Pantry Challenge 2018: Day 18

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The Pantry Challenge is on! This month we’re focusing on what we have, to use it up and save money.

chicken lo mein in a bowl

I was sorely tempted to make a run to In-n-Out Burger tonight. We haven’t had any take-out so far this month, and I have a ton of computer work to tackle. However, I knew that the kids had made too much pasta last night. There was tons to use up.

So, I made our very favorite Peanut Butter Chicken. Of course, I didn’t really use peanut butter because my daughter is severely allergic. There was exactly enough almond butter left in the jar to pull it off. OMG. So good. If you have never made it, please try it soon. It is super simple and so delicious!

That’s pretty much all I can brag about today. In addition to being Pantry Challenge month, January is also the time when my college kids don’t have classes. While this shouldn’t impact me too terribly much, it certainly messes with my head.

I don’t want to put the effort into creating a set weekly schedule for just a few weeks of winter break, so the days don’t really have much of a rhythm to them. I can’t wait until class starts in another ten days. Then, we can really get in our groove.

In the meantime, I’m working on making exercise more of a habit. It takes a good hour out of my day, more on the days when I have physical therapy. I know that it’s a good investment of my time, but I’m not seeing results just yet. My PT says I should wait at least six weeks before I can legitimately see some change, so here’s hoping I can stay the course.

So anyways, here’s what we ate today:

Pantry Challenge 2018: Day 18

Breakfast: Greek Eggs, Chicken Sausage

Lunch: Snacky Lunch

Dinner: Peanut Butter Chicken (only made with Almond Butter)

As always, thanks for sharing the Pantry Challenge with your friends. The more the merrier!

What did YOU cook up?

About Jessica Fisher

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

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  1. Pat says

    Jan 18th
    Breakfast was the usual for both of us. I even ate early so I could give blood this morning.
    Lunch–He took a lunch from the freezer and a yogurt. I finished the sesame chicken and stir fried veggies.
    Dinner was roasted pork loin, whipped sweet potatoes a salad and bread sticks.
    I feel your pain about your schedule being off. Our frigid weather and extra babysitting days have messed with my schedule a bunch. Spring can’t get here soon enough!!

  2. Alice E says

    Hang in there on the exercise. I have been getting mine in for a year and a half trying for at least 3 times a week and it has helped. However I admit it did take awhile to find the right combination that works for me. I joined a gym with a pool since I needed water exercise due to arthritis and since I’m paying for it and a trainer once a week, I feel obligated to get my moneys worth. If you are exercising at home, you might try music, or listening to audiobooks to make it more enjoyable. Today was my water exercise class and I am enjoying it and the chance to see other older friendly people who look more like me in a swimsuit than models. The camaraderie has helped me stay the course.


    B- Oats, over easy eggs and l/o pancakes for hubby, I had malt-o-meal cooked in milk for my queasy tummy and we both had our tea.
    L- he took his pb sandwich, I had a small sandwich and snacks while volunteering.
    D – He had the rest of the leftover chili and a sandwich, I just had a sandwich and some leftover pasta from the freezer.

    Took a quick look at the peanut butter chicken recipe, I’ve never tried that type of dish, but I noticed it used red pepper flakes. Since I don’t get along well with them, is there something I could substitute like hot sauce or cayenne pepper and how much of it would I then use? Also, how does substituting almond butter affect the taste? I think that sounds even tastier than peanut butter to me.

    • You can easily omit the red pepper flakes if you like. More ginger or garlic might add enough heat, so you’d be fine. It’s not really spicy. I don’t notice a big difference between almond, peanut, or sunflower butter when I’ve made it. But, it’s been about 7 years since I had peanut butter, so I don’t really know for sure.

  3. Roberta says

    Thurs. 1/18/18

    B: Cereal w/ blueberries, toast, cran-raspberry juice, coffee.

    L: Son had PBJ, pineapple, dried cranberries, apple slices, string cheese. Hubs had PBJ, yogurt w/ compote, apple and orange slices, dried cranberries, string cheese. I had the last of the pasta.

    D: Burrito bowls, salad, apple and orange slices.

    S/D: I had a handful of almonds. I also made some banana bread (used up the last three bananas), so we may have that later for dessert.

    I bought a huge bag of frozen blueberries at Sam’s ($7.48). Son is doing his Eagle project on Saturday, so I’m making blueberry muffins to help feed the crew. I still have a few dollars before I go over my goal, so I may still make it. The berries will go into February at any rate.

  4. Melissa in GA says

    January 18th

    B – guys ate at the old farts club, I had a graham cracker w/PB
    I’m now considering these mornings as my time off, lol

    L – we all ate at a Mexican place on our town square while in town running errands

    D – made pulled pork sandwiches with the rest of the LO pork butt from Monday and the remaining French fries from the freezer

    Dessert – talenti gelato

    In town today I ran into Harvey’s, spent $10 for milk, avocado, baking powder, hamburger buns and said gelato (my fave). My total now stands at $87 for the month.

  5. Laurie in CA says

    B- baked blueberry oatmeal with 1/2 & 1/2
    L – I had l/o fiesta chicken soup, hubs had l/o lasagne
    D – we were both tired from taking care of our 3 yo grandson all day. We had a gift card to our favorite Mediterranean restaurant so he picked up a dinner on his way home from dropping off the grandson. We split the dinner and still had leftover!

    • Karen J says

      Since I retired this year I take my two year old grandson out on a grandma date once a week. Usually we go to the Children’s Museum, other times we walk on the Centennial Trail or go to the park. He is excited when he sees me and yells “Shoes on! Car! Go!” I usually have him for about four hours and I’m ready for a nap when I get home.

      • June says

        Chicken soup, chicken soup, chicken soup. Trying to stay healthy. I think the key to making chicken soup healthy is to use chicken with the skin and bones to create a version of bone broth. At the end I remove the skin and bones? Plus adding organic turmeric?

        I had some frozen sirloin steak so I made wraps cutting steak into strips, couscous and broccoli.

        I’m making cheeseburger casserole this week and cookies

        I have veggies I need to use, 1/2 head of purple cabbage, zucchini and carrots I think I’ll make vegetable soup with.

        We had pizza 2 nights ago. Sometimes the boys request pizza and we rarely eat out so I’m happy to get pizza occasionally.. if you haven’t had Mod pizza or salad you should try it. We love it. They have that big pizza oven.

  6. Karen says

    I totally wanted to pick up dinner tonight, too! I had ham and bean soup on the menu for dinner. Normally I work at home on Thursdays, so I have a little flexibility in getting dinner ready, but some things came up and I had to be in the office until after lunch so I didn’t have time to get started on the beans. I was totally thinking about Taco Bell instead! But, I decided on chicken and orzo soup instead, but when my husband and daughter got home they requested chicken and dumplings. I hadn’t actually started anything yet so it was no problem to switch.

    B: Smoothies for my daughter and me, peaches and cottage cheese for my husband.
    L: Leftovers all around.
    D: Chicken and Dumplings

  7. Brooke says

    I made Jessica’s slow cooker pork loin with mushroom gravy. It was yummy. I can’t wait to Try the spice mix on other meats too! I made mashed potatoes (the rest of the baking potaotes) and green beans with it. And some steamed beets with butter.
    I made a huge pot of steel cut oats today and froze individual pucks for easy quick breakfasts. Everyone seems to like something different so I did a variety of toppings: mixed berries with almonds, sautéed apples with pecans, and fresh chopped cranberries with pepitas.
    I also made some blondies. They were from the “100 days of real food” site. Not bad but not great either. I am a pretty experienced baker and I should have listened to my gut and added an extra egg and more brown sugar. They are not very sweet, and I always cut the sugar in my baked goods. Oh well. The fam didn’t mind them they’re 1/3 gone already. I had today off of work (yay for cancelled cosmetic surgeries during bad weather) so I made a push to get housework done. I want to relax a little this weekend. Funny with 4 small ones I know. Lol. I did ok, but I will do some more tomorrow. One thing at a time. Take care everyone

  8. Karen J says

    We cut cable tv last year so I go to the gym to watch CNN and HGTV while I’m on the treadmill. My gym also has a bin of those mini tootsie rolls on the front desk so I grab two each time I’m on my way out to give to the grandkids. They also have free Starbucks and bagels once a month and free pizza once a month. I have not tried those perks yet. Seems odd for a gym to give you pizza.

    I tossed a few things today with past pull dates. Like over two years past. I think they might have been okay, but none were things I was very fond of in the first place.

    B-out with girlfriends
    D-turkey breast, stuffing made from leftover rolls and the end of the celery, gravy and corn. Smelled like Thanksgiving. Now I have lots of leftover turkey.

    • Sandi says

      The gym gives pizza to make sure you come back since now you have to work it off again! 😛

  9. Heather M says

    I thought today might be normal, but not completely. After a very late night, husband had to be at work extra early(before 7, he usually leave the house around 10, working from home earlier). But the President was coming to the Pentagon and it required early set-up, etc. Also required me driving him there super early(then getting son off to school) and we went to sleep really late, so I ended up napping late morning and tired most of the day. I, too, was sorely tempted to do takeout. But I came up with an easy plan at the last minute. Phew! Jessica, I feel you with the off schedule. It’s hard when things aren’t the norm for everyone.

    Thursday, 1/18:
    B: cereal, bacon, OJ for son; nothing for husband; oatmeal and a banana for me
    L: son took turkey/cheddar on baguette, clementines, pistachios/almonds, clif bar; husband grabbed something at work; I had a tuna sandwich and raw veggies
    D: Apparently I overbought the convenience foods in December (i bought several, knowing we were going to be busy and wanted fast things to cook, but a few of the pre-cooked proteins never even got touched). So I heated up one of the two bags of chicken cilantro meatballs, quickly cooked a package of vermicelli rice noodles that had languished in the pantry since at least a year ago(we usually use the wider sized rice noodles), and made an asian spicy sweet sauce while that happened- with fish sauce, chili garlic sauce, lime juice(i had 2 limes almost dead in the fridge, so luckily they didn’t go to waste!), sugar, water, etc. Served noodles topped with meatballs topped with a little of the sauce and chopped green onions. I also made a quick sweet and spicy cucumber salad (red wine vinegar, salt, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes. Can you tell we like spicy food? And Asian flavors? 🙂 I was just happy we ate at home and more things got eaten and not wasted (I’m looking at you, limes, cucumber, and noodles).

  10. Terry calkins says

    Can’t sleep so I thought I would get up and read. The peanut chicken and noodles sounded so good I just made up the sauce. It’s 1:30 am. I have leftover homemade linguini in the fridge. Plan to microcook some onions, peas and carrots in the morning adding some noodles to warm and squirt the sauce on…for breakfast. I’ll bet it’s just as good without the chicken….thanks for the recipe Jessica

  11. Stephanie M. says

    January 18 – Day 18

    B – Hubby had cereal; I had a yogurt, strawberries/blueberries/blackberries, and V8

    L – Hubby had the last of the chicken soup; I had chicken salad on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato

    D – Rouladen, mashed potatoes, peas and cucumber salad

    Rouladen, pronounced Rooladen, is a German dish. It is stuffed rolled beef served in a brown gravy. I have had three packages, two in each package, of this thin rolling steak staring at me from the freezer since August so I’m glad I finally made it.

    • Heather M says

      Rouladen sounds yummy!!

      • Stephanie M. says

        It is not hard to make and if you would like to know how to make it, let me know. 🙂 It is a dish served all over Germany and I grew up eating it because my mother is from Germany.

  12. Mona says

    Thursday 1/18

    Breakfast – French toast

    Lunch – Turkey sandwich for hubby, Ham sandwich for me and potato salad for both of us

    Dinner – Chicken Pesto Linguini, garlic bread and salad

  13. Julies says

    B: kids finished baked oatmeal I adapted from Jessica’s new freezer cook book (mashed bananas instead of applesauce and put in dried cranberries ), husband had oatmeal , I had eggs and spinach .
    L: PBJ for kids, I had baked beans from freezer.
    D:chili from freezer , leftover brown rice, I had baked beans .
    S: I had yogurt with pb and craisins.

    Oh, and one 4 year old wanted to cook in the afternoon so he made french toast and finished the bread. I made dinner roll dough in bread machine (also from Jessica’s new freezer book), and put in fridge last night so I’ll bake them this a.m. and kids can have with lunch .

  14. Rebekah says

    Jessica, how do you reheat the leftover pasta in a dish like this? Do you heat it up in the microwave and then add the other ingredients? Do you make the sauce, add it to the cold pasta, and then reheat it? This looks like a great pantry challenge meal!

    • Yes, that’s what I did last night. I heated the noodles in the microwave and then put them in a big bowl to toss with the sauce. I usually serve the noodles separate from the chicken so that all the chicken doesn’t fall to the bottom and someone feel cheated.

  15. Laura in NH says

    Nothing normal going on here yesterday either. I was gifted a house cleaning (I can take the hint…it was from my very tidy sister) so they arrived yesterday about noon and were here until 4:30. We spent the whole morning cleaning before they came. Really??? My house is sparkly but with a 4yo, 6yo, puppy, 2 cats and two mostly work from home parents…I can only hope I can keep up with it. Anyways, we got no school work done nor did I bake/cook. Sigh.

    We ate oatmeal, LO for lunch and grilled cheeses, kids snacked in cheese and crackers and tomatoes and clementines, and dinner was soup from the freezer with store bought rolls and then melon and animal crackers.

    I’ll pull a big pork loin from the freezer today for tomorrow’s dinner (or Sunday if it’s not thawed). Pork spring rolls were requested so perhaps we’ll have that with peanut noodles tomorrow instead and then roast on Sunday. Decisions decisions…

    As an exercise aside…I am a group instructor and I’m working on my personal trainer certification. Many people ask me how to make exercising a sustainable habit rather the go go go of a few months followed by the burn out and fail feeling. It’s hard. My best advice is to consider that your current challenges didn’t appear overnight and likewise they won’t be remedied overnight. The cliche of ‘its a marathon not a sprint!’ Is quite accurate. Keep at it!!!

    • Heather M says

      Thanks for the pep talk re exercise. I was a faithful lover and practicer of lots of exercise until I got injured, and ended up on a roller coaster of multiple tendon issues and then a bone issue (all in same ankle) that required surgery to fix. It was a 2 1/2 year saga. Since then I’m now in pretty good shape to exercise again, but I’m having a hard time doing it more than 2x a week. I gained weight while sitting around dealing with the pain and issues and really need to engage better with my exercise plan. When I exercise well I also eat better. The cycle. I needed this little pep talk.

    • Yes, thank you for that encouragement. My PT put it in perspective for me when she said 6 weeks. My hope this year is to develop sustainable systems, not that sprint and die.

  16. Julie says

    We did eat out! No shame LOL.

    Breakfast:Pancakes and eggs
    Lunch-frozen pizza
    Dinner-chick fil a on our way to see a play

    Need to make a grocery run soon…

    And need to make a gym habit! The baby is 3, I’m out of excuses.

    • Kathy in Denmark says

      Darn it! My baby turns 3 february 4th, I guess I’m out of excuses too 😉

  17. Patricia says

    Breakfast this morning was eggs over easy with frozen breakfast sausage. Lunch will be whatever comes from Meals-on-Wheels. Dinner is the last of the meals from the purchased 6-meal delivery. I’ll never, ever make the mistake of ordering any of these meals again – or anything like them. One had wrong temp and time for baking – it burned and was dry as toast, one was so spicy that it literally made me sick… you get the idea. Well last meal will be chicken breast with mashed potatoes and thin little carrots with tops left on – LOL… how could that go wrong? We’ll see.

    I’ve made a small shopping order for delivery the beginning of next week. I’ll need 2% milk, almond both chocolate and vanilla, greens, rolls, juice, and as a splurge – something chocolate. I’ve begun hitting the long-time-stored items such as soup and diced tomatoes and beans – chili, small meatloaf with pulsed beans and diced tomatoes mixed in, scalloped potatoes with sliced carrots and sliced beets added… my can supply is going down slowly. I want to try baking a small rice pudding with raisins – along with a gingerbread – I bought the dry mix for Thanksgiving but didn’t make it – I think it will make my apartment smell WONDERFUL and with sifted confectioners sugar will be a real treat.

    • I hope your meals were good! I had no idea you had to pay for Meals on Wheels. I always thought it was free. Is it expensive?

  18. jess says

    Ok… so The church I work for has an agreement with the community center on the next property where they pay our gym mebership -discounted- in full up front and then take the small amount out of our pay.. so I signed up.. and well.. donated for 2 months… I FINALLY picked up my pass on Wednesday.. packed my clothing for going after work yesterday.. then we had major issues at work, I ended up not eating my lunch, left work an hour late and went straight home to kill a bowl of cereal and lie down for the headache to dissolve… Another day…lol YEAH for all of you who actually stick to your working out!

    B- yesterday it was frozen waffles for all the kids.. eggs for me..
    L- kids had whatever I packed them.. I ate a pear during work chaos and then oatmeal squares when I got home..
    S- kielbasa and pierogies.. pulled from freezer after I paid the ridiculous cell phone bill!

  19. Sandy says

    Jan. 18
    B-Eggs or yogurt parfaits
    L-Leftover cheeseburger rice or pizza and spinach salads
    D-Oven “Fried” pork chops (Using some crackers that were getting stale in the pantry), honey carrots(freezer) and salad
    S-Last of the caramel corn I had made for Christmas
    Off to clean out my middle sized freezer. It’s hog butchering weekend here with my family. I want the freezer ready to put the fresh pork in. I’ve slowly been dwindling it down, so hopefully it won’t be too bad. I always seem to find surprises though!!

  20. Sandi says

    B – omelet
    L – I had cheese pizza, he had chicken soup
    Snack – he ate a bunch of peanuts
    D – it was very late, so we just finished off the l/o tuna salad. He had it with crackers, I did not. I also had some cottage cheese and peaches plus a small handful of peanuts.

  21. Lynn from NC Outer Banks says


    B: toast, boiled egg, coffee
    L: DH ate LO ham/broccoli quiche, I had HM butternut squash soup. Had half of a squash left over so tried new recipe and it was good.
    D: spaghetti with HM sauce. Used several containers of my frozen tomatoes and juice from the garden plus frozen bell peppers from the garden along with some pantry tomatoes and staples. Didn’t have any beef so used a small portion of Italian sausage. It was good and my husband was glad ham wasn’t on the menu! He’s been a good sport.

  22. JH says

    Jessica, have you ever made it with zoodles instead of pasta? Any tips for that?

    • Honestly, I think they’re gross. I made them once and forced myself to eat them. Sorry. :/

  23. Lesley in Alaska says

    Yesterday was a day. I have volunteered with a family grief group (specifically with kids 8-12) for the last 6 years and as of this year the program has been cut. So last night was one of our last meetings (just three left) and I definitely left with a heavy heart…and comfort ate my feelings.

    Breakfast-Quick breakfast burrito of eggs, cheese and veggie bacon
    Lunch-I had planned on L/O, but someone had eaten them before me. Made a “pulled pork” sandwich with cabbage and carrots.
    Dinner 1-scrambled eggs and toast
    Dinner 2-mac and cheese

    I feel you on the working out struggle and frustration. I started a regular workout routine last May and I remember being so frustrated at first that I didn’t notice any changes. After a couple months though I really started to see a difference, especially once I figured out a mix of exercise that works for me. I had been doing just strength training and cardio, but around Thanksgiving added a regular yoga practice as well, it’s been wonderful. I try to remind myself that the days I don’t want to workout are the most important days to actually go. I know I will feel so much better once I do, and really it’s only an hour, but the benefits last much longer than that.

  24. Julia Gibson says

    Oh, this came at the perfect time! I work from home, was told to knock early at noon today, and no one else is home ill or working remotely…so, I was going to treat myself to a Jimmy John’s sub. But, I had all items needed to create this taste bud-rocking bowl! I just saved $9!! Woo! 😀

  25. Laurie says

    B- An orange for me and a sweet roll and cream of wheat for the husband with an apple later in the morning
    L- you guessed it! Chicken and rice soup for him. I didn’t eat anything because we were going to the theater to see a movie and I knew I’d want popcorn…and I did.
    D-pork loin roast from the freezer, leftover potato casserole from the other night and butternut squash zoodles that I had bought when my daughter and I went to Whole Foods. I know it’s more expensive buying it “pre-zoodled” but butternut squash is difficult for me to handle to cut. 2 minutes in a skillet with a little oil and it’s done! So good!

    • Good call on buying the squash precut. That’s incredibly hard to cube. Can’t imagine in thin strips!

  26. Laura C says

    January 19- Kids went back to school with a 2 hour delay
    Bfast- One kid-biscuit, egg, bacon. Another-muffins/cereal. Me-Poptart & Coffee
    Lunch-Me- used a free salad coupon at Chicfila. Nice to get out alone after the snow days.
    Dinner-Ordered pizza, raw veggies. Friday is always pizza but took a break from homemade this week.

  27. Jen in Colorado says

    B – DS – fruit (he doesn’t eat much when he’s sick), me – last of the leftover Chinese food
    L – DS – chicken noodle soup, me – egg whites (leftover from using the yolks for homemade chocolate pudding) scrambled with miscellaneous veggies from the fridge/freezer
    movie snack – popcorn (DS)
    D – boiled shrimp, cherry tomatoes, mac & cheese (DS); boiled shrimp, sauteed brussels sprouts (me)

  28. Sarah Gallop says

    January 18

    Breakfast: I skipped, still dealing with car issues from the previous day. Hubs had cereal.

    Lunch: tacos

    Dinner: chicken with bbq sauce, veggies that I really under-seasoned and ended up tasting awful, and some skillet gnocchi.

  29. Kathy in Denmark says

    Day 18
    B: Oats and milk for DH. Yoghurt and HM granola for the kids. HM roll and coffee for me. The granola is almost gone, which is good because it has been in the pantry for quite a while.
    L: Packed lunch for DH and DD1. Rye bread with cold cuts and veggies for DD2 and me.
    D: WW spaghetti wih tomato sauce. I used leftover garlic oil from pizza night to sauté onions. Added passata and a can of tomatoes from the pantry. Also added spices from the cupboard and a few cubes of HM pesto from the freezer. The pesto adds a layer of flavour to the sauce and gives it that “simmered all day” taste without it actually having to simmer all day LOL.
    S: Bananas, dried fruit bar.

  30. I had an extra turkey taking up space in the freezer, so I roasted that today. Currently making stock from the carcass and have a plan to make enchiladas (2 trays, one for this week and one for the freezer), a turkey pot pie using pie dough I found in the back of the freezer and some turkey noodle soup for lunches. While this is still creating a lot of food, I know it will be easier (and quicker!) to use up in these prepared forms.
    I haven’t calculated the exact cost for the month, but I know it is much less than normal! Not buying meat every week saves a lot! We are also trying to cut down on alcohol, which saves money AND calories. Good luck with the exercise, I’m also trying to make that a routine and habit too.

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