Pantry Challenge 2014: Day One

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This month I’m doing a Pantry Challenge. For two weeks, I’m focusing on using up what we have to save money and time and to reduce waste.

Pantry Challenge 2014: Day One - How we are focusing on what we have, spending less, and saving money.

So. I have spent all picking day in the kitchen. Or so it seems. That’s not completely true. I went to the garage to inventory the freezer. And ran a couple errands. But, other than that? Kitchen. All day.

I woke up at 7 and pulled out the cinnamon rolls I made last night. While it’s nice to freeze these rolls, we like them best fresh, so they were gobbled down lickety-split. I only made 16 from the batch of dough. My people were wheeling and dealing, trying to get a third. I guess I better make more next time. (I made one half “sticky” with extra butter, brown sugar, and nuts on the bottom of the pan. Invert and you have a gooey, nutty topping.)

I also made a batch of homemade turkey sausage. There’s a pork sausage recipe in my freezer cookbook and a turkey-apple recipe in my new book. This one is a spicy, garlic-basil version. I’ll be sharing the recipe soon. Since I want our family to eat more real food, I’m reading labels more and realizing that it’s better for me to make my own. Sausage is one of those things we really enjoy. It’s a nice breakfast protein, but it can be pricey. Making my own is a win in all ways. Watch for the recipe.

Pantry Challenge 2014: Day One - How we are focusing on what we have, spending less, and saving money.

After breakfast, I got lunch started in the slow cooker: Beefy Black Bean Chili. This chili was a huge hit and one in which you can easily keep all the ingredients on hand. If you don’t like calling it a chili, that’s fine. Call it a soup. Whatev. It’s good, no matter what you call it. Hubs was overflowing in praise, which is saying something. (It’s not that he’s picky, but since I started writing cookbooks, my family has been more critical of my cooking, in hopes of helping me make it the best it can be. Rest assured, they’ve got your back.)

An added bonus was that I could throw it all in the slow cooker and walk away.

Pantry Challenge 2014: Day One - How we are focusing on what we have, spending less, and saving money.

I didn’t walk far. I cleaned out the fridge-freezer. It had become a holding tank for all kinds of randomness: groceries I was too lazy to take to the deep freeze, freezer meals I was too lazy to take to the deep freeze, and bread heels I was too lazy to deal with. Do you see a theme?

I emptied the fridge-freezer, inventoried the deep freeze, and otherwise, set us up for success. I’ll be sharing tips on how you can prep for your pantry challenge tomorrow morning.

Once I knew what I had, I made a list of meals I could make from those items as well as the groceries I would need to fill in the blanks. With those lists, I headed to Sprouts for produce, turning a blind eye to the meat department, and to Walmart for flour, coffee, milk, rice, etc.

I came home and lunch was ready. Yay for the slow cooker!

After lunch I dealt with all those heels of bread and made Cinnamon Toast Croutons. Easy to make and a great way to use up random slices of bread. Hubs said they would be better made with white bread, but that didn’t stop him from repeatedly coming back to the kitchen to grab a handful.

Pantry Challenge 2014: Day One - How we are focusing on what we have, spending less, and saving money.

After the croutons, I worked on the Homemade Chocolate Buttercream frosting for our New Year’s Cake. That was yummy.

For dinner, I used up some random bits of rice and vegetables combined with cooked chicken from the freezer to make homemade Chinese food. Due to FishChick5’s peanut allergy, we’ve chosen not to go out for take-out anymore, so I might as well learn how to make it myself, right?

I made fried rice — with the scrambled egg and everything! — chow mein, and a sesame chicken. It wasn’t exactly like a Panda Feast, but it worked.

Here’s what we ate for the first day of the Pantry Challenge:

Breakfast: Maple-Brown Sugar Cinnamon Rolls, Spicy Garlic-Basil Turkey Sausage*, Oranges, Blueberries from the freezer.

Lunch: Beefy Black Bean Chili*, Crackers, Happy New Year Cake with Homemade Chocolate Buttercream.

Snacks: Cinnamon Toast Croutons*

Dinner: Fried Rice, Chow Mein Stirfry, Sesame Chicken and Steamed Rice

*Recipes to watch for.

Pantry ChallengeThis post is a part of the Pantry Challenge where we’re trying to save money on food by using up what we have. I’ll be posting daily updates on how the challenge is going.

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  1. Every time I buy breakfast sausage I think of the recipe in your cookbook. 2014 will be the year of
    Homemade sausage for my family! 🙂

  2. I can not wait for your turkey sausage recipe! It’s over $3 for a pound at Walmart. I pay $1.79 for a pound of ground turkey st Aldi, if that’s what ya used. I am so excited to hear about you watching out for those questionable ingredients. We do the same. No gmo’s here! It’s hard but worth it! Looking forward to your updates.

  3. My third pantry challenge! Yay!!
    Day one:
    Pb&j for breakfast. Carbs protein and fruit. Hey it’s New Years sue me 😉
    I had to go into work for a cleaning project so the boss bought lunch
    Dinner- baked chicken (freezer) black eyed peas/mustard greens a New Years MUST in the south. From pantry.

    I’m off of work tomorrow so ill do my meal planning then

  4. Looks delish!
    Our day went like this:
    Breakfast: Green smoothies for hubs & me, Larabar & milk for ds
    Lunch: Cheese dip & chips (lots of bowling midday, so we adapted)
    Dinner: My mom’s lasagna (a yummy Christmas present to us), tossed salad, cheese bread (made with homemade Rosemary Olive Oil bread)

    I mapped out our month today too. Here’s to success!

  5. Day 1:
    Breakfast – toast with daughter’s homemade meyer lemon marmalade and coffee.
    Lunch – granddaughter visiting so grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken corn chowder w/oyster crackers
    Dinner- granddaughter still visiting so mini cheese ravoli w/homemade veggie spag sauce & steamed broccoli.

    ALL from freezer except cheese. Bread running out so will pull out bread maker to do hard part (all ingred in pantry). Did monthly grocery list today and 2/3 of it was cat food and litter, paper and personal items. I’ve even cut down on paper towels, use two dish towels daily and toss them in the wash. Now use less than 1 roll of towels a month. Napkins are next – have loads of cloth napkins and need to use them. Began tossing sponges in the washer with towels – cut back on buying them. Trying to make more from scratch using what I’ve stockpiled the past four months. I knew I was way out of line when I begged my visiting brother to take a great ham home (uncooked – still in wrapper) because I had absolutely no room to put it in my freezer. I almost cried to see it walk out the door when his Christmas visit ended. NO MORE HAMS until I empty my freezer down to bare bones and ice cube trays.

  6. Day 1 down … Boy made homemade waffled for breakfast and I put together an apple plate. Lunch was leftovers for me and the 4 kids and dh had 2 piazzas from freezers. .. dinner was Chinese takeout against my wishes 😉

  7. Day 1:
    Breakfast was milk, banana muffins and strawberries
    Lunch was hamburgers and since I did not have any buns I served three cheese garlic Texas Toast instead.
    Dinner was sausage and black eyed pea stew (have to have the black eyed peas for New Year’s) and corn bread with fresh berries.

    After taking an inventory of the pantry I realized I was listing some of the same items that were left over from the July pantry challenge. It was time to gather up some items, which we will be taking to the food bank today.

  8. Day 1 was a good day here.Hubs and the kids went deer hunting. I used the day to organize all the food in my large pantry. Then I took out everything from the other cabinets and purged them. This made room for my dutch oven (Christmas gift) and my pressure cooker. With those off the cabinet tops, I had room to set up my new toaster oven. With everything in its place and the pantry organized, I am ready for the task!
    I used the Christmas Ham Bone and put great northerns in the crock pot for our supper last night. Cornbread came from the freezer. I ate left overs for lunch since I was home alone. The kids and I will eat the rest of the left overs for lunch today. Since I have a lot of lettuce that is about to go bad, we are having taco salads for supper tonight. I have taco meat and cheese in the freezer so another day of no cooking 🙂

  9. Looking forward to the inspirations that invariably come from the Pantry Challenge. New ideas. New recopies. Perfect for the start of a new year.

  10. The snow here has kept me home today and so I think I will head to our deep freezer and see what I find. We have LOTS of corn and hot peppers, but I am not sure what else is hiding in there.

    The fridge freezer – *sigh* . It catches everything.

    I am really excited about the recipe for the Cinnamon Toast Croutons. What do you with them?

  11. That shot is so funny of you LOL

    Good job – isn’t fried rice the best?

    We’ll be hunkering down here for a blizzard – it’s on my list of things to make

    Good luck – and meant to say – you know the reason you can only really manage 2 weeks of pantry challenge is not just the teens [though I certainly can appreciate that – TWO are eating me out of house and home] but also because you’re getting so much better at using what you have all the time that it’s not the same backlog it used to be when you were so busy taking care of teeny ones that you couldn’t remember what you bought yesterday

    Great job

  12. Day One:

    Breakfast – eggs with leftover Christmas ham, baked oatmeal (from the freezer) for the kids

    Lunch – random assortment of leftover soup, cottage cheese, mixed nuts, fruit

    Dinner – Thai takeout some friends brought over

    I woke up sick today so we’ll see what it holds, as far as food goes. My kids are spending the morning at their grandparents’ while I lay in bed, so they’ll probably eat breakfast and maybe lunch there.

  13. Must have found something exciting in that freezer! 🙂

    Day one:
    Breakfast – Ham, eggs and toast
    Lunch – PB&J sandwiches
    Dinner – Pork roast, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, applesauce, rolls

  14. Thanks so much for the inspiration to do this! We got started on a pantry clean out last night with New Years Day dinner and I’m going to continue the challenge all month!

  15. Yep.. it is indeed Pantry Challenge time.. I cleaned up my side by side freezer a week ago.. Im like you.. I toss all sorts of odds & ends in there. I put more totes in mine and now have different shelves for different type items so at least similar things are grouped together & easier to find as they are in my big upright freezer down stairs. I do have one misc shelf upstairs and thats where I put all sorts of odds & ends. Herbs & cooking bits are on top, Odds & ends on the next.. vegetables comes next.. Fruit is on the next shelf, and on the bottom in a pull out drawer is meats.

    One of these days, I want to do the same thing with my big upright freezer.. Its already organized by type of food per shelves but I want to change my meat so that its on the bottom 2 pull out drawers and off the top glass shelves. We have plenty of food to get us by for quite a few months due to the way I shop… but I always enjoy doing a pantry challenge with you every year! 😉

    Happy New Year!

  16. If you’re up for it, I’d love some sauce recipes to put on stir fry!

  17. Day one for us was eggs and toast for breakfast, leftover French onion soup for lunch, leftover pizza for one son, and leftover ham and twice baked potatoes for the other, and for dinner we had Kiki’s Drunken beans (soup) with bread. The beans had been cooked and frozen since March, so we got something out of the freezer!

  18. Well, I would have liked to have had no grocery expenditures at all this month, but then I bought some stuff this morning, so there goes that! 🙂 We didn’t have any breakfast cereal and the kid’s favorite one was on sale and he hasn’t had any for a few months, so… I also picked up a couple pounds of B/S chicken on sale. I’ll need more milk during the month and I’m sure a few other little things. Otherwise, my freezer and pantry is more than full right now, so I’m shooting for $75 for the month. There are only two of us, making that completely doable. I probably need to rearrange that full freezer and update my list of the contents to make sure it is accurate.

    We had fish florentine from the freezer yesterday, frozen meatballs for lunch today, and using frozen ham pieces for bean soup tomorrow. Jamaican Jerk pork and veggies is about to start simmering for dinner. We are off to a good start!

  19. We have actually been doing our pantry challenge since December 27th but so far, so good. Here was what we ate today:

    Breakfast: Pancakes and Waffles from the freezer for kids, homemade oatmeal for me, eggs for hubs
    Lunch: Leftover pasta (me), grilled cheese (son) and nachos (daughter) (guess it was a cheesy day)
    Dinner: Beef stew (used up frozen stew beef, 2 potatoes that were almost past gone and some carrots), cornbread

    I love this game! The kids can’t understand why I get so excited but I do. It like being on Chopped but not as high pressured.

  20. Jenny from the MItten says:

    Day One
    B-oatmeal w/apples & Coffee
    Dinner- Calzones & Green Bean Salad (taken to work)
    Supper-Baked Ham, Potato Wedges, and Peas
    Dessert-Cherry Pie.

    I think this will be a fun challenge!

  21. Heather M says:

    Day one we woke up very late (well after 11) at the in-laws in NY. I ate a yogurt (I had bought some food for myself to try to eat healthy for two meals a day, since eating there is always diet-disastrous plus I didn’t have my gym, and I’m 48.4lbs down in 16 weeks and have a minimum of 21.2lbs to go, though I might go an additional 10). We packed our things, and headed to pick up lunch for the road/gas, etc. One child had Subway (the growing 12yo boy adores a certain footlong, and I mean growing, visible growth every few weeks for now). The other the favorite NY pizza. Hubs ate leftover New Years Eve food (my MIL goes nuts and cooks amazing food to be eaten close to midnight). I had prepared myself tuna w/cottage cheese, carrots, celery sticks with light laughing cow cheese, and also had light string cheese and an apple. When I didn’t drive, I ate. Dinner we scrounged with whatever we were in the mood for, if we were even hungry (I ate my “lunch” at 5, so….).

    Day 2 we begin in earnest. Since no more travels.

    Jessica, I can hardly wait for your sausage recipe. We eat tons here, but all either turkey or chicken. Also, the past 16 weeks, I’ve been cooking tons, and trying to replace favorite takeout dishes with homemade, healthier versions. I also make tons of asian-inspired food(I’ve been doing fried rice a zillion ways for many years). It’s great. I discovered a fabulous pad thai recipe that is a hit with the family. I”ll try to post links to some of the recipes as I make them over the challenge, though I usually tweak.

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