Day 2, Pantry Challenge 2020

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This year I’m hosting 12 different Grocery Savings Challenges to help us all save money on food costs. This month’s Pantry Challenge is to “eat down the pantry”, to use up what’s on hand before buying more.

chocolate donuts stacked on cake stand

Sundays are typically a day when I putter around the kitchen, run errands, and basically chill. It didn’t really turn out to be that kind of day, but I’m not exactly sure.

I spent most of the day in the kitchen, actually.

I got this wild hair to photograph the recipes I was making for our second day of the Pantry Challenge. Photographing food in the old days meant taking a quick snapshot before everyone inhaled the food. Nowadays, it’s a lot more in-depth than that, making recipe prep time stretch to twice and sometimes triple the investment.

I think it took a couple hours to get the Triple Chocolate Donuts from start to finish today. It will only take you about 30 minutes. 

Thank goodness my kids are patient.


coffee with plate of scrambled eggs and chocolate donut

For breakfast we had donuts, of course, and eggs: scrambled, fried, or hardcooked.

The best donuts were the ones with the mini chocolate chips adhered to the glaze. That’s what I recommend should you make them. 

Seems that as soon as I was done with donuts, it was time to make the Creamy Chicken Stuffed Shells. About halfway through that process, I gave up on the idea of taking photos.

pan of chicken stuffed shells


Last winter when Ralphs closed, I stocked up on items that I don’t always keep on hand, like jumbo pasta shells. These are super fun to make and very make-ahead.

I cooked an entire box of shells, made a double batch of Marinara Sauce, and made a double batch of stuffed shells. Upon the request of my 17yo son, I added a box of chopped frozen spinach to the filling. A nice way to add more veggies to the meal!

We ate one pan for lunch with some Garlic Green Beans on the side. The rest I packaged up for lunches in single servings. We’ve got four of those packages in the fridge as well as a pint of sauce leftover.

lunch plate with shells and green beans

Then I spent some time doing massive kitchen cleaning. I watched some Detectorists while I was at it, so it wasn’t so bad. Since I’ve seen most of that show twice now, I was desperate for something new. 

I splurged on a month of Britbox so I can watch Inspector Morse. Never seen that even though we are huge Endeavour fans.

Meal Prep

Once the kitchen was clean, my 13yo daughter joined me for meal prep. She chopped veggies for snacks while I baked Cranberry Protein Bread and Protein Waffles. These will go toward our breakfast bar this week. If it lasts. Both baked goods are huge hits around here. And no, they aren’t posted on the site yet. Soon!

snacky dinner spread on board


I kept dinner simple by laying out meats, cheeses, bread, crackers, and veggies — as well as a little English Pickle I found in the freezer. Pretty apropos alongside Inspector Morse, don’t you think?

So that was the end of day 2. No money spent. Some meals prepped ahead. Not too shabby.

How was your Pantry Challenge today?

About Jessica Fisher

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

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  1. Laura says

    Stuffed shells are one of my favorite make ahead foods. I use spinach in the filling too, along with pesto

  2. Elise says

    Another successful day!
    B: BLW banana Muffins for me and 11-month-old, Kraft Dinner for husband
    L: More banana muffins and a side of cheerios for 11-month-old, tuna sandwiches for adults
    D: Corn Chowder with Crackers for all three
    S: Berries for 11-month-old, 3 Lindor balls for me

    Babyled Weaning muffins were a big hit for our little and not bad with Mom and Dad! We have tons of soup leftover and so will have it another 2x this week, as I find chowders don’t freeze well. I also meal prepped some chocolate PB oat bars for my breakfast.

  3. Heather M says

    Hi Jessica and everyone,

    This is my first chance to look at this year’s PC posts. I was excited for this, and ready to go, but then life took a turn exactly a week ago. My brother passed away unexpectedly. It’s been a really complicated and difficult time and situation and we are all pretty shattered. We won’t be having a service until at least February, probably later. Anyway, i wasn’t intending to really start until Tuesday anyway since tomorrow is my birthday (not so fun this year). We’ll see how it goes, but I have a lot on my plate including houseguests arriving saturday-tuesday and a lot to clean up, take down, etc. My kids both left late yesterday back to university out of state and it’s just my husband and I for now. I’m going to do my best because the $$$ has been flying out the door so I need to balance somehow. Not that one can really balance tuition and room and board for two kids with just grocery savings, but every little bit helps. Thursday night we got back in town from 5 long hard days at my in-laws, where the morning after we arrived, we had the phone call with the news from my family. Friday was a whirlwind of errands and appts with the kids before they left, and then saturday they left. After the airport drop we stopped at the store and only bought two chopped salad kits, cherubs tomatoes on sale, and sliced deli turkey. It’s all my brain could think we needed to survive until after my birthday when I can maybe focus better on food planning. Spent about $12, first shopping of the year. Friday night we were surprised by dear friends who dropped off a freshly made, large, and delicious lasagna. We polished off half of it with the kids and then leftovers. Didn’t even have sides. But that’s ok.

    Saturday 1/4:

    B: husband(L) and kids slept in; I had leftover blueberry muffin from christmas day
    L: everyone skipped, in a rush to get packed and organized, then son had a bowl of cereal.
    D: kids were on a plane; L had leftover Roy Rogers chicken from the NJ Turnpike the kids didn’t finish on our drive back and random goodies (we have a lot still!); two friends took me out to a late dinner at a new Turkish place nearby. We ate mezze and it was delicious

    Sunday 1/5:

    B: both skipped
    L: L skipped and I ate half a pint of ice cream (not sorry.. it’s all that sounded good)
    D: leftover lasagna and one of the chopped salad kits. L also snacked on chocolate

    I also cleaned out the fridge of gross things— typical after the holidays and our annual New years trip to my in-laws. I haven’t usually kept up with using up/cleaning out during the holidays very well. So at least i know what we have in the fridge. Will absolutely have to buy produce etc during the PC because all we have are a zillion carrots(long story), some apples, pears, and avocados. Everything else was toast. Happy at least to be back here with all of you inspiring people.

    • Kathy in Denmark says

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Heather! Please give yourself grace, you need time to heal.

      Re the carrots: try looking for soup recipes with carrots. I am sure you can find one that you like and it will use up a large amount of carrots if it is a pureed soup.

      • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

        Oh Heather, I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother. Take time to take care of yourself. Sending thoughts across the miles.

        • Heather M says


          Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s pretty shattering.

          I’m glad you’re back here this year!

      • Heather M says


        Thank you so much for your words. I’m also very happy to see you here again, as I always am! And, thank you so much for the carrot soup idea. I need to be creative with so many carrots and this hadn’t crossed my mind yet. But, I’m not good at focusing well right now, so I really appreciate any and all ideas. I will find a good carrot soup recipe and use my brand new blender/processor my husband and kids gave me for my birthday! 🙂

        • Kathy in Denmark says

          I comletely understand that you have trouble focusing. Happy I could help!
          And now you have a reason to take your blender/processor for at spin 🙂


    • Maureen says

      I’m so sorry! You do whatever you need to do. I’m glad to hear you have such great friends to help take care of you a bit.

      • Heather M says


        Thank you for this. I’m so lucky to have so many good friends nearby and afar.

        Also, I’m glad you’re here again this year. 🙂

    • You are doing great, Heather. Praying for you!

  4. Alice E says

    B – Oats, eggs, clementines and hot tea
    L – l/o turkey veg soup, l/o turkey burger
    D – Meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, green beans, beets
    evening snack was a the red velvet cake I made using the recipe in the dump cake pamphlet. It has no added fat. I left off the diced cream cheese and white chocolate bits I was supposed to scatter over the top and made a simple glaze for it so I could have some without worrying about fat content. Hubby liked it and I liked the fact I could also have some. It isn’t birthday cake quality, but it works and used up the cake mix. I’ll have to do some shopping soon, we’re out of clementines, which is what I call any of the little mandarin style oranges we like.

  5. Ronnie says

    Hello and Happy New Year!
    I am really looking forward to your year line-up of grocery challenges. We began our pantry challenge on the 2nd. I inventoried everything and we should be able to get by with just buying some fresh produce, milk and eggs for the month. Still eating down the fridge from two weeks of company so it’s a bit of a mish mash right now. Meal prepped for the week today too. Here’s how our day went:
    B an egg and ham breakfast ring with a can of crescent roll dough and sliced fruit
    L homemade veggie pizza leftover from dinner with friends last night and carrot sticks and red pepper slices
    D From the freezer – turkey ricotta meatballs in marinara with a salad
    Prepped lunches for the next few days……salads with smoked turkey for my wife, tuna for me. Made split pea soup with the last of the ham and the veg in the crisper, made a loaf of bread and defrosted chili from the freezer. We’re making tamale pie with that tomorrow night. Breakfasts will be fruit and yogurt with oats and nuts.
    Thank you for the impetus to begin this challenge.
    On a side note:
    Dear Heather M,
    I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. My thoughts and my heart are with you and your family. Sending love your way. I wish I could bring you a hot dish.

    • Heather M says


      Thank you so much for your kind words. All of this support is so helpful to my psyche.

      I’m in awe of your food and food prep from this report…. I would certainly have loved something from your kitchen. 🙂

  6. Eileen says

    I have a bunch of refrigerated leftovers from the holidays I need to use up, so some of the ham went into a sandwich. I also have an entire box of breakfast pizza singles I defrosted by accident (!) so there was breakfast today and every day this week. I get meals on wheels so my dinner was ziti and meatballs from them. I know a week in advance what is coming Monday through Friday so I will plan my other meals around that. I still spend too much of my limited budget on food for other meals and waste way too much. I did a pantry challenge a number of years ago when I wasn’t just cooking for me and it was hard to please everyone. Now I only have to enjoy it myself. Much easier!

  7. Laurie Gaither says

    I made a trip to Trader Joe’s and spent $49 on produce, dairy, eggs and a few staples I knew I would run out later this month (I’m trying to stay out of the grocery store).
    B – cereal, L – roast beef sandwiches from a roast I made Friday night, D – leftover tacos for hubs and pizza for me

    B – berry protein shake for me and cereal for hubs, L – 1/2 roast beef sandwich and salad for me, hubs had some slices of roast beef and crackers, D – creamy cauliflower soup in the instapot with a loaf of homemade sourdough bread from the freezer

  8. Terry says

    Burritos for breakfast and 7 more for the freezer. These were beans,rice and cheese all from pantry staples. Made stock from frozen turkey wings and necks and the bones from a rack of ribs. I cooked it an hour in the instant pot to make bone broth. All the meat I stripped off and put in the dogs bowl. I’ll make soup out of the broth today. I make lots of soups year round to use up bits of leftovers. We have chickens and a dog to eat anything leftover and a compost pile for what they can’t have.

  9. Kathy in Denmark says

    January 5th

    Brunch: Softboiled eggs, Toasted leftover hot dog buns, coffee, smoothies
    L/S: Hummus, pita chips, veggie platter
    D: Pizza with veggies
    S: Christmas cookies and candy

    Smoothies used up a few small bags of strawberries from the garden (I still have more) and some yogurt. The hotdog buns had to be eaten, so that worked out well 🙂
    Lunch finished the hummus, so no waste there!
    The pizza was made from 2 pizza kits, but I only used up one jar of sauce. I will use the leftover jar next time I make pizza. One pizza was topped with sauce, mozzarella, red bell pepper, corn and onions. The other was topped with sauce, a little mozzarella, fresh tomato slices, black olives, grilled artichoke hearts (from a jar) and a little crumbled feta cheese. The only thing I bought this week were the pizza kits, so I am quite happy with that meal.

    We are almost out of Christmas cookies. My oldest (she’s 8) has been sneaking into the kitchen and eating some without me noticing. I admire her dedication, as she needs a step stool to reach them 🙂 However, when they are gone, they are gone and we all have to wait until next december to have these particular cookies, so I hope she has enjoyed them 😀

    • Heather M says

      Love the cookie “thief”…. 🙂

  10. Stephanie M. says

    Sunday, January 5, 2020

    B – We both had cereal; I also had strawberries and some peanuts

    L – My husband and daughter went out for lunch today; I stayed home for some much needed down time. I had a turkey meat loaf sandwich on whole grain rye and 1/2 a banana

    D – Pot Roast, mashed potatoes, and peas

    So far since the challenge started, I was able to take three pieces of meat out of the freezer; the only package of ground beef I had was used to make sloppy joes for lunch; one package of ground turkey to make the turkey meat loaf for sandwiches for lunch, and the bottom round roast for the pot roast.

    I love have a weekly meal plan menu written out so I always know what to defrost and what’s happening each week.

  11. Julie Smith says

    Looking forward to the cranberry protein bread! I’ll have to check our your lunch recipe…we have a box of shells somewhere around here, too.

    Breakfast: pancakes (this will likely be a staple this month because I’d bought a bunch of pancake mix for practically free not too long ago.)
    Lunch: leftovers/sweet potatoes
    Dinner: cheeseburgers, Brussels sprouts

    Did a grocery run that I’m hoping will last the week, but they were out of cucumbers which was about the only veggie my braces kid can/will eat. So I will make a quick sprouts run today, too.

    • My kids are really happy about the Cranberry Bread. I made it several times before Hawaii but can’t find my notes, so I’m starting over. This last batch was too sweet. LOL

  12. Maureen says

    I spent a little more time in the kitchen than I had intended. But, we did some breakfast (muffins) and lunch (individually packaged items for the kid’s’ lunches) prep for the week (and beyond). We had roast for dinner, so now there are 3 dinners worth for the freezer, but at least it’s ready to eat. It’s looking like leftovers for lunches for me all week, as I’m determined not to waste food this month.

  13. tasty says

    Sunday January 5

    We had planned earlier in the week that yesterday would be breakfast out for us as a planned power outage was scheduled for yesterday morning. As it turns out, that didn’t happen but breakfast out still did! No lunch was required as we were both still full, after breakfast so supper was the only meal at home yesterday.

    S – leftover ham with scalloped potatoes and the last of the salad.

    Nice to see so many familiar names again this year.

    • Heather M says

      Hi Tasty. Good to see you again. 🙂

  14. Betsy says

    I started the pantry challenge at the beginning of January and have been plugging along. My fridge is looking a bit bare, low on veggies and milk, so I will be heading to the store today (Monday) to restock those things. With 8 in our family, 2 of whom are teenagers and another one who will be in a few months, we go through a huge amount of food!

    Breakfast – cold cereal and milk before church. We were given quite a few boxes of cereal and have been working our way through them.

    Lunch- we were at a birthday party. They had pizza, cake, and ice cream. It was nice to not have to cook!

    Dinner – once a month we receive the leftover unsold bread and pastries for the day from Panera Bread. This month we got a large amount of scones and pastries so we had those, along with some cut up fruit and veg.

  15. lisa s says

    Brunch was blueberry muffins, biscuit sandwiches with fried egg, swiss, and pastrami, smoothies to start using up my stock of frozen fruit and kale, and mimosas for the adults.
    Dinner was stone soup with broth and curry from the freezer as well as wild rice, roasted veggies and beef from the fridge. A little eclectic, but it works for us. My favorite soup is made from leftover chicken curry, and this was close.

  16. Today is our first day. I’m gonna put it up on my blog. As you know this is my favorite time of the year.

  17. Roberta says

    Yay! So glad you’re doing the PC again this January. I’m looking forward to the other challenges as well.

    Sat. 1/4

    B: Oatmeal w/ frozen blueberries and whipped cream, chocolate chip panettone (a gift)
    L: Grilled cheese sandwiches, apple and orange slices (oranges from our tree), string cheese for the guys, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts (gift)
    S: Caramel lattes while out getting haircuts
    D: Son had pizza at a birthday party; Hubs and I ate out (Italian sandwiches)

    Sun. 1/5

    B: Cold cereal and panettone for the guys; panettone only for me.
    L: Out after church
    D: Popcorn (no one was particularly hungry after lunch).

    So we haven’t been eating very healthfully so far, but we’ve been enjoying the last couple of days of a much-needed break. I finally went to the grocery store yesterday and today (first time since before Christmas) and have spent $29.56 so far.

    • Karen J says

      I bought my first panettone for Christmas this year and somehow forgot about it. Now I know what I am having for breakfast tomorrow. 🙂

    • Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

      Last year after Christmas I bought a panetonne for 75% off. I’d never heard of them before or eaten one. It was in the freezer for a while, but I slowly ate it- all by myself!. It was delicious!

  18. Pam says

    Breakfast — homemade banana muffins and fried ham strips (from Saturday night’s ham)
    Lunch — leftovers for me and my son; grandgirls had pb&lj sandwiches
    Dinner — My son and his girlfriend took my grandgirls ice skating after lunch. They didn’t get home until 6 p.m. I knew they wouldn’t be eating dinner with me, so I was thinking about what to fix for myself to eat. But, surprise! They brought me dinner! They’d gone to a Mexican restaurant and got me a to-go meal. So thoughtful!
    Snack — We watched a movie before the grandgirls’ bedtime and had popcorn and sliced apples.

    I haven’t been to the grocery store since before Christmas, so I’ll need to go either Monday or Tuesday.

    I’ve always budgeted food and nonfood items into my grocery budget, but for this pantry challenge, I think I’ll omit all the nonfood purchases (like toilet paper and dog food).

  19. Angela says

    B: oatmeal and fresh fruit or smoothie
    L: chopped salad w/homemade salad dressing
    D: I had more chopped salad with a smoothie, hubs had a smoothie & citrus salad I made, and ds#3 had chicken and brown rice. Gotta fill that boy up.
    Focusing on veg seems to take more food…I’m not sure how we will do with this! 😀

  20. Karen J says

    I put my grocery cash for the month ($25-we’ll see how long I can make it last) in an envelope and then bought a gallon of milk for $1.99. I don’t usually buy a gallon because there are only two of us at home, but it was cheaper than buying the half gallon. I’ll freeze part for later this month.
    Lunch-sushi with a groupon and a friend. Only had to pay for the tip!
    Dinner-Spaghetti with italian sausage, green salad, and breadsticks made from leftover from Christmas Rhodes bread rolls

  21. Lynn from NC Outer Banks says

    Oh wow. I think I wish I was at your house for those doughnuts, Jessica! Yum.

    Back here in my mundane kitchen:

    B: fried egg, sausage (freezer), toast
    L: turkey-havarti-apple sandwich, chips and a few grapes I rescued from the refrigerator. Unfortunately, the rest of the bunch was moldy and had to go into the compost. I hate food waste 🙁
    D: chicken cordon bleu casserole using ham from freezer, brown rice, Asian salad
    S: DH was watching football and requested a party platter/charcuterie. I used pepperoni, cheese, nuts, olives, clementine sections, carrots and a small spinach and artichoke dip with pita chips that was free.

    No shopping yet!

  22. Pat says

    Wow there are so many familiar names in this post from past pantry challenges . Hello to you all!
    Heather I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs
    I agree with everyone else–those donuts look delicious but I don’t have a pan.
    Breakfast for me was peanut butter toast. DH had eggs and toast. Son skipped.
    Lunch was grilled ham & cheese sandwiches with apple and orange slices.
    Dinner was -pork loin in the crockpot with potatoes and roasted veggies

    • Heather M says

      Hi Pat,

      Good to see you back here. Thanks so much for your kind words.

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