Pantry Challenge 2019: Week 4 Update

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

The end is in sight! We just completed week 4 of our pantry challenge. Here’s how we’re doing as we close in on the final stretch.

spaghetti squash jambalaya in meal prep boxes

Pictured: Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya

Whew, one week of rain followed by a week (or more?) of sickness. Add in a Pantry Challenge, and I’m ready to kick January to the curb!

Only five more days to go!

It was a weird week with the holiday, so I’m looking forward to next week’s return to normalcy and wrapping up the PC.

Maybe I’ll even kick this cold.

My Pantry Challenge Plans

As I mentioned earlier, I plan do to this Pantry Challenge all the way through the end of January. I officially started my reporting the Sunday before New Year’s, a whole four weeks ago.

My general plan was to spend only half of our monthly budget (currently set for $1000/month for the new year) by shopping my pantry and freezers before I went to the store. I’ve focused on making more things from scratch and making good use of leftovers.

I ended up going over my pre-alloted $500 but that is to be expected, especially since the $1000 was less than our monthly average last year. It could be tight this year.

It’s not that we’re out of food currently, but I’m running low on key things while I still have some outliers (barley? crackers? canned pumpkin?) that could get used up.

There may also be some randomness in the fridge freezer that I’ve been ignoring. Ahem.

How you can join in:

Here are some of the ways you can participate in the Good Cheap Eats Pantry Challenge for 2019:

  • Get the Pantry Challenge ebook. I’ve put together a quick and easy guide to help you do a Pantry Challenge on your own. Purchase the instant download Pantry Challenge ebook..
  • Sign up for my emails. During January, I’ve be sending out specific tips and tricks to help you make the most of the food you already have in your cupboards. Sign up for the emails here. Next month we’ll be talking grocery budgets.
  • Follow me on Instagram. I’ll be sharing my pantry challenge adventures on Instagram stories, @jessicagfisher.
  • Watch Kitchen Winning. I chatted about the challenge in episode 2 of Kitchen Winning.
  • Join the Kitchen Winners Circle. January’s focus in the Kitchen Winners Circle is the Pantry Challenge. Naturally. We’ve been chatting in our private forum about what we’re making each day and getting help and inspiration from each other. Our first master class was on how to make the Pantry Challenge work for you so that you can make the most of what you have. The class and its replay is free to all members of the Kitchen Winners Circle.

Pantry Challenge 2019: Week 4 Update

In case you missed it, here’s our Week 1 Update. And Week 2. And Week 3.

Here’s what we ate this week:

Pictured: The Good Cheap Eats Cookbook

Day 22

Breakfast: Popovers and Jam

Lunch: Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya

Dinner: Grilled Fish, Rice, Broccoli

I love being able to hand my girls (or boys or husband) a cookbook and walking away. I wrote my cookbooks with partners and children in mind so that you, too, could pass off the recipe and go do something else.

Sunday my girls made popovers and it was fantastic. The recipe is in The Good Cheap Eats Cookbook which is actually hard to find in paperback. If you find a copy, snatch it up.

Bryan and I also filmed a video of me making Spaghetti Squash Jambalaya (coming soon) so we had that for lunch and he packed it for work also.

For dinner, he grilled fish while the girls made rice and broccoli.

ingredients for asian bowls

Day 23

Breakfast: Breakfast Burrito Bar

Lunch: Lunch out with cousins

Dinner: Asian Bowls

I love Asian bowls. So yummy and easy. I also packed a couple for my husband’s lunches. While I was prepping I also baked up some Quinoa Frittatas (recipe coming soon) and cooked up a big batch of Tomato Soup for my breakfasts and lunches.

The kids are fine with sandwiches and eggs and toast, but I like to have more fun Mom Food.

banana bread vitamins tea

Day 24

Breakfast: Banana Bread and fruit

Lunch: Soup and Grilled Cheese

Dinner: Tamales (from Christmas Eve)

It was a soup and bread kind of week as you will see. The kids all started getting sick by Tuesday so that at least six of us were sick by the weekend.

Also, I do not recommend freezing uncooked tamales. It was problematic to cook them. Not sure why, but not doing that again.

Day 25

Breakfast: Quinoa Frittatas, Yogurt, Fruit

Lunch: Soup & Cheese Toast

Dinner: Sausage Egg Hash Brown CasseroleFlaky Buttermilk Biscuits

The Quinoa Frittatas are super yummy. A few more tweaks and I’ll be sure to share. I froze a few as well to see how their texture holds up. Wait for it….

Day 26

Breakfast: Quinoa Frittatas, Yogurt, Fruit

Lunch: Soup & Cheese Toast

Dinner: Chow Mein, Shrimp Stir-fry, Rice

I used real ramen in the chow mein and my people seemed to like it better than the noodles I’ve used in the past. This is the copycat recipe I use. I omitted the garlic and ginger this time and reduced the sugar, and like I said, they liked it better.

Day 27

Breakfast: Quinoa Frittatas, Yogurt, Fruit

Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup & Bread

Dinner: Grilled Sourdough Pizza, Cocoa Brownies

Friday is our pizza night. Lately it’s been all the same. Pepperoni and Pepperoni-Mushroom. No one has complained, so I call that good.

Good thing, since we’re having it twice next week.

pulled pork in container for freezing

Day 28

Breakfast: Whole Grain Cinnamon Rolls

Lunch: Mac and Cheese

Dinner: Best Ever Slow Cooker Pulled Pork sandwiches and tacos

I’ve cooked four batches of pulled pork over the last week, for videos, so I got a pretty shot with the good camera. Video coming soon.

So, there you have it. It was a good week, but I’m looking forward to getting well and getting back to regular meal planning.

How is the pantry challenge going for you?

About Jessica Fisher

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

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. Laura in NH says

    Sorry you’re all sick…no fun! Our pantry challenge seems like it could go on and on. While I have definitely used up some odds and ends, I still have some major stocks of grains and dried beans. I’ll use some garbanzo beans to make hummus this week but I think some of the rest will remain dry and in our storage as they’re not outdated. We try to keep a fair supply of food that can be saved in case of (well I’m not really sure…zombies?) but I do try to cycle through that.

    All that said, I have learned something this time around with the challenge that will hopefully have a long term effect on my shopping habits. We typically have too many choices and too many easy to grab things that aren’t always the most nutritious. (Chips, deli meat, juice) and my people obviously like those things. I have spent just under $300 this challenge, less than half of our normal. I truly think that I could continue to shop this way and buy the occasional fun food and no one would really complain. Provided I make banana bread or some type of dessert once or twice a week (wink). Armed with this realization, I’m going to bravely lower my monthly food budget from $700 to $600/mo for this year in hopes of surprising myself and coming in closer to $500. We did fill the freezer with pork from our friends farm so that helps immensely but does average out to an additional $75/mo if I spread out the cost for a year. But My average last year was closer to $850 and I really blame the fun food that we just don’t need. This is big for me because I’ve typically thought of myself as more of a make-it-myself type of cook but certain things seem to have become staples without my really noticing (potato chips I’m looking at you).

  2. Terry calkins says

    The pantry challenge for our house has not gone well at all. Oh I’ve kept the grocery total down. Just 100.57 for the month, but we’ve hardly touched our freezer and pantry. I started on a mostly veggie diet for health reasons this year. Cutting out oil, sugar, meat, dairy, white flour. I’ve been even more careful about food waste. We just don’t seem to use what’s in the freezer. Two people with 3 full freezers and a full pantry….like I’m afraid we might go hungry some day. So…my pantry challenge will continue. Aside from fresh greens, and dairy for hubby I should just stay out of the stores.
    My biggest problem is I like to cook, so there are lots of leftovers that take days to eat and frequently some gets packaged for the freezer…exacerbating the problem. So, I continue to see if I can get through 2019 with a total grocery budget for the year of 1200.00

  3. Laura says

    I see a lot of people do these in January, but I do a freezer/pantry challenge in September. We buy a 1/4 cow every October so I need to make sure we have plenty of freezer space for it.

    • Laura in NH says

      I usually do an end of summer pre-harvest clean out of the freezers as well. During this winter challenge I work on rotating dry goods mostly and using odds and ends that are languishing in storage.

  4. Stephanie M. says

    I hope you all feel better soon, Jessica! Our pantry challenge went as well as I would have expected. I was able to get a lot out of the freezer and the pantry. I stopped, years ago, stuffing my freezer to the gills so I wasn’t overloaded to begin with. I mostly stuck to buying only what I needed to complete a meal with what I had. I did, however, have to buy some seafood, chicken, and pork only because I was down to only red meat and not much of it. (Can’t eat red meat everyday, LOL). So now, while I have a nice variety of things in the freezer, it is still not overwhelming. We will continue to eat what we have and only purchase what I really need and in no time, we will be down to the last of it.

    I definitely spent much less than what I normally do and anticipate the same result for February. So all in all, I am pleased with the way it went in January and will continue on through February figuring that by the end of that month, we should be well through mostly everything.

  5. Roberta says

    Sorry to hear you all have been under the weather. No fun at all. 🙁

    Our PC continues to go pretty well, especially now that I know what’s in at least one of the freezers.

    Meals this week included Spicy Chickpea Pitas (last of the cooked garbanzos and half a package of pitas from the freezer), Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry (the last pound of ground beef from the freezer and cabbage from our garden), Cheesy-Mexi Lentil Mac (a real pantry meal with homemade stock and Monterrey Jack cheese from the freezer), Ham and Broccoli Quiche (ham and the last of the broccoli from the freezer; homemade yogurt from the fridge instead of cream/half and half), and Minestrone soup (home-canned tomatoes from the pantry; home-grown crookneck squash from the freezer; canned beans and pasta from the pantry; beef base from the fridge; fresh onions, carrots, and garlic; fresh kale and Swiss chard from the garden). We also had leftovers at least once for dinner (and some for lunch and even LO quiche for breakfast one morning). Breakfasts were either cold cereal or oatmeal and the one morning w/ the quiche. Lunches were either LOs, PBJs, or tuna sandwiches. Salads, veggie sticks w/ ranch dip, steamed rice, garlic bread, homemade applesauce, and fresh fruit filled out the meals.

    We also ate out twice. On Sunday we ate at the Eagle Scout reception for one of the boys in our troop (tacos, rice, beans, chips, salsa, cake, etc. Yum!). On Wednesday Son, Hubs, and I went to a local family-owned Mexican restaurant to celebrate our son passing his Eagle Scout board of review (it’s quite a procedure, so a celebration was in order). We’ll have our son’s court of honor/reception sometime later in the spring, but we wanted to celebrate as a family right away.

    Made bread and orange cranberry muffins this afternoon (orange from our tree and cranberries from the freezer).

    We need to pick up a gallon of milk and a bunch of bananas. I might get some lettuce, but I’ll check the garden first. It’s not in full gear yet, but there are a few things out there. I need to make a menu for the week, and I’m hoping to still be able to stay under $100 for the month. We will continue with the PC into February (and probably beyond) to try to work through the freezers. I’ve made notes on what can be done with the items in the kitchen freezer, but the chest freezer in the garage is still a mystery.

    Have a great week, all!

    • Roberta says

      Oh, and we also made up a bunch of mixed berry jam and strawberry jam last Sunday and used up several bags of frozen fruit from the kitchen freezer. Now the filled jam jars are in the pantry, but they will certainly get used up. We go through LOTS of PBJs.

    • Jayne says

      Congratulations to your son! Board of review is intense. I know you’re very proud of him for this wonderful accomplishment.

      • Roberta says

        Thanks! He was pretty nervous, and he’s glad it’s behind him. ( But what great preparation for future job interviews.) We are proud of him. 😉

  6. Sandi says

    The lingering cold is visiting our house as well. Due to government shutdown, I was not doing the traveling this month I had been expecting to do, so we are actually making some decent in-roads in the freezers. I can see things and move things around without other items crashing down on me. Yippee! The whole idea of keeping the budget smaller this month has gone right out the window, but there’s been a lot of fresh produce consumed to go along with the freezer foods being used so I guess I just need to pick my battles. I’ll be gone more than home in Feb so at least I should not be spending too much that month and hopefully I’ll have enough stuff prepared that he can keep eating from the freezer while I’m gone.

    I’m curious why posts (both stories and comments) no longer have a date stamp to show you how old the posting is?

  7. Kathy from Ohio says

    Jessica sorry about all the sickness we’ve had the cough thing too. I’ve been following along with everyone but have not posted. Plan on posting weekly in February. Have been doing good on cleaning out the basement freezer only veggies I froze from the garden this summer are left. Working on the garage and house freeer. Budget for February is 250.00 will try to stay under that because January was not good!! Everyone have a good week.

  8. Pat says

    So far we have been able to avoid the January bugs. I hope you are all on the road to recovery.
    Our pantry challenge has been going well. My total was $89.95. We did do a big stock up in December so all I bought in January was milk, fruit, salad stuff and some lunch meat. Our 25 year old son moved back home and takes his lunch every day.
    He’s avoiding carbs so he’s taking mainly proteins and fruit.
    I do plan on continuing the challenge thru February and probably beyond!

Share Your Thoughts