Pantry challenge update #1

I apologize for writing so many posts in a row without photos, but I’m working on a post about some of my favorite holiday gifts that includes photos, and hopefully that will be done soon. And Thrifty Threads returns this week, with photos of course.

I’m so excited that so many of you are joining in the January pantry challenge! And thanks so much for the bread recipes, which I’ll be trying later this month.

I wanted to tell you that I cleaned out and “inventoried” our pantry, freezer, and refrigerator, and I’m feeling pretty good about the challenge. We have food on hand for several meals, with just meat or a vegetable to add. And a lot of the meals sound great to me, so we’re not going to be deprived.

Here are some of the things we’ve been eating this week:

Black-eyed peas and greens, my husband’s sausage/tomato sauce pasta, sweet potato fries and salmon patties, and lots and lots of leftover holiday sweets. Tomorrow I’ll be making a savory bread pudding to use up some stale bread, and Friday is pizza night, which my husband cooks from scratch. Not a bad start to the challenge!

Here are some of the meals we’ll be eating this month:

Chili, risotto, soup, chicken curry, clams linguini, Mexican crockpot chicken, and tuna casserole. For lunches we’ll eat leftovers, quesadillas, and veggie burgers. Breakfast will be homemade granola for me, and my husband has promised to eat the oatmeal and pancake mix in the pantry, plus fresh fruit, or protein shakes because we have tons of frozen bananas and other fruit stashed in the freezer.

Here’s what we need to use up:

Dried figs, raisins, and dried coconut (past expiration date). Any ideas?

The best part is how short my shopping list is this week. Here it is:

Eggs, ground turkey (for chili), milk, yogurt, 1/2 & 1/2 (for tomato soup), bananas, spinach, arugula, and tortilla chips (one treat for my husband, who is such a good sport and makes homemade pizza every Friday night).

How are you doing with the challenge so far? What have you been eating? Let us know in the Comments section.


  1. Susan says

    Add a handful of the coconut to banana bread batter. Yum! Coconut is good mixed in with chocolate chip/oatmeal cookie dough.

    Figs? I dunno…maybe cook them into a jam with a bit of water and lemon or orange zest?

    Rasins? Use them in the oatmeal.

  2. robbiekay says

    I am lost when I don’t have an inventory of my pantry/fridge/freezer. Unfortunately, keeping it up to date is not so easy. :( In the past I have found I can LOOK at the food in the house and not have any clue as to how to put any of it together to make something, but once I start WRITING out what ingredients I have on hand, then I start making connections and can come up with ideas.

  3. robbiekay says

    Just occurs to me that my difficulties in keeping my freezer inventory up to date may be hereditary. We stopped at the Greek monastery on the way to my parents’ house for Christmas and bought them a pan of spanikopita. Then I got to their house and saw it on their freezer inventory. “Oh, you already have spanikopita in the freezer, ” I said–before I realized that their inventory was dated January 2009. :)

    • Angela says

      Sophia- Wow! What a crazy great idea! I am going to try it, and I’ll report it on a post. It’s so fabulous because ice cream is definitely the kind of treat we were going to have to give up this month.

      Thanks so much!

  4. says

    Figs/raisins can be used in either oatmeal or bread. I’m stumped on the coconut though, I have ideas, but I haven’t done it myself! We have so much coconut!!!!

    Oh, you can also use the raisins or figs in this yummy couscous dish that I make…I just briefly did a search for the recipe and don’t see it on this computer, so I’ll have to get back to you. Remind me I don’t see it by the end of the day:) It’s delish! carmelized onions, garbanzos, broccoli, peanuts, couscous, turmeric, cinnamon (yes, cinnamon!)

    • Angela says

      sf mom- I would LOVE the couscous recipe- I will definitely make that because I have couscous in the pantry and would just need to buy broccoli. Plus I absolutely love couscous, and my husband will eat it.


      • says

        Thank you for reminding me.
        I thought about it a couple of times but wasn’t at my computer… I get pretty distracted around here;)

        Here is a link to the recipe:

        It is out of the July/August 2004 Vegetarian Times. I love those guys. Everything I’ve ever made from them has been delicious! This recipe is quick, easy, and everyone loves it!

        Couple of notes: I buy bulk couscous, not boxed. Measuring out 10 oz. of couscous is easy enough. I use dried currants rather than raisins because raisins are too big:) (I know you need to use up those raisins though….) I don’t use soy margarine but the good ole’ Julia Child unsalted butter! (I did make it once with soy margarine for a vegan friend and it equally delicious.) In the winter when fresh apricots aren’t available, I just leave them out and use the dried apricots only. I hope you like it. Let me know what you think after you try it!


    • Angela says

      Hi sf mom- I’m reminding you, yes, please send the couscous recipe! I will definitely add it to the month’s meal list… love couscous, and would love a recipe like that…


  5. Marie-Josée says

    You could make yummy granola-ish bars by soaking the dried fruit and throwing it into a food processor with the coconut and some nuts. You could also make coconut macaroons and add the dried fuit to the recipe. Or, you could soak the fruit and then blend them with bananas and the coconut and make a nice uncooked pudding or smoothie depending on your tastes. You can also just puree the soaked dried fruit and use it as a sweetner for baked goods.

    • Angela says

      Marie-Josee- I love the idea of granola bars or a smoothie. And it’s really funny to me that all of the ingredients I need to use up would be perfect for either. Since we’ve got the frozen fruit, the almond milk, and the protein powder already, that’s a great way to use them up. And the granola bars will be a great snack item, since I don’t want to buy any pre-made snacks (a real budget-buster!)

  6. says

    Make granola and toss the dried fruit and coconut in there (chop up the figs first). I always use a good handful of dried coconut in my homemade granola and then whatever dried fruit and nuts I have around the house. Bind the oats and fruit together with some simmered peanut butter and honey (about 1/2 cup of each), season with some cinnamon and vanilla and let it sit overnight before storing to crisp up a bit. Easy peasy and perfect tossed in some yogurt or munched by the handful :-)

    • Angela says

      Tina- It is so funny how all of the things I need to use up go so perfectly with things we already eat. I make granola all the time, but hadn’t thought of adding the dried fruit and coconut- I always just add dried cranberries, but figs would be tasty.

      I also love your idea of the peanut butter and honey mixture- so you don’t bake it? You toss the dried fruit and oats with the pb/honey, add spices and vanilla, and let it sit?

      • says

        I will toast the raw oats in the oven for a few minutes usually, sometimes add some ground flax to it if I have some hanging around even. But then once I mix it with the peanut butter and honey I spread it back out on an oiled or parchment papered baking sheet and let it just rest in the cooling oven overnight…I find that way I am less likely to forget about it and burn it (lost a couple batches that way!!)

        And yeah, if you spread it and cut it before it hardened up it would make really nice crunchy granola bars. I would cut it before it sets though because otherwise it gets too crunchy and wouldn’t cut nicely. I just tend to crumble mine and it back in the oats container and take some to school with a tupperware of yogurt and mix it up for a morning snack

        Here is the link to my blog where I posted the original recipe in August. It is a little more specific than I am being right now…LOL…although that recipe tends to get played with/added to/altered just about every time I make it and it always turns out yummy!

  7. says

    I just found your blog and am very interested in reading more. I am interested in the pantry challenge. Once I read more, I’ll chime in.


  8. Joan says

    We have done pretty well so far — just bought some fruit and milk and cheese (ok I also bought my son snacks for his road trip back to school, but he is 19 and a bag of dried apricots was not going to cut it!).

    Mostly I have been working my way through holiday leftovers that I had put in the freezer. But yesterday i made a fantastic soup with acorn squash and kale (left from the last farmers market) and some beans from the freezer. it was delicious!

    Also have been working my way through the zucchini with several loaves of bread — only 10 more bags to go. Yeah!

  9. Lilypad says

    I foolishly made a huge batch of blueberry crumble when my husband was out of town. (I was trying to use up frozen blueberries and that was the easiest thing I could think of to make.) My kid (9) didn’t like it! (What the ??) So I ate myself silly for a day and then put it in the freezer. Fast forward a few weeks. Now I’m eating it for breakfast, just trying to get rid of it and to reclaim the Pyrex container it’s tying up in the freezer! If I have to eat sweets for breakfast, I will. :-) When my son is not around to see me setting a bad example, that is!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *