftovers that I didn’t want to waste.

I took a full inventory of both and figured out that we are (mostly) set for the month — as long as I’m creative.

Honestly? There were little bitty items (ie frozen corn, squash puree, and peas) that had been there through the past TWO pantry challenges. I decided that we needed to use those things up first. This week! I culled several random bag o’ bits into one bag for soup tomorrow and another random bag of pizza toppings. Shhh… it’ll be our little secret.

I also did some freezer organization. You’ll recall that I installed black bins last winter. The green baskets disappeared. I have no idea what happened to them.

Anyway, I sorted it all and now have all TEN jars of Crockpot Applesauce in one location! I also have all nine pounds of butter stored in the same area. As well as the eight pounds of cranberries.

Ha! I don’t plan to use all those items this month. I’ll focus on the random bits instead of the organized stockpile. But at least I know what we have.


The pantry challenge always keeps me on my toes and I find that I pay more attention to my meal plan during these months. Too bad those 30 days don’t create a new habit!

Regardless, I pulled a muffin mix and a bag of squash puree out of the freezer last night for muffins this morning.

I told the kids it was pumpkin. For some reason pumpkin sounds better than squash. I seasoned the batter with cinnamon and sprinkled demerara sugar over the tops. They were a hit! I will probably make them again and post the recipe later this month.

We also had apple slices, hot cocoa/coffee with our muffins.


As I mentioned yesterday, we were rich in leftovers. The kids were less than thrilled when I reheated a previous night’s soup and served it to them today for lunch. They were desiring something new. Too bad. I ate my leftover salad from Rubio’s as well as a handful of leftover homemade egg rolls.

Waste not, want not, right?

When they were done with soup, they had their choice of leftover ham and potatoes from yesterday or eggrolls and stuffed mushrooms from the night before. They did not wrinkle their noses, however at the leftover cheesecake from New Year’s Day.


Dinner was a surprise and a half. I knew I had corn tortillas in the fridge as well as some cheese. In the freeer I had a random bag of extra filling from Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (cookbook recipe) that I had made in a previous freezer cooking session. In my inventory I also found several bags of roasted poblanos.

Enchiladas were on the menu; it came together better than I expected. I had a jar of Herdez Salsa Verde (my fave!) in the pantry hiding behind another brand of salsa that I am loathe to use and sour cream in the fridge. I was able to make a small pan of Creamy Chicken Enchiladas and a smaller pan of Poblano Chile Enchiladas. Open up a can of black beans, steam some rice in the rice cooker, and we’re set!

Hubby was stunned when I said it was a Pantry Challenge night. He said, something like, “But that’s supposed to be eww….”

Not this year, baby.

In light of one of my new goals for the year, I had one of my sons, Mr. 8, help me out. He grated cheese, started the rice cooker, and rinsed the beans. He was antsy to get back outside and play, but I figured I miss out on stuff to make dinner, it’s okay if he misses one night a week, too. He did great and we’re on the road to children with kitchen independence.

I had originally thought to make a Lemon Meringue Pie with the lemons my dad brought us at Christmas, but I found a Slab Apple Pie in the deep freeze. Yes, really! I figured it was better to use up what was already prepared first, so we had apple, not lemon, pie for dessert.

Day 2 Menus

Breakfast: Cinnamon Butternut Squash Muffins, Apple Slices, Malted Hot Cocoa/Coffee

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Creamy Chicken Enchiladas, Poblano Chile Enchiladas, Brown Rice, Black Beans, Salad, Slab Apple Pie

Day 2 ended pretty well. I’m doing some breakfast freezer cooking tomorrow and was holding my breath. My tallies showed that I might not have enough sugar. But, no, I found enough in the cupboard tonight. Hopefully, everything else will hold out as well.

How did Day 2 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.

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  1. Jan 1: we had eggs for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and pizza for dinner.
    Jan 2: we finished the pizza for breakfast, finished some other leftovers for lunch along with salmon out of the freezer, and then I made a loaded potato soup for dinner. Those were getting a little soft, plus I added in some chopped carrots and celery to get them out of the fridge (couldn’t tell they were there once it was pureed), and that used up the open sour cream and bacon.
    Jan 3: we will be having a baked french toast for breakfast. The overly stale bread is soaking overnight in the egg and milk mixture, so I just have to pop it into the oven in the morning. I’m thinking I will chop an apple and add that in before it bakes. I might also fry up some sausage that is hanging out in the freezer. Lunch is a planned lunch out (work thing) and the kid will eat the leftovers. Dinner will be chicken and mushroom alfredo using the leftover bowtie pasta already cooked, cream that is nearing expiration date but smells fine, chicken from the freezer, and the last of my mushrooms. Plus a salad to use the lettuce and grape tomatoes.

    I’m finally seeing some open space in the fridge! Never mind the pantry and freezer, I needed to get the perishable stuff used up. I still have a portion of canned pumpkin and a portion of homemade cranberry sauce that I plan to use up in a cranberry bread. There are still quite a few veggies in the crisper that are nearing life expectancy, so I will be crockpotting a soup soon, probably Friday, and that will also use some of the frozen turkey stock .

  2. My week is going pretty easy as I had just grocery shopped the day before I found your challenge and decided to join. I like the idea of going through the freezer and writing down how many meals we have, I am sure that will be an eye opener for me. (oh and thanks for digging me out again, don’t worry though I end up in everyone’s filters, and have no idea why)

  3. I am still traveling for the holidays, but my rule is to always choose fresh over frozen and frozen over canned/boxed (for kitchen management reasons). Although I suspect your team is so large is doesn’t make much of a difference!!

    We have been gone from home for a month and will be tackling the freezer & stockpile when we get back! My big food resolution is to make the kids “my food.” I will figure out a way to get my extremely picky 4 year old to eat it. She almost puked but her grandma convinced her to eat a lettuce leaf yesterday. If she can willingly put lettuce into her mouth I can convince her to eat some quinoa and brown rice!

    • @Bk, ha! Well, good luck with that. We are pursuing similar picky eater reformation here. I’m making “my food” as you say and requiring that everyone eat a small amount.

  4. We had frozen pizza with bell peppers for the topping and a pineapple that didn’t get cut on New Years. Not the most inventive dinner but it was from the freezer. We also have lots of food from way to long ago. Stuff we don’t really like but I had bought. Hoping this weekend to inventory & force myself to use up some of that stuff.

  5. Made pancakes for breakfast- Kids last day of break… made enough for a leftover morning! Lunch was NYD leftovers and grilled cheese sammies for the kids. Dinner I found a package of ground chicken in the freeze..( notmy fav) but I seasoned and browned it up, sauced in a bottle of BBQ from the fridge and shredded cheese and wrapped in some tubes of Crescent Rolls ( inlaws left them here from Christmas). Salad and oven roasted carrots and potatoes rounded out the meal!

  6. Breakfast was bananas and bagels. Lunch was sandwiches and fruit. Dinner is where we started the cleaning out. Pulled together an egg casserole using the last 1/2 bag of hashbrowns, the last of the sausage and threw in a small bag of sliced zucchini that had been lurking in the freezer since summer. Added 7 beaten eggs and shredded cheese and baked. Delish. Served it with steamed asparagus, the last 4 bagels, toasted and orange slices. So far, I’m on it!

  7. Typically, I don’t let things linger too long in the pantry, freezer or fridge. But I am a big fan of eating what we have. One of the constant challenges in our house are the items I buy that are “good to add to our diet” and items only I will eat. Last night’s dinner was a good example of using up bits and pieces. Take out Middle Eastern food from a while back left us with some garlic spread. Lemons that had been in the drawer for a while are a great addition to make a tasty marinade. Along with roast squash, steamed broccoli that was on it’s way out and a noodle side dish fed the three of us. Only trouble–thought my husband took enough out to have leftovers. Not so. Once my lunch was packed for today, there is one small piece left for his lunch or boy’s after school snack.

  8. We just recently got a deep freeze and I definitely need to make an inventory of it before things get out of hand…

  9. Bomb for us today. We had breakfast burritos extra for the freezer. lunch i worked and had lo ham and bean soup & cornbread muffins I forgot to mention yesterday. Dad made mac & cheese & hot dogs for him & the 2 youngest (8 yo home sick from school). 14 yo packed I have no idea and said she made an omlet for breakfast. Here’s the bomb part..I got sick at work, had put a freezer meal of orange chicken in the crock pot, no problem right..I got home it was burned and gross but didn’t notice before I made rice. We ate some of it, but then pulled out lo spaghetti, stroganoff and had jelly bread and corn.

    • I wouldn’t really call that a bomb. You didn’t go out for a steak dinner or anything. Though I wouldn’t blame you if you had. 😉 You’re using the LOs. That’s good!

  10. Loved your post! I love how you made one kiddo help with all the dinner preperations, such a great idea. I know it would also help the kid dynamics to have one out of the mix for a bit too. Anyways- I was drawn to the muffins you made- I have a sweetened squash puree in my freezer from a recipe that didn’t pan out as well as planned. (although the squash was super yummy.) anyways- I never figured out a way to use it. It may be freezer burned by now, but I think I’ll try to make muffins with it if it’s not. Thanks for sharing your creativity!

  11. Jan.1 Blackeye Peas with smoked sausage over brown rice and corn bread
    Jan.2 Crockpot BBQ Chicken over mashed potatoes that where from New Year’s Eve, and carrots
    Jan.3 Breakfast-Toast with boiled eggs, lunch-BBQ Chicken from dinner, dinner-Ham and beans-that is if I can get the beans cooking NOW. Do you have any tricks for getting beans done by 6:00pm Central Standard Time?

    I am needing to pull together a weekly menu. I think this will help me, not have that, What are we going to eat thought?
    I also, need to inventory the freezer. That will help a great deal.

    • @Tamiko, I think beans are an all-day affair. I soak for 24 hours and then cook all day in the slow cooker.

    • @Tamiko, I’ve had marginal luck preparing beans quickly in a pressure cooker. There seems to be a trick with getting just the right amount of liquid which I haven’t quite figured out yet. When I get it right though, I have beans in about 1/2 hour! I’ve also had good luck with a rapid soak: rinse & sort, boil hard for one minute, turn off heat & let beans soak for an hour. Then dump water and cook as directed on the package. Good luck!

    • @Tamiko, I soak and cook several meals worth at a time, when I don’t need them, then either freeze in meal size portions or pressure can.

  12. I’ve got the same goal of having my kids gain some kitchen independence this year. 🙂 Since we have been gone for two weeks, there was very little in our refrigerator to pull from, and I’ve got no chest freezer to pull from. I did do a freezer inventory. LOVE the easy method you came up with. My goal for the month is to only eat out twice this month and do some freezer cooking. I’ll be following the series, though! 🙂

  13. We’re sort of eating from the panty with you these next few weeks. I have a lot of stuff we need to clear out! But we’re traveling at the end of the month so I’ll have to continue into Feb. Love your idea about keeping the week’s foods in your kitchen freezer. Brilliant!!

  14. Day 2 Menus:
    Breakfast was milk, sliced apples and homemade granola bars.
    The kids had lunch at school. My husband and I had leftover tacos with chips and salsa.
    Dinner was mini chicken pot pies, sweet corn, green beans, sliced oranges and sliced apples. I had a 2-cup bag of cooked shredded chicken in the freezer along with frozen veggies for the pot pies.

    I understand Meg’s issues with dietary restrictions. My husband is diabetic so we have to limit the number of carbohydrates for all his meals. It can be very difficult. Just 2 TBPS of ketchup has 10 carbs and he is not supposed to have more than 75 at any meal! This can make what would otherwise be a great meal for most of us, unsuitable for him. For example, my children love to have a slice or two of my homemade banana bread with peanut butter and a glass of milk for breakfast, which works great for them; it is not a good choice at all for my husband.

    My only advice would be to try to find entrees that work for nearly everyone and meet other dietary needs or restrictions with the side dishes. Last night my youngest took one bite of the pot pies and turned up her nose. She proceeded to fill her plate from the bowls of fruit and vegetables. While a bit short on protein, it was nevertheless a nutritious meal. Kids obviously need to eat a balanced diet over the course of the week, but if an occasional meal is less than ideal it is usually not a big deal. My oldest had issues with failure to thrive early on and my doctor kept assuring me that an occasional missed meal was nothing to worry about. Instead focus on the big picture.

  15. Golly day I like reading the pantry challenge posts. 🙂

  16. Day two was a semi-success for us –
    I needed to get milk, butter & eggs at the grocery store, and was going to check the prices on meat because we’re a little shy there. Soooo….. hubs decided he needed to come with me. Which I really did not want, because he’s an impulse buyer and would spend MUCH more than I intended… which is exactly what happened. 🙁 He saw some steaks and decided we needed some.

    As far as meals, I’m the only one who ate breakfast from the kitchen yesterday (another fail). But lunchtime was a good use of leftovers – ds#3 & I had bbq chicken sandwiches w/leftover chicken, while hubs had a repeat of NY dinner – one slice of ham, l/o collards, cornbread, and he & I both had blackeyed peas. I also made some veggie ‘pancakes’ with some zucchini that were about to give up the ghost, which were happily gobbled up, especially by my picky 12 y.o.!!! Dinner was big tossed salads with a potato torte which my guys love. Here’s so better success on Day 3!

  17. Totally failed. Long day at work and too tired to put any effort into dinner. Had hubby pick up some fried chicken for dinner, at our local grocery store, on his way home. 😛 Will try again today.

    I need to make a list of everything I have too.

    Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

  18. We have been encouraged to take our youngest son off dairy, gluten. and sugar. I also know that my oldest son who has autism would also benefit from a diet overhaul. So my hubby would like us all to try and do the diet as well. The only problem is my house is currently full of diary, gluten and sugar. My instinct is to use it up with the other family members and start only the two boys on the special diet. I hate the idea of wasting the food that I have worked so hard to buy on sale and stockpile. My hubby would like us to donate anything not opened to the food bank and give anything opened to family and start this new diet with the start of the New Year. I really wanted to do this challenge this month to help off set the cost of Christmas, now I am faced with having to buy foods that tend to be more expensive, and lose all the money I have invested in the food that I already have. It will be a good investment in our families health, but not for our pocket book.

    • @Tracy, for what it’s worth, if your husband is on board to make the changes, I say follow his lead. It could be a really good thing for your family. I know the money part is hard, but God will provide the resources, patience, and wisdom to know what to do.

    • @Tracy, I sympathize with you. It definitely is hard. It’s great that your hubby is on board with this change. That doesn’t always happen. My daughter is gluten-free, nut-free, and mostly dairy-free, soy-free, and egg-free. It is a challenge. We eat mainly fresh meat, veggies, fruit, and try to keep it as simple as possible. I’d be happy to share any recipes that I have, but we’d have to figure out how to sub for sugar in some of them. Jessica has lots of recipes that work for us, even with the dietary restrictions that my daughter has. Let me know if you need any support or help. 🙂

    • @Tracy, We are gluten free, peanut and tree nut free and it can be so expensive and challenging at times. It is so good that your husband is on board, that will make it easier. We had to go gluten free and then just a few months later we had to go nut and peanut free. The amount of food I had to get rid of in those few months made me sick. I saw all the money I spent on it, plus all the money on new food that was safe for us to eat and it was overwhelming, but having it gone and out of the way was so important to me. It took the temptation to eat or use it out of the house. It was much easier to keep on hand only what I knew we could all have. Food issues can be challenging, but know that it does get easier with time. The first few months are overwhelming, but once you start figuring things out it does get easier. We are not sugar and dairy free, but I do have a gluten free allergy section on my website, where I am very honest and keep it real about dealing with food issues and love the support that my readers give. Let me know if you need any help.

    • @Tracy, I have been trying to get my family on a Paleo diet for a long long time. I wish my hubby was more supportive. You can find great recipe ideas that are gluten, dairy, and sugar free by browsing Paleo websites. My fave is Everyday Paleo. And don’t forget that in the long run you will save money on medical bills by eating healthier.

      • @Demi,

        Thank you all for your encouraging words. I will check out the Paleo recipes. It will be challenging, and we might not be able to go completely free on everything for everyone in the house, there would be a rebellion from the older kids, but after a week of preparing food without the sugar, gluten, and dairy it does seem doable. I also have to say that Costco ( I live in Canada so it does not carry the same products as the USA) has been increasing their gluten free products, so I did well shopping there earlier this week.


  19. Um, what does that say between “red sauce” and “gravy”? It really looks like, well, “rat”. Ewwww.

  20. Don’t hate me. We’re still on vacation and will have some clam chowder at the wharf before driving home today. Last night I kind of rattled my brain and made out a menu for the next week using what I know we have on hand at home. I’m doing a pantry clean out tomorrow so I’ll make out an inventory list. I can only eat carbs on Saturday so it looks like I’ll have some type of pasta dish since I know I have a lot stockpiled. I need to pick up just a few staples on the way home. If I can keep the grocery cost down to $200-250this month, I’ll be thrilled.

  21. Day 2.. so far so good..
    I had veggie & sausage fritatta and 2 cups o’joe for breakfast.. apple for a snack, leftover black eye peas & ham for a late lunch and leftover beef & broccoli stir fry from last night for my supper.
    M’honey will be home late tonight and he’ll have meatloaf sandwiches and who knows what else. I may make him some date nut bars in a few minutes..

    I need to do a serious freezer inventory.. Actually, right now, I need to do a serious refrigerator inventory.. sigh.
    I had so many veggies all this summer/fall/winter that my frig is a disaster. Nothing is bad to my knowledge, its just still a jumbled mess and I dont like it. Im sure there are a half dozen canning jars of stuff that can be eaten or tossed.. I’ll have to clean that thing out this weekend and maybe do a freezer inventory next week sometime.
    We still have leftover black eye peas with ham, ham, and meatloaf in the frig to finish up. I’ll eat the black eye peas for lunches till its gone or put a bowl or two in the freezer for later. Yummy stuff.
    I’ll have to get creative with the ham though… maybe scalloped potatoes & ham? I have loads of cheese hanging around so that sounds like a plan to me. 😉

  22. We are still eatting leftovers, which I made using Freezer items.
    I made Homemade Pasta Sauce today all with items in the Freezer and in my huge stock of canned goods.
    I made extra Sauce, as a very Dear Lady whom considers my Husband and myself her children passed away suddenly. SIGH. My Husband worked with her, and is so distraught.
    I am going to make a double pan of Pasta for the Family, as I do not know what else to do and I thought that they would like something Homemade.

  23. Day 2 –

    was able to make an inventory of side-by-side freezer. Big help! (the freezer in the garage scares me but I guess that’s a good thing).

    Breakfast – cereal medly for child 1, mashed banana and oatmeal for baby, toasted pumpkin flax pancakes for mommy. (daddy rarely eats breakfast).

    Lunch – packed daddy a turkey sandwich. Kids went to grandparent’s for lunch while mommy went to work half-day and then recouperated on the couch after having flu symptoms. Ate turkey soup and drank hot tea.

    Dinner – left overs (misc. hot dogs, sauerkraut, turkey taco cupcakes, etc. — Easy night.

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