Pantry Challenge 2017-21

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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.


I’ve been sick for ten days now. I know I’m on the mend, but I would like to be well. So many things have slid by the wayside while I’ve been in survival mode.

Early this morning I cleaned out the refrigerator. There was more stuff to throw away than I would care to admit. Illness and weird appetites don’t make for voracious eaters. We didn’t even eat all of last night’s pizza. Practically unheard of around here unless I make weird pizzas that the kids won’t eat.

The good thing about a clean fridge with open spaces is that I was able to thaw some meat for the coming days. While I was at it, I planned out our meals for the rest of the challenge. The girls and I went grocery shopping to get us through most of this week. I anticipate an egg shortage, but Sprouts isn’t the place to buy eggs in a quantity that makes sense for us. I have small lists going for Costco and Trader Joe’s so we’ll see if one or the other wins out.

I ended up spending $32 today which brings our total for the month up to $190. Seeing as I overshopped so well last month — but still stayed close to budget for the year’s average — it would be understandable. However, that is so last year. 😉 We’re set up well to have a good monthly average in 2017 since groceries will easily be under $300 this month.

Pantry Challenge Meals, Day 3

Breakfast: Popovers with Butter and Jam (recipe in the Good Cheap Eats cookbook), Grapefruit, Cuties

Lunch: Peanut Butter Chicken

Dinner: Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Spinach Salad

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  1. B: Cereal, bananas
    L: Hamburgers, Rice-a-Roni, orange slices, raspberries
    D: Ham (leftover from Christmas) tetrazzini with peas; strawberries and raspberries with whipped cream.
    S: I thawed a loaf of banana bread and a loaf of chocolate bread. There were enough leftovers for everyone to have a slice for breakfast tomorrow and snacks in the afternoon.

    Later this week, I plan to thaw the last ½ pie leftover from Thanksgiving. Treats are my way of bribing the family to keep them on board to the end of the month. A ho hum meal can be elevated to “good supper mom” if I add a dessert.

  2. Jan 21
    Late breakfasts today. Husband had his eggs and I had my toast.
    Lucnh. The boys had leftover chili mac, mac and cheese and hot dogs
    Dinner Strip steaks, cheesy potatoes and broccoli
    Dessert. Peach dump cake and whipped cream

  3. Today was another day of partially fresh cooking and partially using up leftovers. Saturday mornings are busy for us with dance class so today kids had cold cereal, which finished that up. I had a banana and decaf tea and my husband had leftover oatmeal.
    Lunch after dance was leftover homemade mac and cheese (gone finally) and raspberries. A few had leftover spaghetti from dinner last night. I had a salad with leftover grilled lemon chicken and chick peas along with 1/2 an avocado.
    We went to look at a new car this afternoon since the repair estimate for my 10 year old car is almost 4K. I ended up getting a 2016 suburban Ltz. Holy cow. This car is amazing. I pick it up on Monday morning after it does to the detail shop. Feeling very lucky and grateful. This thing is a real grocery getter. I couldn’t believe how far the technology has come with cars in 10 years.
    It was nearly 530 when we got home from the dealer so my husband suggested we order pizza. I said after all of the paper signing and numbers I will cook. It’s free. Lol. I made some quick chicken tenders from Trader Joe’s, slathered with homemade BBQ sauce. With that we had mixed veggie (finally the end of that huge bag!) also had BBQ baked beans leftover from this summers family reunion that I had frozen in July. For a 15 minute meal it wasn’t too bad.
    Dessert was the last of yesterday’s red raspberry buckle.
    Tomorrow will be a day of cleaning up around the house since the kids played outside all day today. We don’t get many 65 degree days here in January.

    • My husband bought a Suburban 9 years ago and it is still going strong. It is a great vehicle! And, this weather has been wonderful, hasn’t it? 🙂

  4. January 21

    Breakfast: early morning pulled pork ceaser salad wrap again for me. Hubs wasn’t up yet.

    Lunch: Chicken hotdogs for both of us.

    Dinner: Cheeseburger Pie in the crockpot from Humorous Homemaking’s ebook Crock On. It was delicious!

    Snacks: popcorn. Coffee and Pepsi to drink.

    I made up some tuna salad for sandwiches for myself this week, as well as tomorrow as I’ll be out all day at a First Aid recertification and need to bring a lunch! 9:30-6:00!! Boo I say!! Only having a one-day weekend 3 weeks in a row is no fun!

    Today was yet another successful eat from home day! The fridge is slowly emptying out. There’s more little containers in there now, due to the tuna salad and leftover dinner. But we’ll get through them quick enough.

    If I could say anything about this illness that’s plagued our home, it’s that it has made this year’s PC a lot easier to stick to!! We’re both finally back to normal now! Still a long way to go to empty out our stores, but this has been a great start!

    • Heather M says:

      Oh gosh, 1 day weekends three in a row? painful! my son had two three day weekends in a row, with MLK day and then inauguration (really a 3 day school week!), which means I kind of did, too. Feeling for you! Hope you get a break soon.

  5. We started our day with our weekly scheduled breakfast out. It’s kind of our date night-only in the morning.
    Lunch-quinoa salad with garbanzos
    Dinner-peel and eat spicy shrimp (our granddaughter’s favorite), oven fries, coleslaw, and apple slices for the kids
    snack-finished off the lime sherbet from December
    Lots of coughing and hacking at our public library today. So far we’ve been healthy, but the flu and serious colds seem to be all around us.

  6. planned over mixture of bell peppers,onions and smoked sausage with home canned tomatoes but instead of pasta with cheese sauce like we had a few days ago I tossed it over rice that I had made in bulk was last night. Tonight is shredded turkey (leftover from Dec when I canned broth) , winter sq, mashed potatoes and corn.

  7. We had a productive at-home day yesterday which was much needed and very restorative for me. The kids also played outside a lot and subsequently didn’t make too much of a mess indoors! Win-win;)

    We ate:
    B- pancakes and fruit for kids, I had yogurt with granola
    L- LO pizza and veggie sticks
    D- corn chowder or chili from the freezer with fixings, brownies with whipped cream for dessert
    Snacks included cheese and fruit, LO popcorn, candy that my husband bought:( (we had just finished the Christmas candy and he bought more junk)

    Also yesterday I made some quinoa (!) to use in various ways this week I’m optimistic it can be eaten more frequently around here. I also made fruit leather for the kids with pear blueberry sauce I canned and a dollop of summer fruit jam. Today I want to make bread, muffins or scones and possibly Merengues. We shall see…

  8. tastycook says:


    B – fruit and yogurt

    L – out with friends

    S – quiche (from the freezer), with salad for hubby

  9. Saturday 1/21

    Yesterday was a beautiful day here so we spent most of the day outside. Went for a walk and did some clean up outside. We are not used to 65 degree temps in January. Calling for temps in the high 50’s today. We could get used to this! Let’s go Steelers!!

    Breakfast – Oatmeal w/brown sugar

    Lunch – Tuna salad sandwiches, pretzels

    Dinner – Finished off the leftover stuffed shells and enchilada chili

  10. B: toast with PB, milk for kids, coffee for me
    L: my mom treated us to lunch after my son’s basketball game
    D: Jessica’s Spicy Taco Lasagna (first time making it and it was delicious!), Italian bread
    S: chocolate chip cookies (made with dough I had frozen in December), and ice cream

    I did go shopping today and went over my planned amount, but I am still way under budget for the month, which is a nice feeling.

  11. Stephanie M. says:


    B – Hubby and I both had baked oatmeal that I made two days ago

    L – Home made lentil soup that I cooked in the morning with oyster crackers, using most of the lentils from the pantry and the last of what was left in the bag of oyster crackers that have been sitting in the freezer since the beginning of time.

    D – Leftover ravioli, meatballs, sausage, stuffed clams, and garlic bread

  12. Kathy in Denmark says:

    Day 21:

    B: Toasted rolls, softboiled eggs, jams etc. Coffee, milk and juice.
    L: Popcorn and different fruit, since we had a big and late breakfast.
    D: Tateletter (puff pastry shells) with a creamy sauce with chicken and asparagus. Vegetarian version for DH with asparagus, peas and carrots. Sprinkled with chopped parsley.
    S: Fruit, leftover apple cake with whipped cream.

    I had the two sauces in the freezer (had to top up DH’s) and the puff pastry shells were in the pantry. I am still not feeling well, but we have gotten some things done today, partially because I had such an easy dinner ready.

  13. Jen in IN says:

    Busy day for us with swim practice, birthday party, jazz festival, and church meeting. I went to the store and spent $7 on cabbage, diced tomatoes, pasta, black beans, evaporated milk, hummus and bread (marked down). I didn’t need pasta, but it was only .19 after mega sale and coupons. The hummus was free. After the latest Sabra recall I received coupons in the mail, I realized that they are good on any Sabra product up to $4.99, so I got the family size hummus.

    B: Boys had cereal, I had pb toast.

    L: Grilled cheese, carrots, and pirates booty

    D: at church, they provided pulled pork, slaw, rolls, chips and dessert. I helped with cleanup and took home a huge bag of rolls. I gave some to our friends and will freeze the rest for french toast casserole, sliders, and ? I also took home a package of deli turkey that was left from the kids.

    S: smoothie

  14. Today we cleaned and organized the fridge and did about half of the cupboards. Made a list of everything in them by shelf. We still have l/o’s but they are recent ones so none had to be pitched. yeah! Did find 1 yellow pepper looking like it might not be in this world much longer so cut it up and froze it for stir fry next week. I found enough couscous for 1 meal. It is pretty old as I have tried several recipes and can’t find one I like. Any flavorful way any of you use for couscous? I am not sure if I will ever buy it again.
    B – egg, ham, and donut
    L – Scalloped potatoes, ham, and mexican vegetables, cupcake or yogurt
    D – BLT’s and hashbrowns from the freezer (now all gone), and Christmas cookies from frozen dough
    S – apple juice and granola

    • Do you have the tiny couscous or the pearled (sometimes called Israeli) couscous? They are used pretty differently.

    • Heather M says:

      I use couscous all the time! I cook it in chicken broth. Then I add any number of things to it- the combinations are really endless. I make a warm salad version with red onion, feta, chopped bell pepper, tomato, kalamatas, and a red wine vinaigrette (you can do this with so many different flavor profiles). Or as a side to a saucy protein, I’ll toss chopped scallions and/or slivered almonds, etc. I’ll use it as a base for a stew or tagine, in place of noodles or mashed potatoes. I’ll roast any combo of veggies in the oven with whatever herbs sounds good and toss them with the couscous and a little flavored olive oil and maybe a dash of a vinegar. It’s great as a cold salad instead of the usual pasta salad- simply replace pasta with couscous and use the same ingredients (this doesn’t work with creamy salad types, though, only vinaigrette or olive oil dressing types of salads). We mostly use whole wheat couscous for daily meals, but on occasion I’ll use Israeli couscous (more like a tiny round pasta) or traditional couscous. We love it!

      • Heather, I have tried the chicken broth thing but stopped after that. I can see that adding what you have suggested would add more flavor. I even have some feta that I need to use up for PC.

  15. We were at Turtle Bay for my kids’ school fundraiser event, so we split a condo with our close family friends for the weekend.

    B= mix&match muffins, fruit, coffee orange juice
    L= ate out at fundraiser
    D= Saimin bar

    I tried to pack as much food from our fridge so that I didnt have to buy groceries. But the evening dinner for parents was canceled, we were stuck with having to run to the store to buy dinner for 14! We are big saimin/ramen/udon fans here in Hawaii, so we decided a Saimin bar would be fun, simple and cheap for all of us. we all chipped in some $$, we made our own bar in the condo.

    • Heather M says:

      What fun for all of you!! My brother and his family live there in a condo! Wonder if you ran into them and didn’t know it! Turtle Bay is just glorious!! People who visit Oahu and only stay in Waikiki/Honolulu area are really missing out. 🙂

  16. Friday 1/20/17

    B: The usual (of course).

    L: Son–packed (PB/AB sandwich, etc.). Hubs–PBJ, grapes, carrot sticks, hummus, pineapple, salad. Me–Salad, grapes, carrot sticks, hummus.

    D: LO soup, salad, pineapple

    S/D: popcorn

    Sat. 1/21/17

    B: The usual.

    L: PBJs, pineapple, grapes, pear slices, yogurt w/ compote & granola

    D: Last of the LO soup (!), 1/2 grilled cheese sandwiches, salad

    S/D: We all had various things (popcorn, string cheese, pistachios, and ????)

    The fridge is looking pretty good, but the freezers and pantry are still pretty full.

  17. Been so busy and not feeling well this past week – added to it my next door neighbor (85) fell on Sunday and broke three bones in her foot and I was tied up with visiting her husband while she was in hospital (he’s 92) – so didn’t eat much except for munster cheese sandwiches and oatmeal – yesterday my granddaughter came for a sleepover and we had her favorites (all pulled from pantry and freezer) – mac & cheese, chicken maple apple sausages and fresh steamed broccoli with yogurt flips.
    Today: Breakfast: scrambled eggs with bacon, hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls.
    Lunch: Chicken noodle soup and yogurt flips
    Dinner: All the leftovers from last night.
    Did go shopping this week – spent $54 for groceries since I ran out of a number of things and needed fresh veggies and fruit. I wanted to stay under $50 for the month but now figured a realistic number is $75 for the month since all I need for the rest of the month is milk and some fresh fruit and fruit juice.
    I will continue the challenge until mid-February but not buy anything over $40 for the first two weeks of Feb. Since I just reserved two weeks out on Block Island for Aug, I have to save, save save money for the cost of the trip.

  18. Laurie in CA says:

    We made a Costco run today but I need to look at my receipt and take off the non-food items and the “fun” items for my grandkids and the Sunday birthday party at our house for our granddaughter.

    B – Breakfast burritos
    L – l/o Broccoli Beef
    D – Dinner out with our besties at our fave Mediterranean restaurant. We have $2 left on the gift card we had so nothing out of pocket.

  19. French toast bake juice coffee
    Turkey club sandwich chip
    Madrigal dinner boy glad that is over . I one tired gal. Nice visit with my family. We will have another new grandchild this year,
    Off to bed.

  20. tastycook says:


    B – Fruit and yogurt, cheese

    L – H/M chicken noodle soup

    S – Haddock, mashed potato and peas, yogurt

  21. It was a coming and going kind of day. All four of us were not together for even one meal which is unusual at our house.

    B: Egg sandwiches or muffins and fruit
    L: HH and DD2 had leftovers. DD1 and I ate at MOA food court, Chipotle or Qdoba.
    D: HH went out with BIL, DD2 ate at a friends house, I had leftovers, DD1 had popcorn (yup, mother of the year)

  22. Sat 1/21
    B – yogurt
    L – snacky bits and bobs
    D – rice & bean bowls – mine was vegetarian with guacamole, he used one of the chicken patties from the freezer

  23. Made rice last night in the rice cooker. Dinner was a bowl of rice with taco soup poured over the top. I planned to add cheese but it was delicious without it. The cold rice leftovers will be veggie fried rice with poached eggs for breakfast. I usually fry peeled apple slices to have with this. Don’t. Know what lunch will be but dinner will be baked potatoes with the last of the taco soup poured over topped with the yogurt I just made and a little shredded cheese. That will finish up the leftovers in our fridge

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