Pantry Challenge 2017-16

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This month we’re avoiding the grocery store and shopping the kitchen. Here’s how we’re eating. It’s like reality TV, for food.


We continue to cough, cough, cough around here. I got nothing done this weekend, but we did survive.

I managed to make homemade hot dog buns, granola, and cranberry bread, but that was pretty much all I have to show for the day. I’d be happy to stop coughing.

Yet, we are more than halfway done with this challenge. I haven’t spent too much money — though I have a rebate check of $100 to go spend at Costco — and we have enough protein in the freezer to last us through the end of the month. It’s low enough for me to dig around in there and see what we had so at least on proteins, we’re good this month. I’m not sure about much else, though. 😉

Pantry Challenge Meals, Day 16

Breakfast: Fend-for-yourself

Lunch: Hot Dogs on Homemade Buns, leftover soup

Dinner: Grilled Fish, Rice, Roasted Vegetables, Spaghetti Squash.

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  1. Hi Jessica. I did pretty well on the grocery shopping last weekend. No meat, no meals as such. Just vegetables and milk. I used a carbonara base that I made last year from the freezer and added egg and pasta on Sunday.. Scrambled eggs and spinach is featuring a bit.

  2. Kathy in Denmark says:

    I hope everyone at your house gets over this cold soon, Jessica!

    I think you did great regarding meals! Baking bread isn’t that much fun when you’re not feeling well.

    I have trouble finding time to sit down and write up our meals during the weekend. It seems we always have so much we want to get done, so I spend no time in the computer at all. So I skipped posting my meals for this weekend, but I did cook and we did eat well 🙂
    Meals included tortillas with all the fixings, toast and scrambled eggs, burgers with fries and crêpes on sunday afternoon 🙂 I also cooked a pot of canellini beans for a VERY long time, because they were kind of old. I am planning on turning them into homemade baked beans in the slow cooker today.

    Monday, day 16:

    B: Oats and milk for DH. Bran flakes and milk for the girls. I heated a small baguette in the oven and shared it with DD2 after dropping DD1 off at kindergarten. Coffee for me.
    L: Packed lunch for DH and DD1. Rye with mackerel in a tomato sauce (from a can) for DD2. Leftover tortilla for me.
    D: Pork chops for the girls and me. Veggie patty for DH (both from the freezer). Boiled potatoes and carrots. Gravy. This took care of the gravy I had in the freezer, so now I can start fresh!
    S: Fruit, the last of the Christmas cookies, leftover crêpes.

    I am not sure I will end up saving money this month and I do still have some things I would like to use up, so I will probably keep the PC up through February. I guess all the stores know that people are low on funds in January, so they have amazing deals. Our grocery budget is already much lower than the recommended amount for a family our size in Denmark, so I need to make good use of deals to stay under budget, and I’m ok with that.
    What I am gaining from the PC this year is getting back into some good routines regarding meal planning and prepping food. I used to have a really good routine, but it got sidetracked during our move in August/September. I am really glad to get back to normal in that area, since it makes my life a whole lot easier, it’s easier to stay within our budget and we eat better 🙂

  3. Happy MLK!

    B- steak and eggs
    L- Grilled Teri burgers. chips and watermelon-mint juice
    D- baked chicken and stuffing
    Snack- Suja Juice, popcorn

    I too am not sure I will save any $$ this month. With two birthdays this month in our home I spent an extra $270, then I’m juicing- so purchased those last week set us back another $70. I know we are eating down our pantry– there is more open space in our freezers and cabinets, but still more to go. So overall Im at about $650, but if I minus the birthdays- I’d be down to $380- much closer to where I’d rather be. So for this week, I decided to modify my juicing, part pre-made and part-homemade, hoping it saves me $70 this week.

  4. B: Cereal, boiled eggs, mixed berries
    L: Texas lasagna, baby peas, oranges and pineapple. The lasagna is a recipe from an old cookbook, Cooking Healthy with a Man in Mind. It substitutes salsa for the tomato products in traditional lasagna and ground chili for the usual Italian spices. Both my husband and kids prefer it to more traditional lasagna.
    D: Cincinnati Cheese Coneys (small hot dogs topped with chili and shredded cheese served in a Coney bun), green beans, blueberries, pineapple

  5. Last night we had 123 pasta. I cooked a jumbo onion, 3 bell peppers and 1lb of smoked sausage cut in coins and then added 2 qrts of home canned diced tomatoes (drained 2nd jar). Divided that in half.Half in frig will go to rice later this week. Added 1 lb of penne pasta to the rest along with a jar of chez wiz (sigh, Hubby decided he liked it a thanks to our youngest that used it on brussels sprouts) and had leftover garlic toast. I have enough of the 123 pasta leftover for a meal next week.

  6. tastycook says:


    B – fruit and yogurt for hubby, coffeecake and yogurt for me

    L – stuffed pork, potato cauliflower cake, carrots and green beans

    S – baguette and jam, rice pudding for hubby, cheese sandwich for me

    Glad to see you are on the mend Jessica. It seems to be everywhere this year. I’ve heard of people all over the US, Canada and Britain who have had the same/similar thing.

    I have some space in my small upstairs freezer and the fridge certainly is starting to look a bit bare. The downstairs freezers are still full, but I have to have made a little progress there too, because when fish was on sale at half price I had enough room for the 3 boxes I bought. Plus I made a batch of buns the other day and unlike your house where they would be gone the same day, most of them are still in the freezer. Takes a long time for 2 seniors to go thru anything – if only the buying me would listen.

  7. Stephanie M. says:

    Jessica, this cold or whatever it is is going around everywhere. Here some of us have gotten encore presentations. My mother had such a bad cough she finally went to the doctor who put her on an antibiotic and some cough syrup with codeine. The doctor said they’re not quite sure what kind of a cold this is but everyone’s getting it. Twice I felt it coming and kept taking Zycam and nothing every came of it, thank God. But both of our daughters had it and our grandson too and many of our friends. Rest as much as you can. Better days are coming. 🙂

    B – Hubby had cereal; I skipped breakfast

    L – We had our grandson over today so we all had hot dogs and French fries for lunch finishing up all of both of them from the freezer

    D – Grilled pork chops, roasted potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and onions with Italian seasoning, black pepper, and garlic powder, and salad

  8. I have made spaghetti squash a couple of time now and my husband and I really liked it. I do like to know how you use the leftovers (if you have any). My leftover spaghetti squash became very soggy. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

    • It might depend on how you prepared it in the first place. I don’t make that kind of squash all that often. I have just reheated it as a side dish and I’ve tried it in place of pasta, but soggy would not work so great like that. Perhaps saute it in a skillet to dry it out and crisp it up a little?

    • We like it a little al dente, that way it holds up for a few days longer.

  9. Monday 1/16

    Breakfast – Oatmeal w/brown sugar

    Lunch – Made pizza subs

    Dinner – Used the leftover steak & mushrooms over pasta and salad

  10. On Sunday, we finished off a freezer meal and side that had been in the freezer for months. I had to make some extra sides, as it wasn’t quite enough for the 5 of us, but that was simple. Glad it’s gone. Monday was spaghetti…family favorite, but from the freezer. Kids are home from school today (Tuesday). The roads were so icy that they finally called a “snow day”. So, in addition to cleaning bedrooms and laundry, we will be cleaning out the garage fridge (which isn’t in bad shape) and baking a bit. We should be all caught up for the rest of the week after the extra time today. Not sure about dinner tonight, though. I was planning on potato soup, but I’m not sure the potatoes are still viable.

  11. Jen in IN says:

    B: egg and avocado toast

    L: Husband took a leftover burrito and apple, kids had deviled egg, yogurt, orange, and chips.
    I went out to lunch with friends since I had the day off work.

    D: Chunky tomato soup and homemade bread

    S: son had cereal after swim practice, adults had gelato

    I spent $9 on fresh vegetables, milk, sour cream, cereal, and tortillas.

  12. Good day for us yesterday as all four were home and it was sunny out!! I cooked up two spaghetti squash and three acorn squash which Will be eaten this week and some of which will get frozen for another time. I had to toss about eight muffins from a batch that weren’t very popular – bummer but at least the chickens will get them. I have a loaf of banana bread in the freezer that perhaps will fare better.

    B- pancakes and fruit
    L- LO chicken pot pie and fruit
    D- spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, spaghetti squash and spinach salad
    Snacks included fruit, cheese, pepperoni, crackers, and more fruit!

    I was originally thinking I could skip today’s grocery trip (and we could certainly do fine w/o a trip) but the little guy and I will go to get a bit of dairy and some produce to round out what we have. My sister and brother in law are coming tomorrow and we may host dinner with them and my folks so I’d like to have some options.

    Sending get well vibes!!! ~~~~~~~

  13. B: cranberry orange smoothies, I had tea, hubs had coffee
    L: leftover borscht, sour cream, roasted chili squash for me; chicken broccoli mac and cheese for hubs
    S: ham and cheese soup with potatoes; fresh squeeze orange juice with gin and tonic (a major splurge!)

    So far, so good. We don’t feel deprived at all yet, mostly it is just the habit of cooking every day instead of going out. This is such a good thing.

  14. I made your homemade sub rolls recipe this weekend. Actually I made half into hot dog buns and the other half into dinner rolls for our split pea soup. The hot dog buns are in the freezer for later this week. They taste SO much better than store bought.
    Mondays meals
    breakfast-raisin bran
    lunch-leftover siracha chicken thigh and orange
    dinner-ribs, roasted potatoes and carrots
    snack-movie popcorn while watching La-La Land

    Hope you start getting your energy back soon!

  15. Mon 1/16
    B – I finished off the last of the butternut squash ravioli. Not sure what he did; I left the house early.
    L – I had a pre-made smoothie in the freezer that I took in an insulated cup and just let thaw. Perfect by lunch time. Also had some Belvita breakfast cookies that are threatening to become stale. He ate last of the thawed chicken burritos.
    D – L/O pulled pork, brown rice & quinoa blend with grilled veggies and feta cheese – this finished off the batches of all this except the feta. Still have more of these items unprepared, but at least those are cleared out for now.
    S – cheese in afternoon, plus I finished my L/O frozen yogurt for evening dessert

    We were making a little progress in the freezer… but I feed my pets a primarily raw food diet and I had to go buy some more for them – they do not understand the concept of a PC and just making do! – and for some reason I ended up with twice what I normally get. Good news is at least it all fit in the freezer. Bad news is all the free space just disappeared. That in turns sort of creates good news in that I cannot be tempted to stock up on sales since there is literally no place to put it.

  16. Sadly, the cough seems to hang on a while. And I too have seen it talked about in various parts of the world. As I sit here in Orlando which gets visitors from all over the world! Hand sanitizer is my best friend.

    On the road, we have to eat out. I did bring some drinks and snacks from home. I will be headed to Trader Joe’s to purchase fruit and hopefully some meals for me. Hubs is completely covered by the conference.

    We don’t have a TJ’s back home or near so I will pick up a few shelf stable things we love from there as well.

    Stay well everyone!
    Melissa in GA

    • Heather M says:

      Have fun stocking up at Trader Joe’s! Definitely worth spending a little extra during the Challenge since it’s a rare treat for you!!

  17. Monday:

    B – cold cereal, milk, tea

    S – mini ores. I was grocery shopping with the kids and they were hungry.

    L – rice with milk, raisins, and sugar for the family. I had a lettuce wrap.

    D – baked chicken, rice, mixed vegetables and homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

  18. Heather M says:

    Day 16 was a day off for all of us, which was really nice given that I’m still not even close to 100% AND that this week is going to be insane around here – We live just across the Potomac from DC and my husband works in national news, so you know what his life is going to be like (literally will be working all night thursday and all day friday- with no way to make up for it- it’s the nature of the beast; and even though he had the day off monday, he still had to work some from home). We are the only area where kids get the day off on Friday, but that’s because normal life screeches to a halt for any presidential inauguration. Logistically it’s kind of a nightmare. But I digress.

    We finally got christmas put away on Monday- it requires visits to our storage unit (we have no attic/basement and only a 1 car garage which we use for a car and not storage). It was basically the entire afternoon. Today I have zero energy-this virus wants to hang on forever I think. Anyhow, on to food Day 16:

    B: son had cereal and yogurt; hubs and I were lazy and stayed in bed reading

    L: son had taquitos from the freezer; hubs made himself a ham sandwich; I had bread and butter and some sunflower seeds (appetite is still off)

    D: At 7pm I realized we might need dinner and dug around the freezer. Found a favorite “fast” food – spinach mozzarella ravioli and threw together a salad. everyone was happy.

    We also snacked on random holiday cookies and treats still floating around.

    Glad you’re starting to perk up, Jessica!

    • im fascinated by your expected experience for this inauguration! we of course dont have so much excitement in Hawaii. We have our legislative session opening day tomorrow, but it just means an intense workday for me, no day off for the kids… haha

      • Good luck! What kind of school schedule do your kids have? My siblings and their kids live up on the north shore (one is on the west side, but her child is too young still for school). They have a sort of modified year round. Is it the same across the island? (also, i know they have hawaii specific holidays we don’t get on the mainland – fun stuff!) I’ll write a bit about later in the week as things come. 🙂

        • my kids are in charter school, but basically the schedules are the same across the state, with maybe a few days that may be different…. oh… looking forward to your posts then…

  19. Everyone had the day off for MLK day and then they called off school today pretty early yesterday and then it quit raining so there is no ice. Better safe than sorry! The side streets were horrible yesterday morning.

    Jan 16
    Breakfast–Husband had his eggs. I had my PB toast later in the morning. The boys slept
    Lunch I skipped. The boys had sandwiches, chips and applesauce
    Dinner–homemade baked potato soup with chicken and broccoli added and rolls.
    Snacks were cheese and crackers, fruit and cookies

    We are out of sliced cheese but do have blocks of cheese we can slice or grate if need be.

    Have a great day everyone!

  20. January 16

    Breakfast: I skipped because between waking up and having my shower I was beginning to feel pretty sick. Hubs had cereal and milk

    Lunch: hubs had the left over sandwiches from our training on Sunday. I took sandwiches, a pickled egg and some christmas cookies, but didn’t eat because I Celt progressively worse as the day went on. I had an interview at 2:00 that I croaked and sniffles my way through, which was a bit discouraging. It was definitely not my best performance, but, we shall see!

    Dinner: Marinated chicken, broccoli and cauliflower, fries from the freezer.

    Snacks: hubs had a bowl of cereal before he went to bed and used the last of the milk. We’ll see how long we last without that!

    • Oh nuts – you, too. Hope you feel better quickly!

      • Yeah, it hit fast! Went to bed Sunday night feeling fine and woke up on Monday still feeling mostly ok. But after an hour I was feeling pretty rough and it just got worse as the day went on.

  21. Breakfast: yogurt parfait using the last of the Greek yogurt, frozen strawberries, toasted coconut and pecans, plus coffee for me.

    Lunch: grandma treated the kids to lunch so my husband and I took advantage of the time to run errands and go on a lunch date at a local restaurant.

    Dinner: son’s basketball game ran late, so fend-for-yourself for those at home. When we got home, he had tacos and I had 4 orange mini-muffins and a salad (and I snuck a piece of candy for dessert when the kids weren’t looking)

  22. I have a question for all you ladies. I’ve seen that some of you use a food sealer/saver to keep food longer. I’m looking to purchase one, but there are so many kinds. Any suggestions on which is best? I don’t want to throw money away by buying one that I don’t like. Thanks in advance!

    • I am not at home to see which one in particular but we got a foodsaver brand one – not the cheapest but not the most expensive. Mid range. I later ordered the jar sealer attachment for regular lids and that has come in handy as well. I have ordered bags online and at Walmart. There are often coupons online for the machines and bags & coupons on the boxes of bags too. We don’t buy the pre-made bags but the rolls and make the size we want.
      We have had ours 5 years, the only problem we have had is that it overheats sometimes and we have to let it rest – but we use it a lot. Totally recommend for those who buy meat in bulk – we buy whole beef tenderloin, half pork loins, value packs of ground beef and chicken then break it down to dinner portions.

      Melissa in GA

    • Stephanie M. says:

      I have one called Seal a Meal and I got it in Bed Bath and Beyond. I’ve had in for several years without a single problem. I don’t remember how much it was but it wasn’t expensive and I get the bags from there also when I run out.

    • I have a food saver too but don’t remember the brand. I did want to make one comment though. Buying those bags can get a little expensive. We have found that we can recycle our bag from boxes of cereal and the sealer will do it’s thing with it just fine. I do that with the 5 lbs. of cheese I buy from Cosco. Also if you buy something in a sealed bag and cut off just the top, use maybe half of it, then you can reseal the original bag.

    • Hey there….
      About the food saver, we got out first one over 9 years ago. It lasted until 3 years ago and when it died we purchased a new and nicer one. We got ours online at Costco. The price was awesome and the return policy can’t be beat. I get the rolls of bags at Costco, $35-39 that usually lasts us a year. I vacuum seal everything I can it really really does eliminate freezer burn and keeps things fresh. Berrries come out unbelievablely fresh and perfect. Same for veggies, mests. Honestly I think if someone has something negative to say about them they are probably just using it incorrectly. There is a little learning curve with liquids. I love the mason jar attachment and the marinating container

      Saw one today at Costco. $119 after $30 instant rebate which is a great price

    • I have had this one for several years and use it often.
      You can buy bags for it, but the rolls are much less expensive and often go on sale at our Fred Meyers. I use it when I buy a costco chicken, which I cut in half then vacuum seal. It does keep meat MUCH fresher. I’ve used it for vegetables, cheese, leftovers, etc. Just don’t try to vacuum seal grated cheese-major fail.

    • We also have a FoodSaver brand one. We bought it at Costco, and I get the bags there. I love it.

    • We have a foodsaver brand one, its about 10 years old and still going, it has wet and dry functions, jar attachment. I buy the bags from amazon- they seem to be the cheapest there (for me in Hawaii) I use the quart and gallon sizes most often. We buy bulk meat, portion, vacuum and label- its a whole production line at our house :). Good luck in your search.

  23. Sandy I love my food saver I also have the mason jar attachments so I can seal my dry goods. I have had other brands of sealers, but the just don’t compare to my food saver.
    Today’s breakfast cereal toast juice coffee
    L. Mashed potato with beef pot roast and cooked carrots. Celery sticks and dip.
    D. Left over ham sandwiches. tonight is trivia night at our local craft brewery, we play on a team of 5. This is our date night and lots of fun. We are often able to win gift cards so it is a very reasonable . It costs about $ 15.oo for me and hubby.

  24. Jessica I hope everyday gets better! Kids were home so I had a productive day in the kitchen. Started ribs in our smoker first thing, then started making veggie pizza with the 12 year old for our lunch. She’s quite good at chopping these days. That finished off some veggies in the frig that needed used and 2 cans of crescent rolls that I didn’t use for a recipe at Christmas. Then we started making meatballs for the freezer. When we butchered Saturday I filled a large bowl with ground beef with the intention of making freezer meals on Monday. We got a ton made and I browned 2 lb. and made taco meat for later in the week.
    B-Misc., eggs, meat grits or cereal
    L-Snacky lunch of summer sausage and cheese, veggie pizza and apple slices
    D-Ribs, corn casserole which used up 2 boxes of corn bread mix and a sour cream that had to go, salad and fruit. It was the first time we used the smoker for ribs. They were delicious!

  25. Laurie in CA says:

    B – scrambled eggs, English muffins, sausage for hubs
    L – I had l/o Panda Express, hubs snacked on who knows what
    D – hubs had chicken fajitas and I had a chicken fajita salad

  26. Oh, hope your cough subsides to a manageable level soon! I think this virus must be nationwide, because nearly every one I know in our southeast location has had something very similar at some point this winter. I still have my cough from November (blaming it on pregnancy post-nasal drip), but it’s definitely not incapacitating like it was. I can sing in church again without making a fool of myself 🙂

    My Boston butt from the freezer odds and ends soup turned out really well! Tonight we’ll try to use up the purple hull peas, though I did have to buy some ham to go with them.

  27. We have reached the half way point and I have spent about $115. I spent $30 on meat for a special occasion, but haven’t bought any more since then. Given that, I still spent $85. I wish it was lower, but it is less than it would have been without the Challenge. I am hoping that this very conscious effort will become a habit. My freezers and pantry both have a lot of bare space, far from empty, but better.

  28. B. pancakes and syrup. Finished up the syrup and going to start next time with some H/M to use up some surplus item in the pantry.
    L. Finished up the burritos (day 4 on that stuff) and also finished the mexican rice. Yeah!
    D. Ate 1/2 price burgers and shared a basket of fries. Fed three of us for $ 9.00. Could probably beat the price if we did it ourselves but this has become our Monday night thing.

    Funny grocery store happening. On the way to the store last week hubby says we are clear out of freezer space so don’t get anything for it. (He loads and retrieves freezer food) So we are doing good when I realize I really want a 12 Oz. pkg of frozen peas for a recipe. So I say can I get just one pkg. of peas thinking he must have that much room. He says, NO. I look around and 4 ladies are giving him the evil eye. Like I can’t believe this 70 year old lady has to ask permission for peas. I wanted to explain or just leave quickly. I chose leave. My husband is a great guy never controlling, and spending money is never an issue. I plan to watch what I say in the future. He’s not real observant so he didn’t see them staring him down.

  29. Monday, we had leftovers and today too: Meatloaf warmed in prima vera sauce and kale on the side. Today chicken on salad and sweet potatoes on side..New food tomorrow so some white space ( a little) coming up in freezer.

  30. Today was another busy day. I had planned to make egg muffin sandwiches for breakfast but I was out of muffins. So the kids finished up the buttermilk waffles from last week along with smoothies. Lunches were packed from last nights leftovers. I did take the younger one and oldest to chick Fila on the way home from the oldest’s pediatrician checkup. He had missed lunch st school and was starving. Lol.
    Dinner was supposed to be salmon but I had forgotten I took my last container of shredded cooked chicken from the freezer yesterday and I was red to be sure it didn’t spoil. So i made a quick chicken taco chili with cut veggies on the side and mini corn muffins (cooks illustrated). Topped the chili with diced avocado and shredded Colby jack.
    There aren’t as many leftovers as I had hoped but that’s ok. There’s enough for lunch or weekend nachos. I still haven’t managed to get to the oatmeal bread OR the sour cherries. Hoping tomorrow

  31. I forgot…I went to the store today. I know I know! We were out of fresh berries, apples, lettuce and sadly snacks for the kids. I usually get them the organic stacys pita chips and organic pretzels at Costco. They don’t get a ton of them but when we’re spending a lot of time in the car it saves me money and sanity over fast food.

    I got snacks, berries, laundry detergent, 2 organic chickens (for my mother) some organic ground turkey, organic honey crisp apples ($15 for 3 pounds. I bought two, painful), string cheese for lunches, cat food, lettuce (Boston and romaine hearts, and a few other staples. I spent $237. I’ll not be back in Costco for at least the rest of the month, prob longer since I am a big Aldi and Trader Joe’s fan. Love Costco but it’s SO easy to spend a lot there very quickly.

  32. Half way there!!

    B: Fend for yourself
    L: Tortilla pizzas
    D: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn

  33. So sorry you’re still feeling badly! My husband got it right around Christmas and ended up in the hospital! He’s finally feeling better… after about 3 weeks and 3 rounds of antibiotics :/
    As for our food today:
    B: eggs for hubs, choc shake & bacon for ds, chai tea for me
    L: chili in thermos for hubs, chicken & rice dish for ds (also thermos), lettuce wrap for me
    D: leftover shepherd’s pie (really more like cottage pie bc no lamb, but great use of leftovers)
    Snack: cake in a mug

  34. Danielle L Zecher says:

    The weekend was kind of hit and miss. We didn’t buy groceries, but we did eat out some. Hubby was off, and doesn’t get very many weekends off, so we do usually eat out when he has a weekend off.

    Monday was leftover muffins for breakfast, leftover spaghetti for lunch, and we ordered pizza for dinner. I was off Monday, but had spent pretty much the entire day trying to clean and organize the house. I couldn’t stand the thought of messing up the kitchen after that.

    I hope you’re feeling better!

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