Pantry Challenge 2017-2

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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.


So, I need to be real with you. While I pride myself on responding to all comments and emails, I realized today that I simply won’t be able to keep up with Challenge comments. Please forgive me? But, I think it might break me. As much as I want to respond to every single one, I know that it will take an incredible amount of time that I just don’t have. Please know that I read every single one and am thrilled by your enthusiasm!

Maybe I’ll include my reactions to different comments in my nightly posts? We’ll see. Just know that I am tickled by your participation and your excitement for the Challenge.

As for food today….

Pantry Challenge Meals, Day 2

Breakfast: My husband and I had leftover Breakfast casserole from yesterday, the kids had Granola and Pineapple. Some of the boys made eggs as well.

Lunch: I made chili for lunch and stirred in leftover quinoa that needed to be used up. No one under 18 was the wiser. 😉 I served shredded cheese and tortilla chips with the chili and fresh veggies on the side.

Dinner: There was spaghetti squash to eat up, so I made this Spicy Turkey and Sausage Bolognese and roasted veggies.

Bonus: I also made 4 days of lunches for my husband to take to work and a couple loaves of Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

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  1. Laurie in CA says:

    I woke up feeling not so hot today (we’ve had a cold virus going through the family), so are menu changed to accommodate a no cook day for me. I did manage to clean up and organize the drawer in the freezer that holds our fruit for smoothies, nuts and rice. I was able to find the vital wheat gluten the day AFTER I made the sub rolls. Hope I don’t forget where I put it next time I want to make bread or rolls.

    Breakfast – we polished off the last 3 muffins from the freezer, I had a handful of raw almonds too and coffee
    Lunch – I had 2 small pieces of leftover pizza and a green salad, hubs had a French dip sandwich
    Dinner – I had a bowl of Senate bean soup and toasted sourdough bread, hubs ate a mountain of chips and dip during the football games and wasn’t hungry for dinner but he made a protein shake around 8:00

  2. I think if someone asks a direct question, a response would probably be nice. Otherwise, expecting you to respond to every posted comment for the whole challenge would just be ludicrous!

    Mon 1/2
    B – leftover caprese salad
    L – chicken tenders, fries
    D – seafood bisque, Caesar salad – total win, using up the last of the starting-to-brown Romaine lettuce, some of the lobster base bouillon, an old container of chicken stock, some random bits of seafood and fish filets from the freezer, plus some of the aging milk
    Dessert – cinnamon streusel coffee cake that we got on Christmas clearance at Costco. I can’t say I loved it, but it was only $5 for an enormous cake that will feed the kid’s sweet tooth for a couple of days (depending on how much of it I throw in the freezer) so it is at least worth what I paid! 🙂

  3. Breakfast today was a piece of cheese Danish that was frozen months ago and coffee.
    Lunch was a mug of vegetable soup from the freezer and a toasted egg roll with a tall glass of ice water.
    Dinner was (finally) slices of roast chicken, 1/2 of large sweet potato and 6 organic carrots and glass water.

    I love the beginning of these monthly challenges because there is so much food in my freezer and refrigerator that meals are great. I’ll be eating chicken from the large 7 lb roast for the whole week, in one way or another. Can’t wait for Sunday when I’ll be making a great soup with the carcass. Day 2 is a slam dunk (lol).

  4. Sarah Zeola says:

    I love the idea of the Pantry Challenge and the way you have broken it down into steps. I am still working on making my inventory and am going to try to stick to only adding produce and dairy weekly. Our biggest challenge is acquiring ingredients from traveling that we aren’t quite sure how we are going to use yet. This Pantry Challenge will be a fun “trip” back to our vacations this year. As a registered dietitian my philosophy on healthy eating really aligns with yours so I really appreciate all of the work you do to make healthy eating feasible, affordable and most importantly delicious! I just started following your blogs this year after hearing you on the Jennifer Fulwiler show and since then have bought your Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook and a bread machine and we love them both and use them every week! Thanks so much for all you do!

  5. Charyse H says:

    B- Eggs with green onions, bell peppers, and salsa along with clementines
    Lunch/dinner was weird cause I took a unisom for the first time last night and slept waaay too long. Basically we ate a snack in the afternoon and had salad with leftover beef stroganoff at dinner time.
    Snacks have mostly been unhealthy leftover Christmas desserts but those are almost gone.

    Tomorrow I’m cooking a whole chicken for salads and yakisoba.

  6. Stephanie M. says:


    B – Hubby had home made pancakes from the freezer and sausage; I skipped breakfast

    L – We both had roast beef sandwiches

    D – Chicken noodle soup and salad

  7. Day 2:
    B- English muffins with pb and honey and fruit for the kids, LO egg salad on toast plus coffee for hubs, a muffin, yogurt and coffee for me
    L- the kids and I went to a friend’s house for a play date so I brought hummus with veggies and rice thins to share, plus LO pizza, some ranch dip and granola bars (randomness wins with the littler kids!)
    S- my daughter had a grilled cheese when we came home, and my son maybe had a piece of cheese?, I had another cup of coffee;)
    D- I made spaghetti with meat sauce and veggie sticks with ranch, then I served apple crisp made from the last of the going-soft apples.
    -both kids had pb and crackers before bed – they never stop eating!!!

    Jessica, you are totally off the hook for comment responses! I’m impressed you even get to reading all the comments:)

  8. Monday- Last day of kids Christmas Break!
    Woke them up earlier than they would have liked( still sleeping in from their regular schedule!)

    B- Kids finished off the bag of frozen homemade pancakes, I made a small bowl of oatmeal and had that with my coffee and mason jar of fruit smoothie from the freezer( premade last week using up load of frozen fruits and spinach!) (husband fends for himself)
    L- hodgepodge of mandarin oranges, trail bologna, cheese ,crackers and leftover appetizers from NYE- Husband ate the last of the deli turkey
    D- spaghetti with the container of leftover homemade meat sauce from the freezer! Served with salad before it turns brown and a loaf of homemade pototo bread I made in the morning using leftover mashed potatos!

    kids snacked on the last of a batch of rice crispy treats, bananas and holiday candy through out the day…

    I hope everyone starts to feel better!!! It seems like after the holiday madness slows down people start to fall ill!!! Get plenty of rest!!

  9. tastycook says:

    Monday 2nd

    B – h/m bread and lemon curd for me, hubby – fruit?

    L – cheese sandwich for hubby, banana, cheese, yogurt and a piece of cranberry orange loaf for me

    S – bison stew with onions, carrots and celery, peas

    The bison had been on sale BOGO in December so I bought one pack of ground bison and a stew meat. The ground was fine but the stew meat was really good. If the store still carries it, I will get some more, pantry challenge or not. Even as BOGO it was expensive but it is so lean and very low in sodium, it is worth it.

  10. Stephanie P says:

    I don’t think anyone would mind about the comments.

    B: I made eggs for the kids. I skipped breakfast.
    L: Buffalo chicken chili and an English muffin plus a mandarin orange. Son had turkey sandwich and my daughter had a leftover grilled cheese when she got up from her nap.
    S: Celery with ranch yogurt dip
    D: The kids and my husband ate at his moms. I had pasta.

  11. Monday 1/2

    Breakfast – Continuing to eat the Christmas cookies

    Lunch – Hot dogs & sauerkraut, applesauce

    Breakfast – BBQ pork sandwiches & pierogis

  12. B: Milk and cereal with fruit or bagels and cream cheese with fruit (we are a house divided on breakfast)
    L: Chili, orange slices and strawberries
    D: Pan fried pork chops, brown rice, spinach & tomato salad

    I have learned over several pantry challenges to keep a few of the goodies for later in the month to keep the family on board. I am saving some LO ham and shredded pork for the last 2 weeks of January. The other strategy that has worked in the past to keep the family on board is to do some baking. Tonight I made 2 loaves of chocolate bread and 2 loaves of banana bread for breakfast for the next two weeks. I am also using the bread machine to make dough for Italian bread for dinner one night this week. We have LOTS of baking staples to use up.

    • I like your strategies for keeping your family in the game as the month goes on. Thanks for sharing!

    • I agree about saving some of the “good stuff” for later in the month. One year we ended Pantry Challenge with seafood fettuccine. It made for a tasty finale. We tend to actually eat better and have much more variety in our meals during Pantry Challenge because I am actually planning (usually I just grab whatever and cook it).

      Chocolate bread sounds delicious 🙂

  13. B: steel cut oatmeal w/apples and other toppings from the pantry
    L: mini burritos made with leftover grilled chicken, black beans, grilled sweet potato, jalapeno popper dip and avocado
    leftover potato soup for my vegetarian son
    baby carrots/ranch
    D: baked stuffed shells, garlic green beans, and roasted garlic bread (all from freezer)

    Snack: leftover cinnamon roll bread pudding from NYE, shared it with some friends that came over to play games

  14. B: steel cut oatmeal w/apples and other toppings from the pantry
    L: mini burritos made with leftover grilled chicken, black beans, grilled sweet potato, jalapeno popper dip and avocado
    leftover potato soup for my vegetarian son
    baby carrots/ranch
    D: baked stuffed shells, garlic green beans, and roasted garlic bread (all from freezer)

    Snack: leftover cinnamon roll bread pudding from NYE, shared it with some friends that came over to play games

  15. Breakfast: omelette made with leftover pork loin and thin roasted potato slices
    Lunch: leftover turkey, cheese stick, Greek yogurt
    Dinner: veggie soup, Fritos and guacamole

    I still need to finish the pantry inventory and survey the freezer. By using the pantry goods I should do a pretty good job of clearing out some of the freezer too.

  16. I finished my freezer/pantry inventory! And I have three friends Pantry Challenging for the first time due to my overabundance of enthusiasm in the project.

    Breakfast-eggs with feta, spinach, mushrooms, onion and a shredded brussell sprout cooked in olive oil. Yum.
    Lunch-corndog that I found in the freezer and an orange
    Dinner-Jessica’s recipe for Cheesy Italian and Pepper Sandwiches from the freezer that I reheated in the crockpot. If you haven’t tried this recipe it is delicious and one of my husband’s favorites. Plus pasta salad

  17. Finished off the biscuit mix in the pantry last night. Today, no cooking, just eating from the fridge – baby bell peppers with spinach-artichoke dip, roasted carrots, biscuits, yogurt. Not sure what else is in there – it’ll be a hodgepodge.

  18. I’m so glad to be back on board and see so many people participating. I look forward to the accountability and camaraderie. We purchased steak for Jan. 1. That was the plan when we weren’t able to do it for Christmas, even though it’s not really Pantry Challenge compliant. Last night we had spaghetti and meatballs from the freezer (2 containers), when I all I really wanted to do was order pizza…so, that was a success.

    My goals for the PC are to reduce food waste and defrost the chest freezer (after cleaning out the two fridge freezers). I know spending will be way down, but I don’t plan to track it, so that I can stay on task with the cleanout.

    The kids are on break this week and hubby leaves town after work today. So, the kids and I will order pizza once, eat out once or twice, and finish off quite a few little bits from the pantry/fridge/freezer. I’ll pull a few older freezer items out for the weekend meal plan and work on my inventory next week while they are at school. Looking forward to a good week.

  19. Day 2 – The baked oatmeal made it’s last appearance and 2 leftover, frozen soups were thawed for lunch. I spent around $30 for a family dinner, but I used up loads of veggies when I roasted them. Lots of leftover meat for the rest of the week. I’m so happy to be doing this.

  20. I already posted day 2 with my day 1 post.?

    I agree with the others that unless someone asks you a direct question that it would take way to much time to comment on everyone’s posts.

    Thanks for hosting the challenge!!

  21. Audrey Larsen says:

    Love the PC although I don’t always see white space as soon as I’d like. I may use a meat from the freezer along with pantry and fridge items but then half goes back in the freezer for another time often taking up more space than removing the meat got me. It takes later into the process to see a difference.
    B- oatmeal
    L – LO soups – smoked pork with pintos and 1 bowl of potato soup with about 3 Tbl. of LO cheese sauce mixed into it. That is day four for those pintos. Really tired of them but had no room in the freezer. Had about 1/2 cup left and the dog looked hungry. He likes pintos! Who knew!. Also had some LO fruit salad.
    D. hamburgers and fries. Was still hungry later so finished off the Rocky Road ice cream. Not a big job as there was maybe only a few spoonfuls in a 1 1/2 qt. carton taking up freezer space.
    Tomorrow we start with something besides mostly holiday LO’s. Yea!

    • I’m totally with you on the white space! I find that I also often make more/new food with the contents of my freezer, that take up more space than the original items did! But, it’s a good thing to re-purpose older items into new ones that the family loves!

      Your comment about the beans and your dog killed me! Beans have a way of doing that – their longevity is inspiring!!

  22. Don’t even worry about not responding to every single post. You’ve got a house full of kids and other responsibilities, after all. (Sheesh. I’m doing good just to comment once a day.)


    B: Cereal, last of the coffee cake, OJ, and coffee as we watched the Rose Parade on TV.

    L: PB and pumpkin butter sandwiches, the last clementine for me, bananas for the guys, yogurt parfaits.

    D: Split pea soup (used up the last of the ham); the guys also had crackers w/ their soup. 12yo son also had milk to drink.

    S: Air-popped popcorn and Christmas chocolates. Son noshed on some more of the Christmas goodies we were given as well.

  23. Jumping on board a few days late. My family includes myself, my husband, our son (turning 6 this month; we are working our way slowly through his picky eating habits) and our daughter (age 3; she eats us out of the house if we aren’t careful LOL). My goal is to spend $100 a week or less which is cutting our normal food expenses in half.

    1.2.17 (There wasn’t any school or work for any of us, so it was predetermined to be a family splurge day)

    B: McDonald’s pancakes and sausage for the kiddos (did have them split the meal since they never finish one by themselves anyway). Blake’s breakfast burritos for the adults.

    L: Do the snacks we ate at the movie theater count? We shared 2 large drinks and a large popcorn. And I’m one of those “bad” people who brings a box or two of candy in her purse ::gasp::

    D: LO from New Years dinner with his parents (spaghetti & meatballs and lasagna).

    Snacks/Dessert: Pancakes, string cheese, chocolate chip cannoli

  24. Jan. 3.

    L- leftovers

    D- Sausage tortellini and vegetable soup

  25. Sue Diamond says:

    Jan 3.

    B – Pear and vanilla smoothie (LO squishy pear) plus H/m granola
    L – Toast and duck pate LO from holidays, yoghurt, LO raspberries, more granola
    D – HM black bean burgers, paprika jacket wedges & LO salad items then LO cheese and biscuits

    We’ve been eating far too much trying to get through leftovers before they go out of date!!

  26. Breakfast: Squash muffins
    Lunch: Soft shell tacos, chips and salsa
    Dinner: Assorted leftovers from New Year’s Day

    I took inventory of the kitchen refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. I will need to clear some space in the kitchen freezer before tackling the chest freezer. I need to come up with an idea to use up milk at expiration.

    • Julie,

      If your milk still is good you might cook up some soup such as potato, corn chowder or cream of chicken. Once it is heated it should be good for several days yet. Freezing some cream of chicken, celery, onion or whatever would put it to a good use and provide sauce material or soup later. I like to sweat onion slices and add flour and milk and a little bit of Parmesan to make a creamy lower-fat version of an Alfredo like sauce for noodles or pasta. The onion helps add flavor to the lower fat version.

      I used to have more trouble with this since the two of us ‘old folks’ don’t use as much milk nowadays. But, I’ve started trying to keep an eye out for when it is getting close to date and plan something such as a milk based soup, homemade pudding or some baking to use it up.

      Good luck.

    • I regularly freeze milk in 1-2 c. portions for pancakes, crepes, waffles. Just thaw and shake/stir before using in a recipe. I end up doing this all the time before a vacation, etc. when we have a partial gallon of milk that won’t last until we get home.

      • Thanks Alice and Maureen! This time I made au gratin potatoes and ham, but I still have more milk. I will give your ideas a try!

  27. Day 3 bfast for me was berry pie, Hubby had bagel and cream cheese.
    Lunch for me was tomato soup leftover from yesterday
    Tea time was hot tea and snickerdoodle cookies
    Lunch tonight for Hubby (works 3rd) is leftovers from our dinner which was
    Baked ham.mac and cheese and peas and carrots. He had apple pie for dessert and I had Lemon meringue which is the last pie left from the holidays

  28. Last day for the kids off of school. We use a lot more when everyone is home.
    B- Hubby and youngest daughter had meat grits and homemade bread from the freezer. Middle daughter had homemade granola and yogurt. Son and I had cereal and he had toast too.
    L- Taco salad using ground beef, corn and black beans from the freezer and some nacho chips and lettuce that needed used up. Cookies from the freezer for dessert.
    D- Marinated cubed steak grilled. Can’t say I’ve been able to grill in 50 degree Temps in January in Ohio! Smashed garlic potatoes, garden green beans from the freezer and oranges.
    Made up alot of extra food at each meal so there will be plenty of leftovers for later in the week. I’m going to be out of town with our 18 year old for the Ohio State fair queen contest. Want to make sure everyone else eats well when we’re gone. I guess you can say I’m making sure they do the challenge without me!

  29. Days 2 and 3 were spotty for us. My husband was supposed to bring home a quart of half & half which he drinks in his tea yesterday. He also brought a pound of fried chicken livers, so I didn’t cook dinner. We had our usual breakfasts, LO for me and PB on toast for him with clementines and tea.

    Today breakfast/brunch was the usual and I fixed chicken sandwiches and carrots for supper.

  30. Jessica, I forgot to add that I agree you shouldn’t feel guilt for not replying to everyone. We appreciate the format you provide and I suspect that we will be providing lots of help to each other when we can. Bless you for all the help you offer us.

  31. Christine says:

    Using what I have, but I don’t think I have enough for the month. Breakfast was soaked oatmeal for me. The kids weren’t home, but they are back now. I am hoping to feed them oatmeal FROM NOW ON-but it doesn’t always go over well. I am trying to avoid cereal purchases. I made sandwiches and fruit for lunch for myself and husband. Dinner was beef and broccoli with rice and Caesar salad. I have made dinner three nights in a row and followed my meal plan. Kids did eat the beef and broccoli, and there is enough for one more dinner for at least myself and my husband.

  32. Monday was a lazy day.
    Breakfast was frozen waffles for the kids, coffe with cream for me
    Lunch was snacky stuff
    Supper was leftover turkey in gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans

  33. Monday we spent the day at the beach with friends. so lots of party food!
    B- leftovers from party the day before
    Lunch & Dinner- BBQ with friends

    Not much use of the pantry today

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