Day 19, Pantry Challenge 2020

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Looking to save money on food costs this month? Consider doing a pantry challenge to use up food you already have so you can spend less at the store.

breakfast bowl with tea and planner

Today was a good day in the kitchen. After a few months of struggling with the kids’ kitchen chores, we instituted a new system yesterday and it seems to be working really well. 

A clean kitchen makes such a difference in how your cooking goes!

Bryan was home sick from work, so it was he and the four kids holding down the fort while  I was at Bible study. I did some prep work after I got back, and then did the afternoon gymnastics run. 

Since B wasn’t feeling well, we opted out of date night and had dinner as a family, but thanks to good planning and prep, it didn’t feel like work.

In fact, I’ve spent the last couple hours reading my book!

Here’s how the menus went down today:


I had my usual, Greek Yogurt and Muesli with blueberries. The kids dug into the breakfast bar: waffles, cranberry bread, and eggs.


Before I left for Bible study, I pulled the last of the Christmas tamales from the freezer. The family reheated those along with the leftovers from last night. Bryan and the girls made more Homemade Corn Tortillas  so I’m pretty sure they all feasted.

I also thawed the rest of the Cranberry Oat Bars I’d made for the holidays, so that was a yummy treat.

I had a Meal Prep Salad with chicken, goat cheese, and balsamic dressing. So good!


For dinner I made a lasagna with the Vegetable Bolognese from the other day. I hadn’t actually cooked it with the meat in it and since one kid shies away from eggplant, I blended it with my immersion blender before assembling the lasagna. 

He was none the wiser.

I also steamed broccoli in the instant pot (just set it to manual 0 minutes) as a side dish.

I had another Meal Prep Salad, this time with hard cooked eggs, parmesan, and Basic Vinaigrette.

And there you have it, day 19 is in the can. We’ve got 9 more days to go. FishChick11 is more than ready for it to end. I’m not sure why, probably because I don’t appease her as much as I normally do. Ha!

I’m okay with it, but I’ve got some recipe testing projects I’m eager to get to. So, I’m also okay with the next 9 days going by more quickly!

How is the pantry challenge going for you?


About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Laurie Gaither says

    B – i had a protein bar and the last tangerine. Hubs came down with the “man flu” (cold). He went to bed right after I got up and had toast after he got up late morning
    L – I had the last serving of the frozen chicken Parmesan with a piece of sourdough from the freezer. I also had a spring greens salad with avocado and a cut up orange from our yard. Hubs had toast and apple cider
    D – I thawed out chicken noodle soup I made for hubs last month when he got sick. He had that and I some chicken fajita soup from the freezer with some chips and guacamole.

    I’m not sure why my hubs has had nasty bronchial colds the past three months in a row while I’ve stayed well. I take quality vitamins and supplements plus eat more fruits and veggies. I wish I could convince him to do the same. I think it really does make a difference.

    • Christine says

      I agree. I eat a lot of produce (more than anyone else in this house) and it keeps me very healthy. I don’t find that everyone else gets sick a lot, but I think produce is a great illness protector!

    • Sandi says

      My son would be a “meatavore” if allowed. I keep making him eat fruits and veggies. He’s learned to stop complaining (although I’m quite sure he skips them if he’s home alone when I’m traveling for work) but if he does grumble, I just ask him when was the last time he was sick. He shuts up and I say “You’re welcome.” LOL.

      • Laurie Gaither says

        My adult children are much better about eating veggies than their father.

  2. Stephanie M. says

    Wednesday, January 22, 2020

    B – Bagel, blueberry Greek yogurt, and V8

    L – Tuna salad on whole grain rye and an apple

    D – London broil, rice pilaf, and green bean salad

  3. Julie Smith says

    We took day 18 off, but we were back at it for day 19. (We actually started ours a couple of days early, but it was before I fully committed.)

    Yesterday we had toast and fruit for breakfast, packed lunches or leftovers, and rice bowls for dinner which was a huge hit! I’d bought some bagged steak strips a while back that we used as the protein and while I’m not sure I’d buy them again, it made our usual beans and rice night look fancy. Plus, I used up some odds and ends from the fridge. I also planned out the next 9 days, at which point things will look pretty bare. We also ate the last pie from the freezer.

    In our house we have a grocery budget and a “health and household” budget that covers things like copays and/or toiletries. We’ve had a couple of doctors appointments we weren’t expecting, so I’ve moved some stuff over to our grocery budget since we have a good little cushion there, like the dog and cat food, which I keep separate from our grocery budget when I can. I don’t think we will see a lot go into savings like I’d hoped at the beginning of the month, but having the cushion has kept us from pulling out of savings, which is always good. January has seemed to be full of little things like that.

    • Sandi says

      Not Taking Out vs Not Putting In has a pretty clear winner, IMO. Yay for keeping the savings account in the bank!

  4. Maureen says

    It was a good pantry challenge day. We finally had our kitchen ceiling painted after a ceiling repair caused by a plumbing leak, so we ate a quick lunch out while running errands. Once I could access the kitchen again I did some prep. My youngest helped make a banana cake (she doesn’t like banana muffins anymore, but thought a frosted cake sounded good)…had to add a little applesauce because our mushy bananas were a little small. I made some jalapeno poppers for the freezer with peppers and bacon (freezer) leftover from Christmas and 2 of the 3! open packages of cream cheese in the fridge. The family got a little talking to about checking before opening a “new” item after that. Since there was a little more bacon than I needed, the kids asked for pancakes for dinner. Breakfast for dinner 3 nights in a row…that’s how they role when dad is out of town. I had leftover enchiladas from the freezer.

    • Heather M says

      When dad’s out of town, anything goes! And now that our kids are away at college, when L’s traveling and it’s just me, really anything goes. Last week when he was gone, the first 2 nights we had houseguests so takeout at the end of long touring days, the 3rd night I had popcorn and ice cream after a late lunch with same guests before they went to the airport, the 4th night I had a turkey sandwich. The 5th night he came home late but a friend had dropped off homemade tomato soup and bread, which was perfect for me and for him when he got in at 10pm. Yep, anything goes! Love the idea of those jalapeno poppers! YUM!

  5. Jennifer says

    B – we all had oatmeal
    L – I took a hummus cup with pretzels that had expired a couple of days ago (it was perfectly fine) and a yogurt. Was starving by 2 and ate a beef stick.
    D – homemade sloppy joes, homemade fries and fresh veggies

    I had a kitchen afternoon when I got home from work. I was starving still and didn’t want to snack. I couldn’t make dinner yet as it would a couple of hours before everyone was home. So I made banana muffins (snacks and freezer for my dd to take back to college) and chocolate chip bread for our breakfast. I also boiled up some eggs for my lunches. Kept me busy and I avoided the urge to munch.

  6. Tasty says

    Wednesday January 22nd
    B – the usual fruit, yogurt and granola with a piece of tea brack ( fruit filled coffee cake type of thing) from the freezer.
    L – chicken fingers
    S – a chicken and pasta dish with cauliflower and broccoli – based on chicken divan, but using what I had. It was really good and full of flavour.

  7. Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

    Trying to catch up here. Still at it just ran out of time to post.

    1/21 Day 18

    B: cottage cheese, pineapple, blueberries from freezer, cinnamon
    L: LO chicken noodle soup
    D: LO chicken pot pie, LO lima beans, LO ambrosia
    S: biscotti and tea

    Did hedge my bets and picked up good bread while half off spending 1.90 which brings my total to 24.36 which I’m pretty pleased with. Will probably pick up Romaine so I can have some salads. DH not a big salad eater but I am.

    1/22 Day 19
    B: cheese toast and coffee
    L: Last of soup
    D: pulled pork on HM buns, raw red and orange peppers, celery sticks, carrots with ranch dip, apple slices
    S: HM sugar cookies

    Am part of Sunshine Committee at work that celebrates birthdays. Made snowflake sugar cookies tonight for Friday, keeping a few out to take to son this weekend. I think I”m also going to make a banana cake for work. That would get the bananas out of my freezer plus it’s about the only cake I make!

    I’ve been pleased with my spending totals and think I could finish out the month without any more purchases. I made enough room in the freezer for the LO HM hot dog and hamburger buns from Jessica’s recipe, some earlier in the week soup and a few more items. I still have a bit of white space in my fridge freezer and our small chest freezer, but will probably continue on into Feb as I really, really want to make a dent in the food I have remaining. All of that being said, we are heading out of town tomorrow. While traveling home, we will pass by an Aldi. This isn’t a store I have access to with closest one about 2 1/2 hours away. So en route home, we will probably stop there and pick up some perishables that will last up on into Feb. So that will inflate my spending but be worth it in the long run. I usually spend about $15 there, so will be shooting for that or less. That would be about $50 for the month, so I don’t think that’s too bad. When I started the PC I didn’t really have a goal since I’d never been as consistent as this year and wasn’t really sure. But I think $50 is doable, so we’ll see! (though I must confess I wish we were going next weekend so it would be in February’s spending! Silly I know 🙂

    Looks like everyone is continuing along!

    • Karen J says

      I’m glad you tried Jessica’s buns! Yummy recipe, isn’t it? I also am going to buy store bread today. I’m pretty happy that I made so long without purchasing any. I so want to go to an Aldi as I read everyone’s raves about it. We have zero Aldi stores in Washington. Sad.

      I am also going to be continuing the challenge into February on a less stringent basis. We have been away a few days this month so haven’t been using things up as fast as I’d thought. Darn, those mini vacations!

      • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

        Yes, they were very good! I was glad they turned out since I still always worry a bit when I deal with yeast. Washington DC or state? There is an Aldi where my mother lives. When we visit her I usually pick up a few items. A Lidl has just opened up there also and I’ve heard it is like Aldi “on steroids”. I haven’t been there yet but am looking forward to the comparison.

        I’ve found that with just my husband and me, it’s a long, slow slog through all this food. When I get it eaten down-finally-I will be rethinking all of my purchases more critically, though still plan to maintain a bit of a stockpile. We have eaten almost all of our meals at home with the exception of maybe 2 lunches thus far, and still there is so much food! 🙁

        • Karen J says

          Washington State. We live north of Seattle. I looked at the Aldi map and there are none in any of our surrounding areas. 

          I don’t want to go down too far down on my stockpile either, but do enjoy seeing a bit of space and using up things that have been around for too long.  I have learned some things from previous challenges, such as we don’t ever eat cold cereal so I don’t ever have to buy it. That took me awhile, because sometimes you could get Cheerios for $0.99 and that was a good buy.  Also, because there are only two of us, I don’t need to buy ten boxes of pasta when it’s on sale-three is probably good. I swear we eat better on pantry challenge month because I am much more thoughtful about meal planning.

          So we will keep on going…….

          • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

            Maybe eventually Aldi will expand westward! Yes, I’m looking at quite a bit of pasta in my pantry still. One of our stores here runs buy2get3 free promos with a limit of 10. That’s how I wound up with I think 28 (!) packages of shredded cheese in the PC 2 years ago. I learned from that. No more buying 10 of anything. I have definitely done more baking this month. My flour and sugar supplies are starting to decrease a bit. And yes, I’ll keep going too…

    • Heather M says

      I will for sure be continuing on into February. I only just really started this past weekend and we have piles of things in the pantry and my lone freezer below my fridge. Like you, it’s just the two of us since the kids are away at college. It takes a while. A few of us have continued staying in touch via a google group and email throughout the year about our kitchen escapades. If you want to join in with us after this is over, you could ask Jessica for my email. If it’s too much, that’s fine too, just thought I’d let you know. Also, I saw you’re following Jessica on Instagram. She has shared some of my meals this week from my stories in her stories… 🙂

      • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

        The google group sounds fun. I’ll plan to do that. I know 2 years ago many of us continued on for quite a while which I really enjoyed. Weren’t you in that group? I’ll be sure to check out your meals on Instagram. I can be kind of hit and miss with social media.

  8. Terry says

    I was up early yesterday morning, determined to clear out the little containers in the fridge. Made baked pumpkin pie oatmeal first, and planned to have that for breakfast the next two days. Then I went on to make veggie soup. The instant pot makes short work of that, and it smelled so good I skipped the oatmeal and had soup instead. Hubby had his hashbrowns and eggs. Lunch was bean and cheese burritos from the freezer. The last serving of soup went to the freezer. I had part of the oatmeal for dinner.
    There were a lot of wilty apples in the drawer, the last red delicious from our tree. I peeled and cooked them in the very last of the good maple syrup.
    This morning I stirred up potato bread and am thawing out ham stock to make split pea soup.
    The fridge leftovers are finally gone so now I can move onto some new dishes. Yea!
    The pumpkin pie baked oatmeal recipe is so good, I might mix up another batch using some of the maple apples I cooked yesterday

  9. Alice E says

    B – oats, eggs, mandarins and hot tea
    L – he took pb sandwich and cookies, I had chicken soup
    D – Baked chicken thighs, brussels sprouts and roasted veg

    I got busy and peeled and diced the last sweet potato, a couple of potatoes I needed to use and several carrots to roast with the chicken. This used up the last sweet potato and the last of one bag of carrots and a couple from the new bag. Tonight will involve rice and ground turkey, we shall see what inspiration hits later.

    I was snowy yesterday and I stayed in but after a hectic Tuesday, I wasn’t very energetic yesterday.

  10. Karen J says

    B-eggs scrambled with some leftover hash browns, a slice of ham from the freezer, the last two mushrooms, red onion, and spinach. Used up little bits of odds and ends.
    L-McDonalds with four year old grandson. Since he just eats the yogurt, milk, and a few french fries, I get to finish off his happy meal. McDonalds indoor playground is a great place for grandparents to take their rambunctious grandkids on a rainy day.
    D- I had Book Club so husband fended on his own. I think he ate a salmon burger or a ham sandwich.

    My daughter’s family has been struggling with the nasty flu, so I’ve been doing school runs with the healthy ones and entertaining little ones. I’ve bought pizza and some other food to help them out with easy dinners so they won’t have to do much cooking. Crossing my fingers that my flu shot will keep me from getting it.

    • Heather M says

      That’s so great you’re able to help them. Truly hope you stay healthy!

  11. Roberta says

    Wed. 1/22/20

    B: Cereal w/ bananas, toast, OJ (more of the home-squeezed), coffee.

    L: The guys had their usual packed lunches. I had PB toast, string cheese, and a mandarin.

    D: Pulled pork sandwiches. I pulled out two baggies of the LO carnitas from the freezer and plopped the contents in my little crockpot along w/ a bit of apple cider vinegar and a good amount of BBQ sauce. Then I made up a batch of Jessica’s HM hamburger buns–so good! (I notice several of us made her hamburger/hot dog buns this week. 😉 ) Served the sandwiches w/ salad and cantaloupe.

    Since dinner was mostly hands-off, I actually had time to clean/organize my plastic storage container cupboards. Gathered a box full to try to sell at a yard sale/donate and tossed a few things. Now I can actually find things. So satisfying.

    • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

      Yes, hooray for Jessica’s bun recipe!

  12. Christine says

    We are doing a modified version, but we are doing well. Our total spending is less than half a normal budget. I have made dinner every night we’ve been home, except for this weekend when we were away for a hockey tournament. I am thinking the money I saved may go towards some of those expenses:(

  13. Janet says

    B: Chocolate bread, fresh cherries
    L: Sandwiches, chips
    D: Hamburgers, green beans, green grapes, pineapple spears
    Had to shop for groceries today. We were out of meat and fresh produce. One of my pantry challenge rules was we would continue to eat plenty of fresh produce.

  14. Angela says

    Hubs has been a good sport trying to use up pantry items. He has polished off two boxes of cereal that were languishing (unopened) in there, along with tuna (made into sandwiches for him). He’s growing fond of telling me he’s doing his part.
    B – berry smoothies for both of us, a bowl of the last of the cheese grits for Hubs.
    L- Hubs had two hardboiled eggs. I had leftover beef vegetable soup.
    D – Peas, rice, ham slices, homemade cornbread. Peas were from this summer’s garden, extra rice cooked at the beginning of the week, ham slices frozen from Christmas, fresh cornbread made in the morning. Hubs had eaten two muffins before he left for work.

    I made another batch of brownies so my people can have a treat for not spending any money 🙂

  15. Pat says

    Leftover night for Day19 got cancelled in favor of the Spicy Beef and Bean Stew that Jessica posted. I made it with pinto and northern beans and skipped the hominy and used corn instead. It really hit the spot on a cold snowy night. We had it with homemade dinner rolls and lunch meat from the freezer. It made alot so we’ll probably eat the rest this weekend.

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