2015 Winter Pantry Challenge: Day Twenty

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This month our family is participating in a Pantry Challenge. We’re focusing on using up what we have in order to save money and time as well as to reduce waste.

empty freezer

So, there’s the freezer! It was looking bare enough that I was able to transfer what was there to the side-by-side. Unplugging and thawing also saves us on electricity so there’s that as well.

In other news, the littlest FishKid said she was hungry. Many times throughout the day — despite the fact that she had eaten. Usually in a Pantry Challenge such as this, that’s a signal to me that the fun food is all gone and I go to the store and buy a bunch of stuff.

Not this time!

Instead, as I was heading out the door to yet another doctor appointment (three this week!), I told her to make popcorn. That held her over until I came home. Then we made more fun food: Monkey Munch Trail Mix and Breakfast Cookies.

I think we might have enough to make a snack for tomorrow! Ha!

Breakfast: toast bar, milk, bananas

Lunch: leftovers from last night, sausages

Snacks: popcorn, trail mix, cookies

Dinner: Mac and Cheese, Meat Sauce, Spinach Salad

Im-Taking-Pantry-ChallengeThis post is part of the 2015 Winter Pantry Challenge. Read through the archives to catch up.

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  1. I broke down and baked today to have some fun food in the house.
    Today was a hard day at work. Which made dinner challenging… because these are the times we fight the urge to go out.
    Breakfast: Hubs requested a cheese omelet. Quiche for ds#3, and water for me.
    Lunch: turkey & Swiss beans for Hubs; leftover chili for ds#3, and the last cup of it for me.
    Dinner: Ugh. Hubs had an upset stomach, then ate some Triscuits in an effort to have something salty settle it. Then he polished off the last of the Swiss beans. Ds#3 had some turkey & gravy, and I baked a sweet potato and topped it with a little turkey, some mushrooms, and some broccoli. A hodge podge, but everyone was fed.
    I baked chocolate chip cookies tonight because I know Hubs will be roaming for something sweet tomorrow.

  2. I decided to bake today, too. I made apple crisp with some apples I just bought at Target the other day that tasted like water. Adding sugar, lemon juice, butter, oats and nuts made them taste so much better! 😉

    B-oatmeal with peanut butter and banana with tea, cereal for one son and nothing for the other, husband is away for work

    L-I made fried rice because my oldest son loves it and I had leftover rice in the freezer, so two of us had that and younger son had soup, sandwich, and banana.

    D-leftover chili for me, a “pizza” made out of a tortilla shell, cheese, pepperoni and sauce for younger son, and more fried rice for older son

    Great job on the empty freezer, Jessica!

  3. Heather M says:

    Jessica, that empty freezer must feel amazing! Great work, and good luck this last bit of the Challenge! Day 20/Thursday, not bad at all. Though I must confess that I didn’t get any planning in, again. I have to tomorrow, so the weekend isn’t full of takeout or restaurant meals. Plus I want to find some fun and healthy-ish treats/desserts to make. We have plenty of fresh, pantry, and freezer food, so there really is no excuse at all. Just laziness, ahem, lack of planning….

    B: cereal and turkey sausage for hubs and son (son always has a small glass of OJ, too, but I never state this); I had toast with jam
    L: son took usual turkey sandwich, crackers, pistachios, and a clif bar; hubs was too busy to eat(too many days like that); and I had tuna w/cottage cheese and tomato, raw cauliflower w/small serving of light dip, and a few pretzels
    D: challenge success! Used two kinds of short pasta from open packages and made a sauce from the quick tomato sauce I made and froze right before we left on vacation to use up tomatoes instead of wasting them. I added already cooked and frozen ground turkey, and sautéed onions and mushrooms tossed together it was delicious! With the pasta I had a salad of lettuce and goat cheese on the side, hubs leftover coleslaw from dinner out Sunday, and son had the leftover chicken wings from dinner out Sunday. We have NO leftovers from prior meals left! Well, except the extra pasta from tonight and I’ll send that with the hubs for lunch. Also we had dessert of chocolate pudding with fresh blackberries.
    Snacks: son had a treat of Wendy’s after his successful dental appt; hubs had cashews when he walked in the door; and I had a protein bar, banana, and raspberry mini muffins.

    I also cut up a sweet pineapple after dinner, so we eat it up before it goes bad. Yum! I need to try baking breads/rolls. I’m so bad at it and always nervous because of the yeast, thinking it won’t work, so I don’t ever try. Goals. It would make my people happy, especially the son. Especially if I could do a sort of baguette. We’ll see.

    • With energy costs what they are, I’m contemplating not plugging the freezer back in. I wonder if I could pull that off….

      • Heather M says:

        CA electricity is outrageously priced! When compare what we spend at the height of a hot summer w/continuous AC with my parents who have no AC and gee rally less usage, they still lay way more than we do. It’s crazy.

        I imagine with a larger family it’s pretty useful having the freezer. I often wish I had one, even with a smaller family. I can’t keep as much as I wish I could– post costco (where we buy a lot of our proteins) I can barely close my one. And I don’t really have room for any frozen baked goods, or meals, etc. though I do make my own beans and freeze them.

        The grass is always greener….

        • As soon as I typed that I realized I want to make freezer meals, so that plan won’t work. And yes, energy is super pricey in CA, moreso in SD since they closed the local plant.

  4. Breakfast: breakfast cookies
    Lunch: leftover Chipotle
    Dinner: pizza (with mushrooms! lol)
    Dessert: ice cream bars

    I have a long day tomorrow, so I’m hoping to get a roast into the crockpot before I leave. If that doesn’t work out, it’ll be nachos since those are quick and easy.

  5. Whoa – that empty freezer is awesome!

    Today was very lopsided in terms of food. My usual daily schedule was off, and my wife took the leftovers I had planned on to work with her, so I ended up eating a chunk of stale bread with warm honey water and about a third of a bell pepper for lunch. Oh, and two bite-sized Halloween candies from the freezer. Yeesh. Then in the afternoon my office celebrated January birthdays, and I ate multiple mini cupcakes. By the time I got home from work at 8:30, I was dizzy and grumpy from too much sugar. Ate most of an avocado with a spoon, which let me hold it together until linguine with doctored sauce (ground beef, extra veggies) and garlic bread were ready. Whew! Now there are leftovers of that for my lunch tomorrow, along with fruit.

    • Stephanie P says:

      That does not sound like a good day! Make sure you put your name on the leftovers this time 😉

    • That sounds rough. I’m curious what “warm honey water” is. Is it really just some honey mixed into warm water?

      • Exactly. I had to clean out a glass jar that had held honey, so I poured hot water into it to get the crystallized bits off, and drank it like tea. Good for the throat.

  6. Congrats on the empty freezer! I’m thawing my last freezer meal to go in the crockpot tomorrow morning. We used up the last of the store-bought crackers today, so I made some more, and also a batch of banana choc-chip muffins for lunchboxes, as the kids aren’t eating the bananas!
    Husband had some of the homemade coco pops this morning and was pleasantly surprised, especially when I told him I made them!

    And best of all, my belated Christmas present arrived – a copy of Good Cheap Eats 🙂

  7. THAT is a thing of beauty – great job!!!!!!

  8. Good job eating that freezer down. It’s so white and shiny!
    Today was interesting.
    Breakfast-oatmeal, canned peaches, almonds
    Lunch-Cheesecake Factory reimbursed by my employer! Such a treat-way over ate-probably 5,000+ calories. Felt a bit sick afterwards. We were at an out of town meeting.
    Dinner-meatloaf, baked potato for hub, nothing for me.
    I went to the store finally as I am hosting book club Friday night and couldn’t scrounge anything to feed them. So we are having a baked potato bar, yummy and fairly cheap.

  9. Stephanie P says:

    I am so impressed with your freezer! I don’t think ours has been empty since we bought it. We still have plenty of meat to last us for probably another 4 months I think! Now the fruit/veggies/dairy – that’s another story. I’m still buying that a ton. My goal this last week of January (insane it’s almost over) is to go through the few canned goods we have and use them. We really don’t have much of that though.

    B: Pancakes for DS, Overnight oats for me.
    L: Turkey sandwich with cucumbers and hummus, more veggies with the remaining hummus, and 1/2 grapefruit.
    S: SF latte
    D: Pork chop that I cooked the other night with a side of pasta and vegetables for me, spaghetti and meatballs for DS and DH.

    I also made some no bake cheese cake phyllo cups for a pot luck today, but I haven’t tasted them. And I’m fighting some stomach issue, so I don’t know how much of the lunch I will eat today – we’ll see!

    • Our freezer gets a fair amount of ice build up so I need to thaw it pretty regularly. It was also not super full when I started. Someday I want to get an upright, but for now, this 20yo baby will work.

  10. Stephanie M. says:

    Congrats on the empty freezer! My kitchen freezer is empty too so I know how good you must feel.

    Today started off with a bang and I do mean that literally! I had to go to the store for some fruit and potatoes. I was without a car today because my daughter needed to borrow it while she waits for her new car to arrive. So my mother took me. When we got home, I got out of her car with a few bags of groceries, stepped out on to the sidewalk and did not notice that it was completely covered in ice. Within just a few seconds, my feet slipped forward and down I went right on my back! I have to say when I landed, I was a bit scared because it was a really hard fall. Took the breath right out of me. And if that wasn’t bad enough, while I was lying there trying to recover, to add insult to injury, I just watched my clementines rolling down the street! When I got up and got inside the house, I didn’t even take my coat off before I went for the advil. I think my coat saved me from really serious injury and bruising. But the rest of the day was spent in some rotten back pain. There is good news though; the pain I was feeling in my legs and arms from last night’s visit to my personal trainer at the gym, suddenly didn’t bother me anymore! 🙂

    B – Hubby had cereal, banana, and a breakfast bar. I had the last waffle and a Greek yogurt with homemade granola.

    L – Hubby had a salami and cheese sandwich. I had a tuna fish sandwich with lettuce and tomato.

    D – Since my pantry is thinning out so much, I found a can of refried beans and made a tray of beef and bean burritos and some rice and beans. It’s wonderful what you find in your pantry and freezer that you didn’t even know you had once you start emptying it out.

    • Heather M says:

      Yikes!! I hope you’re ok, Stephanie! Also, your burrito dinner is inspiring me for’Saturday’s dinner. Thanks! 🙂

      • Stephanie M. says:

        Thank you, Heather. It’s now Saturday morning and my husband and daughter insist on me going to the doctor. I’ll keep you posted.

    • Oooh, ice is a sneaky enemy. Do you feel just bruised, or do you feel like you injured something? I hope you are okay.

      • Stephanie M. says:

        Hi Sandy:

        Thanks for checking on me. Last night (Friday), I went to bed early while my husband was watching TV in the den. All of a sudden, I couldn’t turn over in bed anymore and couldn’t get out of it. I have to admit, I got scared. The pain was so intense and I have a high threshold to pain. The pain was centered in the area of my right kidney. I did not get back into bed because I just couldn’t. So I stayed up till 2:00 in the morning watching TV and my husband tried to sleep on the couch next to mine. I was so afraid I asked him to stay in the den with me. I never felt pain so horrible. After 2:00, I finally said let’s try to go to bed and I slept till 7:00. When I got up, there was more intense pain and crying from me. So my husband and my daughter (who is in the medical industry) insisted I go to the doctor. I went and he said it was just a very deep bruising. He also checked to make sure my kidney was okay and I wasn’t bleeding and that was okay too. So now I have to just put some heat on it twice daily for a week or two. I don’t know if you have cold weather where you’re from but in New Jersey, it can be a dog in the winter! You probably heard on the news last weekend about all the accidents that happened here last Sunday because of ice.

        • My sister’s in PA and I have other family in cold, icy places, but I’m down in FL where it is unseasonably warm (to my chagrin). I can definitely see how that kind of pain and immobility would be incredibly frightening. I’m very glad you got checked out and it is nothing serious. Not that the pain isn’t serious, but that at least nothing is truly damaged. Here’s a toast (of tea) to healing quickly!

          • Stephanie M. says:

            Thanks so much, Sandi. I really appreciate your concern. When we got home from the doctor at about 11:30, I decided that since there’s snow outside and more coming and I’m not going anywhere, I might as well get back into my jammies. So that’s where we’re at today. I have leftover pepper steak from last night which only needs to be heated up but my husband decided that can wait till Monday and tonight he will go out and get us subs which are my weakness. He said a little comfort food is in order. So tonight, we will have veal parmesan subs and watch some movies. Thank you so very much for the toast. I can honestly say, and I’m sure your sister would agree, since the boarder of Pennsylvania is only one hour from here, that we both wish we were where you are now. 🙂 Have a great and warm evening while we are trying everything we can to keep warm.

    • Feel better soon!

  11. Bet that empty freezer feels so good! Yay for you!

    B: fruit smoothie, yogurt, last of the leftover pancakes from freezer
    S: oranges
    L: leftover pizza for me; hubby ate out due to training session at work
    D: white chili and cornbread from the freezer (I had a meeting til 7:30 so hubby had it ready and waiting when I got home)

    I’ve got to do some planning this weekend in order to survive next week. Grocery $ is slim to none due to the fact that we have 2 girls in college and it’s new semester start up. BIG expenses (tuition/housing) have been paid but now we’re dealing with text book issues and purchasing of access codes ($91 for a series of #’s so they can log in online to take tests, quizes and do homework and the youngest needs 2 of those!), etc. Trying to do these costs out of our “operating” funds and not having to pull anymore from the college savings accounts – – trying to stretch them and save for the big chunks of tuition each semester.

  12. Wow!!! Wish I could get my freezer to look like that!! But then I guess I would have to be running to the grocery store to restock it. Atleast that’s the way I have to think till we get to that point.????

    Breakfast – Pancakes and sausage
    Lunch – Leftovers
    Dinner – Pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and onion pizza (used up lots of little bits), salad
    Snacks – Popcorn, rice krispy treats

  13. Heidi in Canada says:

    Jessica, I have been following along this month during you PC. I never to seem to fare as well as you and your other commenters 😉 but you all inspire me and heck, impress me to no end, but sometimes it seems like a bit of a fail on my part when I attempt these PCs (which is why I never post!! Haha) But, I mainly wanted to comment that I hope your kiddos having dental procedures and work all fared well these past few weeks, and hope everyone is well with all the Dr appts. I have a very small crew here of only 2 littles (10 and 7 – boys) and 1 big kid — that I managed to marry 😉 maybe tomorrow I’ll be brave enough to post what I’ve been doing. So far, I’m on almost exactly on budget this month which is about $150 less per month than this time last year (which says something. Figuring food costs are going up not down, last time I checked — maybe with the low oil prices it will help…). Although, my freezers don’t seem to be different?!? 🙁 #freezergoals 😉 hahaha (hopefully you know twitter to get this 😉 ) Heidi in Guelph, Ontario Canada

    • Its inspiring and fun too follow along isn’t it! I have been attempting as well Heidi, from the other side of the country – northern BC. I am not close to an empty freezer yet. Great job Jessica!

    • Thanks for chiming in. Boys have their wisdom teeth pulled tomorrow. I will be heading to Costco tonight to make sure they have smoothie/juice/soup stuff. We will spend more than I planned, but that’s a part of life.

      Good for you to be on budget!

  14. Vanessa B says:

    Thursday was great! I’m finding fun ways to stretch or repurpose meat. No breakfast again.
    Lunch- little guy had pb&j, carrots, and yogurt, I had leftover salmon cakes, baby greens and rice, hubby had leftover turkey taco meat as soft tacos.
    Dinner- skillet pork chops, sauteed cabbage with bacon, corn
    Dessert – I made the recipe for cocoa brownies but I substituted coconut oil for the veg oil and added almond slivers. Tasted likran almond joy. Yum!

  15. Tiffany R says:

    Wow. Seeing your freezer so empty must feel both good and scary. I would hyperventilate a little bit that we are going to starve to death. Not that we would but still…

    Yesterday was a strange day. I had a doc appt in the morning that I had to fast for so I stopped for a bagel at Panera afterward. And then I met a friend for lunch. Too much eating out makes for an upset stomach. Not fun.

    Breakfast: French Toast bagel (Panera) & coffee (home) (me) and pancake (freezer) & juice (Kids)
    Lunch: Lamb Gyro & Greek Potatoes (out with friend)
    Snack: Homemade chocolate chip cookies (it was my day to do carpool and I always try to bring the kids cookies)
    Dinner: Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken Kabobs, leftover rice/creamed corn (kids), Mediterranean Orzo Salad from Pioneer Woman (me & hubs). PW’s orzo salad is delicious by the way!
    Dessert: Strawberry Oatmeal Bars – I have had store bought strawberry jam (I make my own) and oatmeal in my stock for a long time. Plus I had 1/2 a box of cake mix left from another recipe. Combined them all to make a very tasty dessert!

    • I used to worry when things got empty, but since I have a separate Earthquake/Emergency stash in the garage, I know we will be fine if all the grocery stores were suddenly empty. 🙂

  16. I need to do a little baking- I think I am more in need of fun food than anyone else! I went to Sprouts yesterday to stock up on produce. I love that place! I got a whole cart full of good produce for $30!
    B- oatmeal with fruit from the freezer
    L- I had a turkey sandwhich and green smoothie, the littles had pb&j
    D- salads and leftover rolls
    Snacks- Cookies someone gave us.

  17. Congrats on the empty freezer! Wonderful!

    I’ve been plugging along. Can see empty spaces but neither of my freezers, or my pantry is anywhere near empty. I did get help today when I discovered someone had left one freezer door ajar. I tossed some things and am cooking others today. Mostly only the top shelf near the front thawed so it’s not as bad as times in the past. And my “outdoor” freezer aka the grill got scavenged by, we think, a raccoon and some mice. So all that’s gone too. The raccoon was polite and carefully balanced my glass lid on the rail instead of tossing it aside and breaking it. 🙂

    My PCes always seem to waltz. Two steps forward, one step back. This week I was given two of the biggest size bags of mixed salad they sell, so we’ve been having salad with mixed bits of cupboard and freezer stuff–craisins, meat, cheese, sunflower seeds, and whatevers.

    I got a job that provides lunch each weekday, and breakfast is always oatmeal or leftovers for me–again with whatever little bits of seeds or fruit I can scrounge. I made scratch pizzas and sauce, using tomatoes I froze 2 yrs ago (have lots more), topped with bits of meats I found in the freezer. I did have to buy cheese.

    It’s going well for me but since 2 of the kids eat school lunch, now I’m eating free at work, and hubby either takes leftovers or buys what he wants when he wants it, our stockpile isn’t emptying really fast.

    So, month 1 of the PC I saved around $450 or half my food budget. We’ll see how month 2 goes. I’m saving for kid 1 to go to college in 2 years myself.

    • By ‘scrounging seeds and fruit’ I do mean inside the house. LOL. I buy a lot of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc., and am given a lot of little odds and ends. Mom and at least one friend like to “test” foods and give me all the open bags of what they don’t like or don’t finish.

      Though, for scroungers, there apparently is an App that tells where fruit trees on public lands are near your location that you can go pick from legally.

    • Bummer to the freezer! And does your grill stay cold enough all the time?

      • Usually, yes. This is an abnormally warm winter. Usually around now it’s subzero with snow.(I’m in Nebraska.) I still grill meat in the snow, though. LOL. That’s what parkas are for, right? 🙂 It’s so warm out now I could probably plant my spinach seeds.

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